by Alicia Hortiales, 9th grade
A sunny day welcomed everyone to the Welcoming Fiesta. The service on March 18, 2023, at 11 am, took place in the Huntington Park United Methodist Church.
The service opened up with bringing in the light of God by lighting the candles of the altar, with music on the piano by Daniel Alexander. Following behind the candle lights was the procession of pastors and ending with Bishop Dottie Escobedo-Frank. Pastor Alexander Vilches opened the service by introducing Bishop Dottie Escobedo-Frank and saying a few words of welcome to the congregation. In the sanctuary were twenty flags that stood for the different countries represented in the congregation. Pastor Joel Hortiales extended the welcome and introduced the different churches represented in the congregation.
Following this introduction, praises were sung like Mil Voces Para Celabrar (O For a Thousand Tongues to Sing) and Dios, Tu Nombre Exaltare (Lord, I Lift Your Name On High). After praises, three members, the Echoes of Praises of St. John’s UMC, gave a beautiful liturgical dance to the song “Your Spirit”. Touching passages of the scripture were read from 1st Kings 17:8-16 and John 21:1-14. The second one was read by Joshua Garza in English and Rachel Suarez in Spanish. Both Youth members were either a part of the church or volunteered to be a part of the service.
Before beginning her sermon, Bishop Dottie said, “I preach without my shoes on… because this is a holy ground.” She says, like Moses, she wants to respect the holy ground she preaches on and even invited her translator, Pastor Saul Montiel, to do the same. She gave a slight introduction of herself. She thanked the church for inviting her and saying, “this is my familia. The Hispanic community is my family”, but her message was not on the work she did but on the work the churches in this conference do. Her message to all of us was, “Have You No Fish? (¿No Han Pescado?).” She started by retelling the story of how the disciples, after Jesus’ death on the cross, were visited by Jesus. He asked his disciples, “Do you have any fish?” When they responded that they had no catch, Jesus told them to cast their nets to the other side of the boat. Using this story, Bishop Dottie explained that the churches in the conference are doing an amazing job of reaching out to the community, “casting their nets,” and providing help to those who need it most.
After the pandemic, though, the ways to reach out had to change: Bishop Dottie said we had to “cast our nets” to the other side. Churches have found ways to continue helping those in their community, even with all the challenges the pandemic brought. She linked these challenges to the roadblocks the disciples faced when trying to continue the work Jesus had left them. They were confused and tired. Without Jesus, they didn’t know what way to go, so they returned to what they did before: fishing.
Bishop Dottie said that churches and their leaders feel the same way. They are tired and confused. They go back to the old ways, but like the disciples found out, the old ways do not give you the same results. We have to trust God as we “cast our nets to the other side.” We have to encourage one another and realize that, though we might not belong to the biggest or most important church, our work saves lives. The souls… the lives we save are our fish. So, when they ask if we have any fish, we can say yes.
To conclude her message, she ended with communion, where everyone was invited to take part. As announcements were being said before the service ended, Bishop was gifted a basket with all kinds of coffee from Latin America. Ana-Haydeè Urda, Conference Hispanic Committee chair, said they knew Bishop Dottie liked coffee, and since she had gotten all the other gifts usually given to the bishops, they wanted to do something a little different. Bishop Dottie had a large smile on her face as she expressed her gratitude.
After the service was the Hispanic Party, where people ate tacos and listened to mariachi music. Colorful streamers hung from the ceiling, and everything really celebrated Hispanic culture. For dessert, there was an amazing arroz con leche to tie it all.
The sermon helped me see that we are all doing our part in our communities and that we have to lift each other up and continue forward. We must “cast our nets to the other side” and have faith in God that the work we do can touch the lives of everyone around us. With the party, it reminded me that we should celebrate our heritage and how it brings us together.
Click here to view the livestream recording of the Hispanic Committee’s Bishop welcoming service.
Click here to view photos of the event.