by Irma Bañales
The answer was yes, we could do it. And so we accomplished our first Virtual Latina Women’s Retreat in September. It was an all-day retreat, Sept. 5, from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m., with the theme “Women of Faith in time of Pandemic.” We had 80 participants. Some met in person in their congregations (following C.D.C. safety measures), and others joined us from their homes. Our goals were to understand, to accept, to face reality boldly, and to find hope, friendship, sisterhood, and love, especially in this time of a pandemic.
Six congregations make up our Latinx conference in the Northern Texas-Northern Louisiana Synod. Since we had the retreat virtually, we extended an invitation to congregations in our neighboring synods: Comunidad de Esperanza in Tulsa, Okla., (Arkansas-Oklahoma Synod) and St. Luke’s in Eagle Pass, Texas (Southwestern Texas Synod).
Our planning team was made up of representatives from all congregations to ensure all could share their ideas and gifts. Our conference worked in the past with Jennifer De Leon, director of Justice for Women of the ELCA, and we consulted with her on the logistics of conducting our retreat virtually. WELCA co-sponsored the retreat with a grant from inFaith Community Foundation for Latina leadership training.
Bishop Erik Gronberg of NTNL Synod welcomed the group with appreciation and encouragement. We started the retreat with a worship service where I preached, and lay ministers led the service.
We learned about the emotional issues behind domestic intrafamilial violence from the Rev. Violeta Siguenza. We heard about racism in the time of a pandemic from Jen, who explained the difference between racism and discrimination. We meditated with a musical therapy session led by Dafne Del Risco.
After the educational sessions, we participated in prayer workshops with arts and crafts projects in our churches’ break rooms or our homes via Zoom. Projects included sewing altar vestments, baking bread, painting crosses, making soap, and planting flowers. After two hours, we returned to the main room (virtually) to share our projects. We closed our retreat with prayer.
Even virtually, we are better together
We learned that even virtually, we do things better together because we encourage each other and learn new ways to share with our communities.
By doing activities together, we learned and shared the different gifts we possess. The gospel tells us to be persistent and do not give up in the midst of crisis. Jesus Christ assures us that with faith everything is possible. Be bold and have faith. Start planning your women’s retreat!
The Rev. Irma Bañales is director for evangelical mission for the Northern Texas-Northern Louisiana Synod.
From Sept. 15 to Oct. 15, Hispanic Heritage Month is celebrated in the United States. Four bold women who are active participants of Women of the ELCA share their perspectives and voices as ordained leaders in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. Watch. Listen. And learn how to continue to engage with our different communities to make us all one body of Christ.