Bilingualism, Generations and the Church
In this conversation, pastor Marcos Canales shares with Elizabeth Tamez Méndez how intercultural and intergenerational relationships intersect with a worshiping community to foster spaces of belonging in la familia of God.
Elizabeth Tamez Méndez [00:00:16] Welcome to this session on Imagining Multiple Models of Ministry with Youth. This is a new series hosted by the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship. I am Dr. Elizabeth Tamez Méndez, executive director of New Generation3 and a longtime collaborator with CICW. Today, Rev. Marcos Canales is joining us for conversation in this next video in the series. Marcos, thank you for being our guest today. We're so happy to have you here.
Marcos Canales [00:00:45] Thank you for having me. I love to participate and just learn together.
Elizabeth Tamez Méndez [00:00:49] Thank you so much, Marcos. You have been such a wonderful collaborator with the CICW, and we really enjoyed the written pieces that we were able to produce. As you know, the CICW has continued to work on gathering insights around this theme, and we want to come together and learn about community worship practices in different contexts, especially those that encourage intergenerational worship spaces and relationships. So in today's conversation, we want to focus on practices that include and empower youth. Marcos, would you please share with us a bit about your context, your work? We're really eager to get to know more about it. I know you wear several hats in different places.
Marcos Canales [00:01:33] Thank you. Thank you for having me, and I’m happy to share and contribute to the series. I’m one of the pastors in the pastoral team for La Fuente Ministries. We’re a bilingual (Spanish and English) congregation here in the city of Pasadena, California. We are part of the Nazarene denomination, Church of the Nazarene, and La Fuente Ministries is committed to intercultural and intergenerational relationships in our own bilingual reality. And so we foster that in many different ways, and our context allows us from our bilingual reality to be able to not just connect with the Latino community, but also beyond it, because part of our calling and my calling is that bilingual ministry is one of the ways in which the Latina church does not only serve the Latina community, but it goes beyond it. Bilingualism is a reality within our households, but also in multiple interracial, intercultural marriages as well, and relationships. We have a lot more families that are Latino or Latina with non-Latinos, non-Latinas. So in the midst of those kind of realities, bilingualism allows for each member of the body of Christ to continue to be who they are and yet, at the same time, create space for one another in the wedding of one another's language, hearing, understanding of how we talk about God and how we relate to neighbor. So out of that, we believe that the Latina church is not just the Latina community, but beyond it and across generations. That is why our commitment is to intercultural life, intergenerational relationships, and bilingual ways of communicating and relating to God as well to one another.
So that's kind of our context. We have about fifteen different ethnicities, cultures, and nationalities represented in our congregation. I always kind of describe our congregation as one-third Spanish speaking, one-third English speaking, and one third bilingual. So we have a little bit of everything. And that's the call that we have, and that's also what allows us to live out . . . whether you want to call it beloved community or kinship or kingdom principles or the familia de Dios, that's one of our core commitments in being church together.
Elizabeth Tamez Méndez [00:04:54] Thank you, Marcos, for sharing with us how your context is flourishing and what is going on and the reality that the demographics are shifting in the United States, and we are going to continue to see more and more of different makeups in the families. Do you have any of your members who also speak Indigenous languages from Central and South America?
Marcos Canales [00:05:19] At this time we don't, but that’s our reality.
Elizabeth Tamez Méndez [00:05:24] I know there are several pockets in California. I did also want you to share with us—I know there are other spaces that inform your work. You collaborate with different educational institutions, and you're also constantly publishing. So I don't know if you want to share with us a little bit about that other work that you do before we start the conversation related to the church.
Marcos Canales [00:05:49] Sure. Thank you. I've collaborated in different research projects with Fuller Youth Institute. I've also worked at the Centro Latino, the center for the Hispanic church and community at Fuller Theological Seminary and with Dr. Alexia Salvatierra. We did some research on Latinx millennials and theological education. I am working with Robert Chao Romero in a book on Bartolomé de Las Casas, scripture, and social justice, just doing different projects like that. And I love Latino theology; I love liberation theology; I love interdisciplinary work; I love the Bible. So all of those are always in conversation as to how I allow the text to read me and not just me reading the text. For the sake of the community I need the texts to read me and us in whatever we're experiencing. So those are just different ways that I like to engage.
I grew up in Latin America. I'm a missionary kid, pastor's kid of Peruvian missionaries with the Church of the Nazarene. I was born in Costa Rica, so I’m “Costa Ruvian,” and it's a mixture of all that. I've lived throughout Latin America: Paraguay, Ecuador, Costa Rica. I’ve done most of my adult life here in the States.
In terms of publishing, it's one of the things that I like to do, and it springs out of curiosity, but also commitment to the identity and agency of the church, of the Latin church in its context for the community. So it's an ongoing process in that sense of always learning and being stretched.
Elizabeth Tamez Méndez [00:08:24] Thank you, Marcos, for sharing about that, because I think that's part of the makeup and ethos of our community as pastors and ministers within the Latino church that we are in different ways involved in different areas and spheres and trying to inform the community and continue to expand education and at the same time doing the day-to-day work in the church. I think that helps other people to see what the context looks like for us because one day you’re teaching a seminary class, another day you're writing materials, and then another day you're at the church guiding the congregation. I know that today you're going to share with us more about how your congregation has been able to interweave all these aspects of learning, of growing, and then working together intergenerationally. We want to let our viewers know that that is the frame for our conversations in this series. We have chosen five values to shape this project on corporate worship and models of ministry with youth, and these values center around youth agency, spaces for theological questions, the role of the family, sparking intergenerational relationships, and designing multiple pathways for ministry with youth. Marcos, I know that your congregation at La Fuente Ministries has been very unique in the way that you nurture these intergenerational relationships, if you want to start telling us about how the work unfolds there.
Marcos Canales [00:10:02] Sure. It's a core value for us, and we want to both honor the older generations and at the same time honor the younger generations. Often within the Latina church we've replicated, unfortunately, the dysfunctional patterns of our family life. And so we're very aware of the weightiness of what “honor” means in our culture and in other cultures, because we're not just only Latino. But we use it so that it can reorient us and so that we can have different experiences of honoring—not in the sense of honor vs. shame, which always tends to pull that way: whether we're shaming our family or not, whether we're shaming the adults or not. But we're trying to reframe honoring in the sense of mutuality, in the sense of as younger generations, it's not “we're starting from scratch and we throw away everything else that didn't work in the past,” and the older generation is not just . . . complaining about how (young people) don't behave like them. The honoring is a mutuality that is modeled, I think, in the sense of familia, in the sense of health of relationships, in the sense of well-being of relationships.
And I know that the question is “Who determines well-being? Who determines health? What does that mean? What does that look like?” Well, for us, from our context, health means naming machismo and patriarchy as a silent but powerful, sinful virus, I guess, that generationally has been passed on, and the church has not been necessarily the place to reorient that or break that pattern or that chain. And we keep bringing more hurt and pain across generations because of that. So having said that, one of the ways that we really try to live that out in a sense of familia, it's more in an egalitarian way versus a patriarchal way. So the leadership of women at La Fuente is extremely important. It's a rewiring of our brains. And as a Latino male, I am aware of the power that my role has within the community and across generations and across cultures and in a very Philippians 2 mindset. I know that I always have to let it be named, but also lay it down so that it can begin to foster the real familia de Dios, which is not in competition and not in submission and not in complementarianism, but in actual collaboration, in equal collaboration, at the feet of Jesus.
Young people pick up on that really quickly. I remember a high schooler from our congregation who in high school became part of the fire department's youth academy. And it was really fascinating how he was able to process during that summer that he was in the youth academy. He was able to notice, “Yeah, they taught me a lot about leadership, but what's really interesting is that the whole summer there were no women talking about leadership and there were no women firefighters. . . . And this is a sixteen-year-old who was like, “That was really weird, because at church we always see men and women serving and leading. And it was really interesting to not see it there. What was happening? Why are there no women here?” So that rewiring of that way of seeing the world and our relationships. That's one concrete way in which I can say, “That's healthy. That's well-being.”
Elizabeth Tamez Méndez [00:15:23] That's very important because, like you're pointing out, how do we continue in our congregations, in our leadership, in our worship practices to bring this healing? I think that was a key word that I picked up from what your ministry is trying to do to recognize that all cultures, all societies, we have been informed, infiltrated, shaped by values that are not congruent with what the Bible, what Jesus is showing us about how we relate to one another, the intergenerational, the leadership, the gender issues. We see it all the time. With past participants we've been talking about the influence of individualism and capitalism. All these things come and infiltrate, and I think it's part of our healing in the church that hopefully continues to happen through our worship practices, through our leadership, through fomenting these intergenerational relationships that then create in La Fuente Ministries a good breeding ground where then young people can say, “Hold on, why am I seeing this healthy model at church, but then I'm going outside, . . .” and they can spot it right away; he noticed right away. He was like, “There's something missing here. This just doesn't feel right.” And that's part of what I've always shared with people about my ministry journey: It was not until much later in my ministry, when I started connecting with bigger institutions, that somebody pointed out to me that it was an issue that a woman in leadership was there. What? I grew up in the Latina church, where everybody does everything; women have positions of [leadership]. So it was really interesting then to start to do this reverse learning. I think when youth can have that healthy place—because we've been hearing more about, unfortunately, the reverse, where we're seeing other models and they are coming to the church and they're saying this doesn't feel right—it's great to hear about ministries that are doing this ministry of reconciliation and healing and showing new models to the different generations of what healthy relationships look like.
Marcos Canales [00:17:51] Right. I think that's key, what you just mentioned. It’s beautiful because we often have seen the reverse. And I think that's a huge issue. It's very disorienting when you walk into the church and you see something that is not being honoring . . . what's actually happened, right? So for example, in the Latino context, in a Latina church context, it's quite hypocritical to deny leadership to women when women are carrying the leadership in the pastoral role of the whole community. And younger generations can pick that up immediately. And when there's that dissonance, then there's suspicion, and when there's suspicion, there's distance, and when there's distance, then they're like, I don't need this. This is not what the Bible or what Jesus [says.] . . . That's when you have authoritarianism, and that's when you have narcissistic leaders that feel threatened by that. But those are actually spaces of questioning that create growth for both generations. Because the older generations need to stop and be like, “Oh, yeah, why did we think that? Why did we just think that only men could do that?”
Elizabeth Tamez Méndez [00:19:21] We have these legacies; why are we continuing with them? . . .
Marcos Canales [00:19:31] So for the older generations, the pulpit carries a lot of symbolism. The preaching moment in the . . . Latino context is one of the important moments of a worship gathering. So for us to be bilingual, we don't do headsets; we don't do those exclusionary patterns of otherizing, like, “Oh, you need translation? Put this on, or go sit in this section.” It's messy, and it's part of the auditory, sensory experience. So for us, the pulpit needs to show that balance as well. And so when I'm preaching, then a female pastor translates, but when a female pastor preaches, I translate that. There's that back and forth of “I need to hear the word from my sister,” and then it changes, and it moves back and forth. And at times we've said it's better that two pastoras preach, and I'll get out of the way. Because again, that continues to shock people and also reimagine [that] this is OK. Because it's the fear of not knowing what it looks like, right? But easing older generations into it—is this a way forward? This is more congruent to who we really need to be. So that's one way that allows . . .
Elizabeth Tamez Méndez [00:21:33] And I think you pointed out two very important concepts. One is honoring that sense of knowing that this space is for all of us. And some will have some needs, some preferences that are different than others, but how do we honor each other and know that this is not a place for secluding one or the other? I hear a lot of the younger leaders who almost feel like, well, it's going to be one-sided. It’s going to be what appeals to us, and you want us here. We try to remind them constantly, well, it's an honoring of each other. And then the other concept you mentioned which I wanted to highlight is that gradual aspect, to where people start getting used to things, and the messiness, too, of saying, “Well, let's try this and maybe it doesn't work, and then we try something else.” Or “We tried this and it works, but it doesn't work in the very precise manner.” It does require a lot of going back and forth. I think your congregation has been really working on these aspects of integrating and bringing a wider diversity. Can you share with us about some of the things that young people and the different generations maybe have done working together? How have you gone through this process of bringing the generations together to work?
Marcos Canales [00:23:04] I think part of it is our pastoral team was a good reflection of the generations present in our congregation, and so that also allowed us to to plan and dream and imagine in ways that reflected not just generations, but also married, single, divorced, and all that kind of stuff. We take all of that into consideration when we’re thinking of . . . intercultural, intergenerational. There's a whole breadth of that. So I think that because we started that really from the get-go, it infiltrated already all of our imagining of anything that we did. So when people plan different ministry gatherings, immediately there's always a question of who is going to translate, or how are you going to deal with those that don't speak Spanish, or what are we going to do with those that don't speak English. So there's always that from the get-go. How are different generations . . . because sometimes younger generations are bilingual, and sometimes they're not. And so sometimes they feel more comfortable one or the other, so that bilingualism allows for people to feel comfortable to engage and collaborate, whether it be in the meal, whether it be praying together, whether it be worshiping together, singing together, or just having conversations, or just really engaging in that. I remember one of our matriarchs who unfortunately passed away this year due to COVID. She would always remind us—she was one of the founders of La Fuente, and she was a visionary. . . . She was an Armenian American who was trilingual, and [her husband] is Argentinian. And so she would always say, we need a different kind of Latina community that can break the mold. And this seventy-year-old would always remind us, “If it wasn't for La Fuente, I would not hang out with any of these people because I would just be comfortable hanging out with my generation.” But she said, “But if it wasn't for this space, I wouldn't get to find out what TikTok is.” She did some TikTok videos with some of our youth! Or, “I wouldn’t understand this whole immigration thing.” She struggled with that even though she had a history of immigration. But there was that whole opening to learning from one another, their stories. And we also allowed the younger generation to find out, for example, since she was Armenian American, to learn about the Armenian genocide and for her to tell us about the Armenian genocide and for us to be always in a cluster of learning about that. And that's why I think honor for us is mutuality versus a top-down, which is hard sometimes because honoring is a very loaded word. The way that we express it to the community is—one of our purposes as La Fuente is to grow in a sense of familia, to continue to grow in a sense of familia, of belongingness, of really, truly modeling healthy relationships that foster growth versus put us down.
I think naturally people are always thinking, “Who else can I partner with to collaborate, to do this kind of ministry, this kind of initiative?” But it's never like, “Oh, we need young people.” It's more like, “Oh, I need David.” Because it's more of that organic way of fostering relationships to the point where it's a name. It's not tokenism. And in both ways, right? It's not like, “Well, we need an older person to make this happen.” It’s “I know this person is really gifted at this. Let's invite [her] to collaborate to do this thing.”
Elizabeth Tamez Méndez [00:28:20] And you pointed that out that it's so important that it's both ways, and that perhaps at the beginning it may feel a little bit odd if this is not the way your congregation or your worship practices have included. But the more people have these spaces—like you mentioned, this example of her being able to then be involved with other people and see what it is that is happening out there, understanding their questions, their desires, what life looks like day to day for them. And that's something that we always share, that really in this society in the United States, we're getting more and more to that situation where it's generational islands, so people who are retired only spend time with people who are retired, people who are young only spend time with people who are young. And then we're missing this calling to pass the baton of faith from one generation to the other and being able to honor each other and knowing precisely that we're walking together, not because then that checks the boxes, but because we're this family. And that's what any kind of book that we can read about a healthy organizational culture always points out: that when when a group is able to label itself as familia, as family, that's when you know that people really value each other and are thinking of each other in that manner and not in so much of a transactional space. So I think you were mentioning some examples of the ways your congregation has been able to practice this, and before we started recording, you even mentioned the younger ones being able to serve in worship spaces, like serving the communion. Could you please tell us about that and what is it that is happening? And how did you get to that, and what has been the reaction from the community about that?
Marcos Canales [00:30:29] Sure. We take very seriously Jesus' words of “Theirs is the kingdom. . . . Don't stop children from coming to me.” And I think that our theology of children's ministries and child development has been very limited and has often turned into just babysitting and has turned into just, What do we do with them? as if children and youth were a nuisance, so they're just like, “How do we either entertain them, occupy them or them not disturb us?” And because our understanding of church is so adult-centric, there is not a lot of space for wonder, for play. There isn't. And so in our context, because we needed a space that allows us to do that, it's a large enough space, there's no pews, it’s chairs, so you can organize it and arrange it how you want. There's a kid's corner. So even as the service is going on, you could hear kids playing. And I always remind people, because it's a formational piece, whenever we hear babies crying, laughing, or yelling, it's a good sign because it's a sign of life. And the reverence is not a well-behaved child; the reverence is in the awe and in the wonderment that God would entrust us with another young life to be God's community, to shape their imaginations of the God that they're going to follow. That's a huge responsibility. So we celebrate those births, and at the same time I remind people this is a huge responsibility. So if we start telling them to be quiet to behave well, we are missing out on an opportunity to model as a community wonder and awe that the God of life would trust us with another life, to partner with children's parents. To walk this together, this call to our baptismal identity—that’s all children of God. So that's kind of like the theological foundation for why we do what we do. For us, the Table is that sacrament that reorients us every time. It is the table of grace, the table of abundance, and the table of a politics of neighboring that really mobilizes our discipleship. Our children or our youth are the ones—this is pre-COVID; now, we've changed a little bit, but pre-COVID they were the ones that always held the bread and the cup. And people would have to come up and gather the elements from them. Because in kneeling down, some of us had to kneel down because they were really little, but we would have to . . . Most people, most adults would look at them in the eyes, and for the adults to honor them and to say, “Thank you, mija, we love you. Oh, you're so cute, thank you. You are doing such a great job. Thank you for doing this.” They felt a sense of “I am seen. I am not annoying. I actually have a role, and the whole community is participating.” So that was key. And we even had one of our youth who is on the spectrum of autism. That's one of his roles. And so for us, and even all of us as pastors, we would after everybody would have gone up, Pastora Rosa, Pastora Andrea, and many of the others that have been part of our pastoral team, we would all also take the elements from them before we would lead the congregation because it was also a sign and a practice of “Theirs is the kingdom of heaven,” so we need to look at them in the eyes and appreciate what God is working and doing and what God needs to remind us and reflect back to us: our need for wonder, for awe, for play that we often lose because we're just working all the time. To be able to see one of our youth with autism and to see him in his eyes, it is the most sacred, sacred moment that you can ever experience, who often in most conversations is looking sideways. But during communion he would look at you in the eyes. It's a sacred vulnerability that reminds you of God's grace.
Elizabeth Tamez Méndez [00:36:18] This gave him an open space to connect with this sense of faith, of being able to be with the body of Christ.
Marcos Canales [00:36:27] So now, you know, COVID changed everything. So we still have them come up to the table that we have in the front and bring the elements for that continued symbolism, and they wait there until we do the words of institution and we partake. But you know, everybody has the cup now and all that kind of stuff because of COVID.
Elizabeth Tamez Méndez [00:36:57] But that’s important that you have found ways to continue the practices that are central to you in honoring one another and in honoring the young ones. But also then OK, well, we need to make some adjustments. How do we continue with that practice, with that spirit, with those values in a modified way? But I think that's the beauty of it, because then it has prompted you to say we will continue with this, but how so? How do we go on the little tangent?
Marcos Canales [00:37:26] It's been awesome too, when we were doing online during the pandemic, the whole family would lead us. They would record, and the kids and parents, they would all lead us through that part of the service, the sacrament. And it's also brought tons of good conversations with parents of like, “How do we explain this?” “Oh, tell me how you're explaining it.”
Elizabeth Tamez Méndez [00:37:59] Yeah, tell us about that. How have you been able to resource families and their role?
Marcos Canales [00:38:06] It's conversation and it's modeling, right? Drea, my wife, she's a psychologist, and so she is really helpful in helping integrate theology and child development at that point. So we first practice with Elias, our son: This is what this means, this is what we're remembering, but this is also the implications that it has for us, not just personally, but collectively and globally. And so we're trying it out to see what Elias captures, and we get his feedback, and then we're able to share with other parents as well, and then they give us feedback of like, “Oh, actually, we've done it this way” and “It's helped us to do it this way.”
Elizabeth Tamez Méndez [00:39:03] It’s a two-way conversation.
Marcos Canales [00:39:07] Totally. And one of four-year-olds—it was awesome. . . . She wasn't feeling well; she had a cold, so they all stayed home. They were watching it online. But she actually sat all of her teddy bears around her at her table, her little plastic table, and she was giving them communion as well as we were partaking. So there's that constant sense of their having agency at a very young age and being able to experience the Table.
Elizabeth Tamez Méndez [00:39:42] And you pointed out something that is very key too, I think, in all these wrestlings of what things look like: the sense of reverence within the worship that gets redefined into an expansive definition, that perhaps in the past we've been passed down a definition that connotates silence, lack of movement, lack of connection, because that's what expresses reverence. And then your community has been able to come and redefine that and say, well, reverence is when we're actually being one with the different generations and we're letting the little ones be who they are. And that doesn't mean that then they have to go elsewhere because they're too noisy or or they're moving, that reverence of saying while they're there in this space and they're seeing everything that is happening: the worship, the way that we are interacting with one another. So I think that's something also that can be helpful for all of us in our ministries to continue to ask ourselves: What are some of those definitions that we have inherited that were useful and we're thankful for at some point, and now how can we expand those definitions so that they’re more lifegiving and liberating and not limiting on who can come and be connected in these worship spaces?
Marcos Canales [00:41:17] Exactly. Yeah, because what you mentioned is key. When we think that they're playing, they're actually paying a lot of attention. When we think that they're just coloring, they're taking it all in. And for some of the children specifically, this is the only church that they know. So that's a huge responsibility, what we say, how we say it, But it's been really fascinating as they grow up and then they happen to visit other churches. They’re like, “This is really strange. Everything is done in one language.” And I've heard parents tell me because they have moved, “You know, my daughter says this is not church. I miss my church.” What does that mean? “Well, we sing in Spanish and then in English; here we're just singing all in English. That's not my church!” So I think that there's a sense of often we are so focused on what the adults need that we miss the inner child that we all have that needs to be ministered to as well. And so when a kid just runs in front of us while we're preaching, we acknowledge that because we don't want to be like, “We didn't see that right.” It's like, “Hey, you've grown so much; that's amazing! We love you running around here!” It's just normal because it really creates that sense of familia. I've been influenced by the book “Latina Evangélicas”. . . when you talk about the Trinity and the wild child of the Trinity, the Spirit. So that that sense of familia . . . is the reconstituted familia, a reconstituted sense of familia, a reorienting and re-formation of the sense of familia in which there's mutuality, in which there's space for one another, in which The Father’s the Father, the Son’s the Son, and Spirit the Spirit. And there's union, there's a communion in that, but there's no loss of distinctiveness. And that really is the theological force that moves us to then understand familia in a much healthier way.
Elizabeth Tamez Méndez [00:44:28] And like you're pointing out, giving these healthy models, because we also know that this is a reality of life that not all families are healthy. And so even defining ourselves as a familia or as a family, that may not carry a good connotation for everyone or a sense of welcome. So it's also if that's the case where then the congregation and the community comes and helps again to reclaim, heal the design that God has for us as a family, as being interconnected. And so these spaces where young people are getting to see these examples, as flawed as they may be because we're human, they’re getting to see something different from what they may be getting out there, showing what God had designed for. We're so thankful for that experience and that example that your congregation is leading.
Marcos Canales [00:45:29] Thank you. And I also want to make sure that [people know that] it's not all roses, and it's not really easy. There's also moments of tension that I have to acknowledge.
Elizabeth Tamez Méndez [00:45:45] And how have you dealt with that? Can you share with us?
Marcos Canales [00:45:49] Sure. I can give concrete examples. I think these last four years with the previous administration were really tough. And younger generations wanted to address the injustices, the rhetoric, the Christian nationalism, they wanted that addressed. So they're really thankful that we did.
Elizabeth Tamez Méndez [00:46:25] How did you create those spaces for theological questioning?
Marcos Canales [00:46:31] Well, preaching was one way. We had to address it. We couldn't stay silent. And modeling it as well, participating in different protests and prayer vigils that were connected to George Floyd but also to local killings of African American and Latino young men and women here in our own community, being vocal about that, being visible and present in those spaces, which younger generations appreciated and were able to [say,] “OK, I'm not crazy for thinking certain things.” To walk that line of “This is where Jesus, this is where scripture addresses these injustices: racial injustice, the othering, the violence, corruption, etc.” I mean, there's so much. The hard part is now that there's a new administration; most older generations—and when I say older generation, I should be very specific, because we have older generations that are very open to these conversations—but some that have been been formed in Latina Evangélica, Spanish-speaking, first-generation churches prior to La Fuente, the separation of church and state needs to be kept. And so there's always that pushback of “You're getting too political; you're getting too much into these waters.” So part of the intergenerational commitment is we're all being stretched. The first generation is getting stretched into how the gospel does have something to say to our current reality and politics. To the younger generation is [stretched] because the gospel has something to say about the current reality in politics and protests and pandemic, [but] don't forget that your own attending to your own spirituality and to your own devotional life and belonging to a community of faith is crucial to navigate all those of those times. So just because Jesus does address that is not a permission given to move away from community. It actually needs to bring you closer to community so that your own devotional life and your own relationship with God is nurtured in the power of the Spirit so that you are able to do the work that you're being called to if you're an activist. And for the other generation it’s like, “Give to God what is God’s and to Caesar what is Caesar’s” is not a separation of church and state. There's a whole other thing going on here.
Elizabeth Tamez Méndez [00:49:53] And also the shift in understanding how society and the church works in the United States as opposed to maybe in Latin America? And to understand, first of all, the biblical, theological teachings of why we do get involved in the day-to-day issues, and then also how that connects with the church without overlapping, in a sense, but also not opening the spaces to where then we are silent because we're able to create the separation.
Marcos Canales [00:50:30] Right. So we're not silent because the church has been silent for too long. And at the same time, we are silent in listening to both, and to the multiple generations, because they're all being stretched, and we were stretched—pastoral leadership was stretched this whole pandemic year. So recognizing that we're all in parallel processes of being stretched and made uncomfortable and disrupted, disoriented, actually creates common ground and actually helps us to be able to honor one another in the sense of mutuality and in the sense of if we're going to move forward, we're going to listen. We're also going to push back when it's needed, and we're going to reorient and we're going to be patient. And then there's times when we're just not the church for different people, right? And we also recognize our limitations in that we're not trying to be a church for everyone.
Elizabeth Tamez Méndez [00:51:41] And I think you pointed to something that is very important as we continue with our leadership and in exploring these ways and having our imagination open to multiple models of ministry, to have that in mind that we will be uncomfortable. It will stretch us. Some are going to be OK with some things; others are not. That is part of that process of growth and of being alive and knowing that it's OK, it's OK that we're going to be uncomfortable at times, and it's OK that some things are going to work out for some and it's going to help them feel welcome. And then how do we compensate that with others? And I think that sense of giving ourselves freedom to explore, to imagine, to redefine, to be all right with being uncomfortable. I think we have this imagination that the church needs to be steady and comfortable and there's no space for, OK, we tried this and it didn't work. But to know that we're in a safe space, that because we are walking together as a family, because we have shared values that we have established, we trust each other. We know that we're trying to do the best for one another, and there will be times when it's going to work, and there's going to be times when it's not going to work, and then we'll try again.
Thank you so much, Marcos, because you have really created this engaging conversation that has given us an insight into how things are taking place in your congregation, the values that you're really trying to nurture there, and how you have been able to to create the space where even for the younger and the older generations, they see the difference with what is going on outside and they're able to contrast. So thank you so much for being with us today.
Marcos Canales [00:53:48] Thank you for having me. I appreciate the time to engage in this conversation and the thing that I've learned from you as well, and thank you for your leadership and all of the stuff that you've taught me, and I appreciate you leading this conversation that I hope engages others and replicates the conversation in other contexts. So thank you.
Elizabeth Tamez Méndez [00:54:09] Thank you, Marcos. I love our dynamics because we're constantly learning. And so that's what we want to invite our viewers to do, to continue joining us in this series of Imagining Multiple Models of Ministry with Youth so that we can learn from each other and we can hear what has been happening out there. And so we pray that these conversations will inspire and encourage your efforts in reaching the next generation. Please join us in the next video in the series. But also because we want to learn from one another, please, please leave a comment about the session. We really want to hear from you. Thank you, Marcos, and I look forward to our next collaboration.
Marcos Canales [00:54:49] Thank you, Elizabeth. Blessings.