ALBUQUERQUE (BNM) - Ricardo Rivera, the Baptist Convention of New Mexico's Hispanic strategist, reported that COVID-19's social distancing and job losses are affecting the convention’s Hispanic churches. But, those hardships have not defeated them.
Most of New Mexico’s Hispanic churches are small, having 50-100 members. The largest has 450 members. Most of their pastors serve bi-vocationally. They work to support both their own families and their church families.
Often Hispanic churches have little or no reserves to maintain the church when difficulties strike. Right now, their tithes are down - in many cases by 50%. The pandemic is the cause. Members have lost jobs in the oilfield, hospitality industries and other places of work.
Despite less income, the churches face the pressure of fulfilling even more needs. Congregations are supporting unemployed members who have lost their ability to purchase necessities. Churches are also providing food and necessities to members in need. In many cases, deacons and members are helping pastors carry out their ministry duties.
Churches with online capabilities use it for Sunday Services, Bible studies and small groups. One pastor is providing online training to his members. However, not all churches have the technology to use online media. So, one pastor delivers written messages to members' homes.
Rivera reported the specific activities of several Hispanic churches. Emanuel Baptist Church, Albuquerque, makes regular calls to all church members. The church checks on members’ health and inquires about spiritual or physical needs.
Some pastors send texts with faith-inspiring Bible verses. Many conduct sermons and Bible studies through Facebook. Iglesia Sinai, Albuquerque, is also providing worship services via Facebook. All of its members also receive phone calls. Members are gathering and delivering food to those laid-off from work.
Deacons are leading First Bilingual Baptist Church, Albuquerque, a pastorless church. They offer Bible studies and worship services via Facebook. All members receive frequent calls. Rivera has preached for the church remotely during its online worship services.
Arch Baptist Church, Portales, recently voted to make its Sunday morning services bilingual. It offers Spanish translation for the sermon, which is preached in English. One member generously offered to translate for Spanish speakers who have started attending.
Rivera frequently contacts Hispanic church pastors and leaders to lend support. He has informed them of the BCNM's Hope Fund. The fund can assist churches with ongoing expenses. Find information on the Hope Fund at bcnm.com/hopefund.