In the Hollywood neighborhood of northeast Portland, St. Michael & All Angels Episcopal Church is well known within the diocese for their long-standing Misa service. As the church prepares to celebrate 25 years of worshipping in Spanish, the Rev. Chris Craun smiles, reflecting on how the service started and continues to grow and develop as the congregation faithfully goes into the places of challenge and discomfort created by being a bilingual and multicultural community.
Beginning as a small group gathered around the altar with the Rev. John Scannell and the Rev. Deacon Marla McGarry-Lawrence, the Spanish-speaking community transformed over the years from an outreach ministry to an integrated part of the church’s life. During a 2017-2018 parish visioning process, a significant amount of time was given to listening to and learning the stories of church members. One exercise involved building a map with photos of parishioners, their houses, and answers to the question, “Where else is home?” For many in the Latino community, St. Michael’s was that other home: a place to be known, and safe, and seen.
Chris credits this sharing of stories and experiences with strengthening the congregation’s willingness and ability to embrace resilience, which the vision process identified as a core value. Resilience is a necessary characteristic for a congregation that continues learning how to engage its bilingual and multicultural makeup.
During Lent this year, the church offered introductory Spanish lessons, creating an opportunity for English-speakers to take steps in vulnerability and courage. In her commitment to be the rector of the entire church body, Chris has spent significant time developing her Spanish skills and learning about Latino culture, determined to overcome her own discomfort and fear of looking foolish while modeling humility and a willingness to engage in spite of the mistakes that inevitably happen in cross-cultural relationships.
Building Beloved Community is a long process that The Episcopal Church symbolizes with a labyrinth, and St. Michael’s experience bears out the reality of this metaphor. Throughout many twists and turns, coming to this 25th Celebration of the Misa is a recognition that the English- and Spanish-language speakers of St. Michael’s are deeply committed to God and to each other.