Baker, a member of the North Carolina Conference of the United Methodist Church task force on Hispanic ministries, notes that many North Carolina Protestants view Hispanic Methodist churches here as missions with weak connections to Methodist tradition and practice.
During Encuentro, he saw successful Methodist churches that emphasize doctrine, he says. “I felt like I was at a Methodist revival. It tells me we can successfully reach out to Latinos here.”
Already Baker has begun to act on what he learned in Mexico.
For starters, he has established a quarterly meeting of his own congregation to share stories about its members and their backgrounds and diversity. At the first such gathering, which he also called Encuentro, speakers included a woman from rural Mexico and an African-American woman.
“I saw this as a way of helping them encounter each other and build friendships,” Baker says. “Our church really needs this space for sharing stories and getting beyond inhibitions.”
Colón-Emeric expects the spiritual invigoration of the first Encuentro to have lasting benefits.
“To see the desperate poverty and need—but also the richness and joy—challenged and moved us,” he says. “It left in many of us a conviction that we need one another to walk more faithfully. When I’m among my brothers and sisters in the Methodist Mexican Church, I am re-energized in being Methodist.”