By Laurie Oswald Robinson

Marlene Aquino, member of Iglesia Camino de Santidad, felt there was no better way to celebrate the risen Christ than with a joint, bilingual Easter service held at Calvary Mennonite Church in Liberal, Kan.

Aquino, a founding member of Camino, a Spanish church plant begun in 2011, translated during the English-Spanish service held March 31. Generally, the two congregations share the same sanctuary at Calvary but worship at different times on Sundays.  But on this Easter morning, they shared the same space and the same heart of worship that Aquino believes brings joy to God.

“When Anglos and Hispanics worship together, we get to know each other better and see the heart of each other, not just our skin color,” she said. “I believe there is nothing more beautiful in the eyes of God than to see a colorful congregation worship one God as one people.”

The two congregations experienced the unity Aquino desires when about 50 people from both congregations enjoyed an Easter sunrise breakfast and short service followed by an 11 a.m. worship service attended by 75 people.  Spanish and English worshippers filled the services with a bilingual tapestry of hymn-singing, scripture-reading, messages and prayer.

Worshippers sang traditional English hymns followed by Spanish choruses led by Camino’s worship team. Young women from Camino also shared a liturgical dance.

Lou Gomez, Jr., pastor of Calvary, gave a message from Luke 24:1-12. He challenged worshippers to respond with the same kind of love and witness exemplified by the women at the resurrection of Jesus.

Moises Romero, pastor of Camino, shared words of gratitude and encouragement, followed by communion, and the benediction and response: “Jesus is alive! Go in peace to serve the risen Lord!” And all the people said, “Jesus is alive indeed! Alleluia! Alleluia!”

“Jesus is alive in Liberal,” said Calvary member Elizabeth Raid.  “Because of the blessing and unity we experienced in the joint worship, I feel we are all more equipped to proclaim together the good news of Jesus here in this community.”

Part of reaching out to the community is embracing the increasingly bilingual nature of Hispanic youth in Liberal, said Aquino, who is a youth leader at Camino with her husband, Alex. Since its inception, Camino, which celebrated its second anniversary on March 16, has grown from about 10 to 70 attenders, many of them children and youth.

“I hope we keep having joint services, because half of my congregation is bilingual,” she said. “Bilingual services are a good way to reach out to the youth, because many of them were born here and have a hard time following Spanish.

“When we have Sunday evening Bible studies for the youth, about 90 percent of the studies are done in English. This community is definitely moving in that direction, and we need to move along with it.”