The Church of San Miguel in southeast Fort Worth had a unique problem on May 2 when the bishop came to visit. Where would they put all of the people? Their small worship space, which was originally built as a three-car garage, can only accommodate the 300 who attend Sunday worship by dividing them up among several different services. That strategy clearly wasnâ€™t going to work for the single service the church had planned.
Ultimately, Fr. Sergio Diaz, vicar of San Miguel, decided that they would worship outside â€“ under a tent â€“ on May 2. It was a good decision. By the churchâ€™s count, 484 attended Bishop Wantlandâ€™s visit.
San Miguel has come a long way from its beginnings a decade ago when Fr. Diaz and other members of the fledging church went door-to-door in their neighborhood introducing themselves and the church. He credits the growth of San Miguel, as well as two other recently planted Spanish-language congregations in the Diocese of Fort Worth, to a simple fact.
â€œThe people are hungry for God. We present the church not as a political thing. We present the church as the way of salvation,â€ said Fr. Diaz.
Though people have responded in droves, funding the work has always been a challenge. According to Fr. Diaz, approximately one quarter of his congregation has become unemployed during the current economic downturn. Other congregations in the diocese have pitched in, setting up a food-shelf with Fr. Diaz. The people of San Miguel have also worked to fund their own ministries through cooking and catering. At Christmastime last year, the women of the congregation made and sold 300 dozen tamales.
Fr. Diaz sees a need for Spanish-language Anglican congregations in many areas in North America and hopes that others in the Anglican Church will reach out to their Spanish-speaking neighbors with the Gospel. According to a U.S. Census Bureau study in 2008, there are more than 34 million people in the United States who speak Spanish at home.
â€œWe need to follow the commandment of our Lord. The commandment is to go and preach the Gospel. People who speak Spanish need God and need the Anglican way,â€ he explained.
According to Bishop Jack Iker, the Diocese of Fort Worthâ€™s commitment to Spanish-language ministry continues to be rewarded.
“The numeric growth of our diocese is a result of the success of our Hispanic missionary work. Our church with the largest Sunday attendance is San Juan in Fort Worth, and one of the fastest growth rates of all is at San Miguel.
â€œOne of our greatest funding needs is to support the planting of new Hispanic churches. The Lord is really blessing these ministries.”