My church here in Bogotá is AWESOME. And I mean that. After I met the pastor for the first time on Friday night, I was sure that I couldn’t wait to go to church. And that’s saying something, given that I’ve pretty much lived in a church my whole life…
So let me start by telling you a little bit about the history of this church, as told by the pastor on Friday night. It started in a poor barrio on the far east side of Bogotá. It was the first Colombian Methodist Church here in Bogotá, because historically there had been some sort of agreement between the Presbyterians and the Methodists that the Presbyterians could plant churches and do their work in Colombia and the Methodists could plant churches and do their work in Ecuador (and I believe he mentioned some other country?), but my understanding was that basically the two weren’t going to cross over into one another’s turf. However, in more recent years, that agreement is (for whatever reason) null and void (as you can tell, as much of oral history this is incredibly specific). So in come the Methodists, who begin planting churches in Colombia, and this is the first one in Bogotá.
At the time it was started, the barrio where this church is located was of a very low estrato (a six-level tax system used here in Bogota, which, to my understanding, is broken down by neighborhood/barrio), being a barrio at the time primarily full of people who had been displaced due to the ongoing conflict of the last several decades, and now the neighborhood is gentrifying (meaning, rich people are buying up all the land and plopping highrises down on it) because it’s situated on the side of the mountain, so it has a beautiful view of Bogotá and of the mountains; the estrato of the barrio surrounding the church (with some exception) went from (I believe he said) a 2 to a 6, which basically means it went from the second poorest level to the richest level. Ever since its foundation, the church has been working on behalf of the impoverished individuals in the neighborhood, and now it is standing up against the gentrification the community faces; it is attempting to keep its property and its location in the barrio along with what is left of the original community, even amid the rapid gentrification of the barrio.
And, as if all that weren’t awesome enough, here’s what the mission statement, vision statement, and values of the Colombian Methodist Church are (roughly translated):
Mission: The Colombian Methodist Church is a part of the body of Christ whose mission is to contribute to the extension of the reign of God, expressed in the construction of inclusive communities for the promotion of a just and integral life in Colombian society.
Vision: We will be a community of faith, with a Colombian Methodist identity, self-sustaining and structured, providing education and training for its membership with an ecumenical vocation that allows it to play a leading role in the development process in its communities.
Values: Respect, Justice, Loyalty, Love, Peace, and Equity
…and what’s more? The logo of the Colombian Methodist Church (shown below) is a really beautiful spin on the cross and flame (rather than just superimposing the cross and flame over a map of the country, like many other affiliate Latin American churches do). The design was suggested by a woman (score 1 for the feminists!), and it takes the original cross and flame (symbolizing Christ and the Holy Spirit) and transforms it into a dove (symbolizing both the peace that the Colombian Methodist Church hopes for in Colombia and the Holy Spirit, as well). The dove has a star for an eye (symbolizing God), and the colors (red, yellow, and blue) are the colors of the Colombian flag. Beautiful, if you ask me.
…almost needless to say, I really look forward to the next year and a half, working with this church (Iglesia Metodista “Príncipe de Paz” – “Prince of Peace” Methodist Church) and with the Colombian Methodist Church on the whole, however I am able.