Oklahoma Conference of the United Methodist Church

OKUMC partners with Chile Conference for collaborative devotional for Holy Week


By Tabitha Beckman

The Oklahoma Annual Conference has been a Covenant Partner with the Methodist Church of Chile since 2018. Bishop Nunn traveled down to Chile to sign and celebrate the Covenant with Bishop Merino and the rest of the Methodist Church of Chile in the spring of 2019.

During Holy Week this year the Oklahoma Conference joined with the Methodist Church of Chile to host short daily videos with a mixture of Chileans and Oklahomans sharing welcome, liturgy, scripture, music and a reflection videos filmed in their homes or churches.

So how did this all get started? Karen Distefano, the Oklahoma Conference Secretary of Global Ministries and the Chile-Oklahoma Covenant Coordinator said that, “Rev. Miguel Ulloa, the Ecclesiastical Secretary of the Methodist Church of Chile, contacted me one day and said, "What would you think of doing a collaborative devotional series for Holy Week between Chile and Oklahoma?" I thought it was a fabulous idea and contacted Rev. Derrek Belase with the opportunity.” Ulloa said he thought about how in the Christian calendar, Holy Week and Christmas play an important role, to “not only connect us with God through means of grace but also to connect us with others, and one expression of that is to seek to celebrate, in a joint form, those things that inspire us and remind us of our faith.”

Distefano said the project came together through Revs. Ulloa and Belase devising a schedule of daily videos that included a welcome, Scripture reading, devotional message, song, and prayer. Tabitha Beckman in the Oklahoma Conference Communications office helped collect, film, edit and subtitle five daily inspirational video compilations that were shared with Methodists throughout Chile and Oklahoma. 

Beckman said that, “I felt it was really important to make sure everything was subtitled. If they were speaking in Spanish then there were English subtitles and if they were speaking in English then there were Spanish subtitles. I didn’t want language to be a barrier to worshipping with each other. I owe a lot of thanks to Karen and a few others who helped me translate everything properly.”

The goals of the project were to provide Methodists in each place a way to deepen their Holy Week observations through collaboration and cooperation.

Ulloa said what he hoped to achieve with the collaborative videos was a celebration together aimed at uniting us through technology; he continued, “to connect two far-away places in the world through faith and the spirit of Holy Week, through personal experiences of a virtual Methodist connection that we have all been through, and to share the faces of our brothers and sisters on the other side of the world that unites us in faith in Jesus Christ and our Methodist identity.”

Belase praised the collaboration, “I love this practical, deeply spiritual and liturgically meaningful way for us to show our connection with our brothers and sisters in Chile.  

The various reflections revealed to me that we are all affected with things like COVID 19 in similar ways.  We are trying to make sense of that.  At the same time, the honesty in the reflections and worship services made me think more deeply about how those in other countries have experienced the pandemic.”

Ulloa reflected that, “To celebrate Holy Week together represents that, being so far apart and having different views on life and of the church, we have the essential in common that, as the father of Methodism, John Wesley, would say, "If your heart is like mine, give me your hand", and with that expression I want to represent the spirit of gathering what unites us instead of what separates us, something that had so much space and importance in early Methodism.”

Distefano also praised the project and hoped to have more in the future. “For me, it was inspirational to see the different ways people expressed themselves and their faith. We were so encouraged by this project that we are already discussing plans to have an Advent series later this year.” 

Ulloa, “I think that this small project can be the start of generating a long-distance celebrated communion that challenges us to open a door to mutually show our religious identity and the faces of children, youth, women, and men, but also to give evidence of the migrant reality, the consequences of this pandemic, the cries of the minorities, the gender violence, structural sin, and so many other things that can make our celebration a cry of protest in the middle of what we are living, both inside and outside of the Church.”

Distefano is excited about future plans with Chile. She said “An essential part of our covenant partnership with the Chilean Methodist Church is to have an exchange of volunteer teams between the two countries. COVID-19 has put all plans on hold for now but once it is safe to travel again, we look forward to getting back to doing ministry with them, both in Chile and in Oklahoma.”

Belase also expressed hopes for the future, he said “I really loved the variety of expressions which were a part of the services and I look forward to another joint project in the future.

I am hoping to take a group of youth directors to Chile in late 2022.  This was one reason I was so happy about this project and how many young people they were able to use. We will do better next time getting young people involved.”

If you or your church want to know more about our ties with the Chilean Methodists or explore ways to get involved, please contact Karen Distefano, the Chile-Oklahoma Covenant Coordinator. kdistefano@okumc.org

To watch the Holy Week series visit the OKUMC Facebook page or YouTube channel.


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