La Misa: A cultural worship experiment
St. Paul's Episcopal Church in the Carondelet neighborhood of St. Louis is one of four congregations in the country taking part in a new worship experiment to engage second- and third-generation Latinos.
Nearly 50 people attended the first "La Misa" event at St. Paul's on Sunday, Jan. 8, 2023. "La Misa" (which means "the mass") is an innovative pilot program with TryTank Experimental Laboratory out of Virginia Theological Seminary and General Theological Seminary.
St. Paul's member John Birdsong posted this reaction on social media: "I can't say whether or not there were new worshipers present because of the Spanish language emphasis, but I will say that we had the largest attendance that I have seen in the church since we've been going to St Paul's. It seems that this new ministry resonated with our people and created new excitement among us, at the very least."
The South St. Louis neighborhoods surrounding St. Paul's have among the highest Latino population in the city. Research shows that second- and third-generation Latinos are sensitive to their culture but prefer their information in English.
"The experiment aims to create a worship and fellowship experience in English, with music in Spanish and opportunities for the celebration of Latin American traditions," said Brother Luis Hernandez Rivas, a mentor at TryTank.
Brother Luis has been advising a team from St. Paul's to prepare for their launch. The Rev. Rebecca Ragland, Rector at St. Paul's, said their community is open to new people and new growth. She says La Misa is a great way of inviting people into the congregation. "It can help us grow and teach us how to be more inclusive of our Latino neighbors."
Rebecca says the congregation distributed promotional materials around the neighborhood to invite the community to a special Epiphany worship service on January 8, followed by a delicious lunch and music. Nearly 50 people attended, including four people who had never been to St. Paul's before. Rebecca was thrilled with the turnout and the excitement about the program.
"I hope that we will experience the joy of new ways of expressing our love for Christ," Rebecca said. "And that we will have new people come and experience that with us and enjoy it enough to stay."
St. Paul's plans to continue reaching out to their community with La Misa events scheduled for the second Sunday of each month. They have made a six-month commitment to the program. St. Paul's received a New Ventures in Community Ministry Grant from the Diocese of Missouri as well as a grant from Virginia Theological Seminary to be a part of this new ministry.
See pictures from the Jan. 8 event: