A small reflection on time in Puerto Rico:
Readers of this blog know I have been away with the St. Peter's Youth Group on a trip to Puerto Rico. It was a wonderful trip and one of personal renewal.
I was ordained priest in Puerto Rico some thirty-nine years ago (March 6, 1968) long before any of the young people on the trip were born, and indeed before one of their mothers, who also made the trip. (That was a little scary.)
In the years that have gone by the Diocese of Puerto Rico has grown to be about twice the size it was then (perhaps a shade less than double). The Diocese left The Episcopal Church and then returned and did so in the 'normal' way - it petitioned General Convention to be released and later to be readmitted to union with the General Convention. The reasons for leaving and returning were related to matters of authenticity of mission in context, not core doctrine or companionship. The level of friendships and connections have been high all along and their reunion with General Convention was a time of rejoicing.
While we were in Puerto Rico the diocesan, Bishop Alvarez, was recovering from surgery and complications. (See the Living Church article HERE.) We had all wanted to see him but instead we prayed for him and got regular reports on his health from staff at the Diocesan Center. When we left on Monday (July 2) it was reported that Bishop Alvarez was on his way to recovery and a time of rest. Rest well, dear David, and return full of health.
The Diocese of Puerto Rico has had its share of the "troubles." There is an AMiA mission in Ponce, Puerto Rico. The United Episcopal Church (UECNA) has three missions on the Island. AMiA is part of the Common Cause Partners of the Anglican Communion Network. UECNA is not. For reasons I don't quite understand UECNA and the Anglican Province of America (APA) have recended the concordat between them. AMiA and APA are part of the Network. UECNA is not. So the Diocese has the presence of two other Anglican groups in its midst, each having a different take on "true" Anglicanism. One priest told me that there is some real discomfort with decisions made by the General Convention but that reunion was not a matter of agreement in all things. The small alternative Anglican groups are a source of confusion in an already difficult time, but the decision for reunion was made as a matter of mission strategy and the need for Provincial relationship and the Diocese is moving ahead as an integral part of The Episcopal Church.
It was a joy to meet again my old boss (for two weeks), now Dean of the Seminary of St. Peter and St. Paul, Waldemar Ramos, and a friend for many years The Rev.Jose Irizarry. These guys are almost as old as I am and it was good to see them in such good energy and continuing to work in exciting ways for the future of the Church in Puerto Rico. More importantly it was great to meet the generation after the generation that provided leadership then. There is great new energy available in these people. The Rev. Ivette Linares, who is the staff person for youth ministry in the diocese, the Rev. Jose Munoz who is young, vibrant, and gifted, and the Rev. Hernan Villalba in Arecibo who is fairly new from the Roman Catholic Church and doing a wonderful job in revitalizing this local parish all were signs of new life and mission in the church.
The growth of this Diocese, its clarity of mission and willingness to put up with all of us in this Church of ours, and its joy in being all were refreshing after so much talk of war and damage. It was a pleasure to return to the place for which, as Jose Irizarry said, I "still had a heart."