Service learning at St. Matthew’s Episcopal Cathedral has been the perfect way to see our course material in living color. The history of the Cathedral is a fascinating story. The institution has evolved over time from a prestigious girls school with alum such as former first lady Lady Bird Johnson, to an upper-class Episcopal cathedral, to a mixed congregation with a large, emerging Latino population.
As scholars, our endeavor is to examine and make sense of this transformation. This has given me the opportunity to have a few unique experiences. I have attended Zumba classes that are offered on Tuesday and Thursday nights. This ministry is a fun way to get the parishioners to stay fit while dancing to Latin beats and doing traditional Latino dances such as the cumbia, salsa, and rumba.
I also attended a Spanish Women’s Bible Study led by the Rev. Betty Barrios. As a Roman Catholic, I was a little taken aback upon seeing a woman in a priest collar for the first time. Rev. Barrios was very welcoming after I explained our project and a little bit about what we are researching and why we were doing it.
Barrios proceeded to give me a brief history of the church in respect to the emergence of the Latino congregation. She explained that the Spanish-speaking congregation began with only six parishioners. She said the Spanish Mass began nearly 30 years ago in the early ’80s and has since grown to a congregation of about 300 parishioners.
A very interesting fact that I took note of was that the church does joint mission trips to Peru in which both the English- and Spanish-speaking parishioners partake. That is to say, the congregations are not only interacting with each other and utilizing the same space, but they also are uniting to do service projects and mission trips. This mixed congregation has given the church a new face and a new identity.
I am thoroughly excited for the surprises, interactions, and experiences that are still to come at St. Matthew’s.