By Allie Townsend

FORT WAYNE, Ind. - When Sergio Reyes quit his full-time job to devote his time to Hispanic ministry in 2003, he had no idea that four years later, his vision would become a reality - a Hispanic church would be established in Fort Wayne.

Fort Wayne welcomed the first Hispanic United Methodist Church in the state during a charter ceremony Sunday afternoon, May 27, Pentecost Sunday. Indiana is currently home to more than 1,200 United Methodist congregations.

Sergio, and his wife, Janie Reyes, led the newly chartered Cristiana Getsemani congregation to worship during a celebration that took place at Christ United Methodist Church in Fort Wayne. The congregation has shared space in the facility with members of Christ Church since 2005 and plans to continue doing so.

The North Indiana United Methodist Conference includes five Hispanic congregations, but they are referred to as missional churches because they do not have enough members to be chartered. A congregation must reach 150 members before it can be chartered.

Getsemani started to climb over that mark around Easter, creating a buzz of excitement that would lead it to becoming a fully-fledged member of the Indiana United Methodist community.

Excitement would turn to celebration.

During the worship period of the ceremony, a praise band took the chancel and after one verse of "Open the Eyes of My Heart Lord," the lyrics switched to Spanish. With hands raised and feet that kept the rhythm of the drums, the Getsemani congregation offered thanks to God with loud cheers and bursts of "Hallelujah!"

All dialogue was offered in English and Spanish, a regular feature of the service. The Reyeses, who are currently in the candidacy process to becoming United Methodist pastors, offer weekly sermons delivered as a tag-team lingual event. Sergio speaks in forceful, enthusiastic Spanish, while his wife translates in perfect English. The goal: providing a comfortable environment outside of language barriers.

"We want to win all the people for Christ," Sergio Reyes said. "That's our vision. We want the people of Fort Wayne to know that there is a Hispanic United Methodist Church and that God moves there. It doesn't matter what social class you are, just come, and be with God."

Aside from bilingual worship, the church also offers community outreach programs and discipling.

Attendee Cesar Anzaldua said the celebration was a gift from God.

"This church is just so functional to different avenues of service to the Hispanic community," he said. "I'm so thankful to God for all of this. I dreamed at one time of The United Methodist Church crossing with Hispanics so all of this really touches me."

Also present for the chartering celebration was United Methodist Bishop Michael J. Coyner.

Coyner called the chartering as much a victory for The United Methodist Church as it was for the Hispanic community.

"It takes awhile to develop trust with a new community," he said. "This is a milestone for trust within The United Methodist Church."

Coyner said he was floored by the exuberance of the Hispanic worship.

"Hispanic Christians have a lot to teach white folks like me," he said. "They know a lot about joy during worship. They are loud and enthusiastic toward the Lord, and they always have something to eat after service."

Allie Townsend serves as a reporter for Fort Wayne's The Journal Gazette This story was first printed in the May 28, 2007 issue of The Journal Gazette and was used by permission of The Journal Gazette c2007.