Parroquia Luterana San Jose, a joint ministry of the ELCA and the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) in Beloit, Wisconsin "for and with Latino people" hosted a traditional Las Posadas celebration recently, remembering when Mary and Joseph went looking for shelter.
The celebration, which takes place nine days before Christmas each year is a tradition in which the faithful recreate Joseph and Mary's search for an inn prior to Jesus' birth by going from door to door asking for lodging in song. 'Posada' means lodging or accomodation in spanish.
"We reenact what Joseph and Mary went through until finally someone opens the door, and then we have a small worship and meal together," the ministry's pastor Neddy Astudillo told Living Lutheran.
She says the ministry, which is comprised mostly of first generation Latino immigrant families, goes beyond providing spiritual help.
"It always had the idea in mind that it would do advocacy and education for Latino families and provide a place for worship," she shares.
"I love this ministry because it cares so much about not just people's spiritual lives but improving also their culture and their health and their well-being," she says. She says the mission of the ministry is "to help people in a holistic way."
The church website describes the ministry as Reformed theologically but welcoming of people from a variety of Christian traditions and spiritual backgrounds. The ministry is ecumenical in worship and style.
There are 4,500 latinos living in Beloit, Pastor Astudillo says, adding that about 85 percent of them are undocumented.
The church provides free Spanish-language counseling services and help host the Mexican mobile consulate where people can get identification, which is important for obtaining health care or banking services.
The pastor says she also works with local law enforcement officials to ensure that people can feel safe going to the police when a problem arises, without fear of deportation.
The church blog states that on January 10, 2010, the Presbytery of Milwaukee's Rev. Gregg Neel and ELCA Bishop Bruce Burnside singed an ecumenical agreement of support for San Jose's developing Latino Ministry.