In Tulsa, the members of Nueva Esperanza United Methodist Church find that being anchored in a new location allows them to truly express "Open Hearts, Open Minds, Open Doors" to the larger community.
For years, the primarily Hispanic congregation partnered with Tulsa-Rose Hill. Then an opportunity arose to secure a house of worship to call their own; Tulsa-Harvard Avenue UMC voted to close in October.
Led by Pastor Daniel Llanos-Jimenez, Nueva Esperanza moved into the former Harvard Avenue church on March 1.
The first worship service was March 4, and Holy Communion marked the new beginning.
Six months later, worship attendance averages 100, up from about 80. Sunday school attendance is in the 50s, a slight increase. Giving has increased significantly, reported Rev. Llanos.
Six months later, the significance of that first Communion continues to evoke a deeper dimension of spirituality in subsequent rituals. Worshippers report a tender sense of God’s presence therein, and many receive the bread and wine amid tears of joy.
In summary, a new sense of ownership in ministry is evident at the new location.
The move enabled Sunday morning programming at more traditional times. Worship on Sunday evening and an early service will be added in coming months, the pastor said.
Among other goals is establishing an evangelistic team for the city’s Hispanic community. Additionally, plans are being developed to reach out to Tulsa’s Portuguese and Korean communities.
Nueva Esperanza held a joint Vacation Bible School with University UMC, following that a few weeks later with its own VBS. Both were successful in reaching youths in the respective church communities, Llanos said.
A food pantry at the church is open on the fourth Wednesday of each month and serves about 700 people, mainly immigrant Hispanic families. This outreach is partnered with the Community Food Bank of Eastern Oklahoma, Las Americas Hispanic Store, and Pancho Anaya Mexican Bakery.