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Church service offers communion for native (and non-native) Spanish speakers

St. James Episcopal begins its second year of bilingual outreach

— Once a month for the past year, native Spanish-speaking immigrants, Spanish-speaking Americans and even Spanish language students in high school and college have been attending bilingual communion services at St. James Episcopal Church in Skaneateles.

St. James, one of only three churches in all of Central New York to offer such a bilingual communion service, has seen interest and attendance at the mass remain steady during the past year, and hopes to increase the trend throughout 2012.

“One of the main purposes of this was to reach out to folks not fully acclimated in the English language and make it comfortable for them to attend mass,” said Charles Stewart, St. James member and instigator of the bilingual mass idea.

St. James Rector Rev. Becky Coerper said there has been a lot of “interest” and “energy” in the bilingual communion service by people with varying degrees of Spanish language skills over the past year.

“The experience has been really extraordinary,” Coerper said. “There is a spirit and a joy in that service that is quite unique. It has become like a family.”

The service offers a Spanish liturgy, read by Coerper, various Bible readings in Spanish by church members, as well as traditional Spanish hymns and praise songs led by congregation members Pete Hawley, Pete Thomas and Kip Coerper.

The bilingual service idea was created in April 2011 in response to a sermon by Coerper about the church’s global outreach efforts to El Salvador through its partnership with the Mission of Miracles El Salvador ministry. Through that program, hundreds of members of St. James’ for the past 10 years have traveled to El Salvador to offer medical, dental, vision, mental health and veterinary services to support the ongoing mission of the Episcopal Companion Diocese of El Salvador health team.

“Many of our members have been exposed to Spanish through our El Salvador missions, some just like to hear the words and hymns in Spanish,” Stewart said. “They all really just want to continue the good feelings of their mission work in El Salvador.”

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