Friday, August 24, 2007

Hispanic Churches Add English Service

~Forbes

CHICAGO - On Sundays at La Casa del Carpintero, or the Carpenter's House, they've raised twin yellow banners for churchgoers that read "Welcome" and "Bienvenidos."

As a complement to the regular 11:30 a.m. Spanish service at the independent Pentecostal church, where they've worshipped Papi for years, there's now a 9:30 a.m. English one where the faithful praise God the Father.

While churches from every imaginable tradition have been adding Spanish services to meet the needs of new immigrants, an increasing number of Hispanic ethnic congregations are going the other way - starting English services.

It's an effort to meet the demands of second- and third-generation Hispanics, keep families together and reach non-Latinos.

In some cases, the greater English emphasis has contributed to a growing phenomenon: evangelical Protestant megachurches drawing crowds in the thousands that aren't white and suburban, but Hispanic and anchored in the inner city.

Hispanic churches are part of the United States' long tradition of religious congregations bonded by common ethnicity or language. While Italian and Irish Catholic parishes and other examples have largely faded from view, Hispanic churches are poised to endure thanks to high birth rates, close proximity to Latin America and the sheer numbers of people seeking a better life here.

"The precedent churches are setting by preserving the Spanish language while breaking down ethnic differences and encouraging the use of English is really at the vanguard of where the United States is heading," said Anthony Stevens-Arroyo, a Brooklyn College professor emeritus and co-author of "Recognizing the Latino Resurgence in American Religion."

"The definition of the United States as a great white Protestant nation is really up for grabs, and churches are doing an excellent job of preserving people's identity and at the same time helping them function in contemporary society."

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