Before the Rev. Ethan Jewett became rector of St. Helena’s Episcopal Church/Iglesia Episcopal Santa Elena in Burr Ridge last year, he shared with its members some observations he’d made over three months of serving the congregation as a supply priest at both its English and Spanish services.
“These are some of the opportunities I see before us,” he told the congregations about his suggestions for community outreach and bilingual programs. “But if you’re not willing to move forward together as a unified community, it won’t work. We need to have a unified mission and vision.”
Since then, the English and Spanish congregations have moved their services times closer together so they can offer bilingual Christian formation and also established a hunger ministry. In June, Jewett attended the Episcopal Church’s Latino Ministry Competency Course, a program designed to bolster church leaders’ ability to do ministry with Latino communities.
Now St. Helena’s/Santa Elena’s is moving to the next phase of what Jewett calls “an organic process to discern who we are becoming and how to invite others to join our revitalized community.” Last week, he and the congregation were awarded an evangelism grant of $2,000 from the Episcopal Church to assist with that work.
The grant will fund the creation of a series of videos, community listening sessions, public events, and a social media campaign aimed at people living in Burr Ridge and beyond. Jewett hopes to reach second- and third-generation Latino and Hispanic community members, LGBTQ people, and especially Latino and Hispanic LGBTQ people, who he says, “still face terrible stigma and alienation…and need a place where they can be affirmed and loved and grow in their relationship with God.”
The videos, designed to be posted on Facebook and Instagram, will feature congregation members doing hands-on ministry and sharing their faith stories. “Our members have deep experiences of God’s movement in their lives, which has translated into strong commitments to ministry,” Jewett says. “Storytelling is a fundamental feature of Christian evangelism. Our approach is for the world to discover who the parish is as we ourselves are discovering it by sharing video of the project via social media.”
At the end of the grant-funded project, the congregation hopes to have produced an analysis of its context for doing evangelism, a record of the activities it conducted and what it learned, social media and print resources for evangelism, and recommendations for the future. All of the materials will be available online to other congregations in the diocese and the wider Episcopal Church.
“We want to document this community’s process of becoming,” says Jewett. “It would be great to be able to tell that story from a number of perspectives—the story of the way God is surprising us in our journey.”