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Diverse worship styles among Hispanic Texas Baptists: Baptists are a diverse people. Nowhere is this more evident than in their worship styles. Three Baptists from three different perspectives share their observations. (Diverse Baptist worship styles: a panel).

The purpose of this paper is to document research based on the assumption that Hispanic Texans have diverse worship styles. This assigned topic of study will follow the sequential method of identifying and applying the researched conclusion. For a greater understanding of the diverse worship styles among Hispanic Texas Baptists, it is essential that this study identify Hispanic persons living in Texas, because they are a heterogeneous, diverse group within themselves, and Hispanic Texas Baptist congregations mirror the same heterogeneity.

Three different sets of Hispanic groups live in Texas in the early twenty-first century. One set is the Spanish-language Hispanic person. They are primarily immigrants, and live mostly within the practices, values, and traditions of their country of origin.

A second set of Hispanic persons that lives in Texas are the bicultural/bilingual persons. They are American-born or children of immigrant parents reared in Texas.

Bicultural/bilingual persons are comfortable in speaking Spanish and English, and relate well to both cultures. They are more connected to Texas than their country of origin, feeling less bound to the practices, habits, and traditions of their immigrant ancestors.

A third set of Hispanics that lives in Texas is the English-language person. They generally speak only in English and have little connection to the country of origin. English-language Hispanic persons are scarcely aware of the practices, habits, and traditions of their immigrant ancestors and are no different than other Americans in their social perspective. (1)

Identification of Hispanic Baptist Congregations in Texas

Identification of Hispanic Baptist congregations in Texas is the second step in this study. According to Research and Information Services Manager Clay Price, of the Baptist General Convention of Texas (BGCT), there are 1,128 Hispanic Texas Baptist congregations affiliated with the BGCT. These congregations are diverse in their size of membership, the age of the congregation, the language preference, the preferred cultural expressions, the geographic location of the congregation, and the socioeconomic level.

Joshua Grijalva writes in A History of Mexican Baptists in Texas that the first Hispanic Baptist church in Texas was organized in 1883 in Laredo, Texas. (2) In the beginning of the Hispanic Texas Baptist work, the congregations were composed of Spanish-language persons. These Spanish-language congregations proliferated across Texas as they followed the migration of Hispanic families. Hispanic Texas Baptist congregations have grown to 1,128 congregations, becoming more diverse in size, language preference, and heterogeneity. Hispanic Texas Baptist congregations are grouped in similar sets as those identified in Hispanic persons living in Texas because they reflect these same characteristics.

Spanish-language congregations are typically less than thirty years old. Many of the congregations' leadership, including the minister, are foreign born. A Spanish-language congregation is primarily composed of immigrants or first-generation persons, whose members are culturally connected to their country of origin.

While some bicultural/bilingual Hispanic Texas Baptist congregations have been in existence for less than twenty years, most of them are older than twenty years. The congregations' leadership, including the minister, is bicultural/bilingual. A bicultural/bilingual Hispanic Baptist congregation in-Texas is one whose members are American born or children of immigrant parents reared in Texas, function in two cultures, speak English and Spanish, and culturally connect to Texas more than to the country of origin.

A third group of Hispanic Texas Baptist congregations is composed of persons who have assimilated into the American culture. These English-language Hispanic' Baptist congregations typically are newer congregations. Most of the congregations' leadership, including the minister, are young and less able to function effectively in the Hispanic culture. These congregations have members who have the same values as other Americans and are scarcely aware of the cultural connections to the country of origin.

Methodology and the Analytic Framework Governing the Basic Assumption

The third step in this study is to provide evidence to support or refute the stated assumption, that Hispanic Texas Baptists have diverse worship styles. The analytic framework for this study includes a survey of all the Hispanic Texas Baptist congregations to determine those who use primarily the Spanish language, use both Spanish and English languages, and use primarily the English language. This analytic framework also includes a questionnaire that was mailed to every Hispanic Texas Baptist minister. A third analytic framework includes a summary of personal interviews with members of Hispanic Texas Baptist congregations.

The Office of Information Services of the BGCT provided a list of all the Hispanic Texas Baptist congregations affiliated with the convention. Each congregation was placed in one of three groups: Spanish-language congregations, Spanish- and English-language congregations, and English-language congregations. Every congregation was evaluated and categorized. When there was a question regarding in which group to place a congregation, a telephone call was made to the minister to determine placement.

When the tabulation was made to determine the percentage of Hispanic Baptist congregations in each of the three groups, the results were as follows: 54 percent of the Hispanic Texas Baptist congregations use primarily the Spanish language, 45 percent use both the Spanish and English languages, and 1 percent uses primarily the English language.

A second analytic framework for this study is a questionnaire that was mailed to every Hispanic Texas Baptist minister. One hundred and sixty-five, or 14.5 percent, of the ministers responded to the questionnaire. The questionnaire had ten questions pertaining to the worship services in their congregations. Some 68 percent of the ministers who answered the questionnaire specified that they worship primarily in Spanish, while 31.5 percent specified that they worship in both Spanish and English. Finally, less than 1 percent of the ministers specified that they worship primarily in English.

The questionnaire also showed that 75 percent of the Spanish-language Hispanic Baptist congregations are less than twenty-four years old, while 65 percent of the bicultural/bilingual Hispanic Baptist congregations are over thirty years old. All of the English-language Hispanic Baptist congregations are less than ten years old, according to the questionnaire.

Eleven musical instruments or equipment such as a cassette player were identified as being used by Hispanic Texas Baptist congregations. The most popular musical instruments used in worship in Spanish-language Hispanic Baptist congregations are the guitar, piano, and the tambourine, while the most popular musical instruments used in worship in bicultural/bilingual Hispanic Baptist congregations are the piano, keyboard, and guitar. English-language Hispanic Baptist congregations use primarily the drums, guitar, and keyboard.

All bicultural/bilingual and English-language Hispanic Texas Baptist congregations answered that they use a Sunday bulletin. Only 45 percent of the Spanish-language Hispanic Baptist congregations answered that they use a Sunday bulletin. When asked if they use the worship services for evangelization, 51 percent of the ministers of Spanish-language Hispanic Baptist congregations said yes, while 25 percent of the ministers of bicultural/bilingual and English-language Hispanic Baptist congregations said yes.

Ministers of Spanish-language Hispanic Baptist congregations said that the future trends in worship include:

* more contextualized worship

* more contemporary music with no hymnbooks

* more, bilingual worship services, and

* a greater variety of musical instruments.

Ministers of bicultural/bilingual and English-language Hispanic Baptist congregations gave the same answers as the ministers of Spanish-language congregations, with the exception of contextualized worship services. (3)

A third analytic framework for this study is the personal interviews with church members. Fifteen church members were interviewed for this study. Five persons interviewed were from Spanish-language congregations, five persons were from bicultural/bilingual congregations, and five persons were from English-language congregations. Seven of the church members interviewed were men, and eight were women. Five church members live in rural areas, five in small towns, and five in metropolitan areas. Five of the church members interviewed are over fifty years old, five are between thirty and fifty years, and five are between twenty-three and thirty years.

All of the members of Spanish-language congregations interviewed said that they were attracted to the worship service because of the contextualized worship services. When asked to define a contextualized worship service, the five persons interviewed said that a contextualized worship service is one where Spanish is primarily spoken, where the praise and worship music reflects a Latino flavor, and where they worship with persons who have similar emigrational experiences. When asked about the future of Spanish-language worship services, the five persons interviewed said that in the future, praise and worship singing will become more important than preaching, hymns will become obsolete, and the worship service will continue to be one of the main strategies for evangelization.

Five bicultural/bilingual persons were also interviewed. These five bicultural/bilingual persons are American born, have a higher level of formal education in American schools, and identified themselves as lower middle class. All of the five persons interviewed said that they were attracted to the worship services because of the contemporary praise and worship music, relevant preaching, and the use of both Spanish and English languages in worship. The two bilingual/bicultural persons older than fifty years said that the use of Spanish and English languages allows them the opportunity to worship together with their children and grandchildren who are more proficient in speaking English. All five bicultural/bilingual persons interviewed said that in the future, congregations will need to continue emphasizing the use of the Spanish and English languages, will need for ministers and/or worship leaders to become more proficient in both languages, and will need for congregations to encourage more bilingual young persons to become ministers of the bicultural/ bilingual congregations.

Five persons who are members of English language Hispanic Baptist congregations were interviewed. When asked what attracts them to an English-language Hispanic Baptist congregation, the five persons said that it was the blended worship service, the casual atmosphere of the worship service, the younger families attending the worship service, the loving and accepting attitudes of members, and the socioeconomic and educational diversity of the members. All five persons interviewed said that the use of the Spanish language is not an issue and are comfortable with the English-language. All five persons in English-language Hispanic Baptist congregations said that in the future, worship would include more choruses written by their members, more praise and worship music sung with guitar, more worship focused on the Holy Spirit, more music that will reach the heart and mind, and more music that will be biblically and theologically based, using less "seven eleven" choruses (seven words repeated eleven times). (4)

Conclusion

A fourth step in this study is to offer conclusions based on the research. While there are similarities among all Hispanic Texas Baptist congregations in worship, five conclusions can be drawn from this research.

First, Spanish-language Hispanic Texas Baptist congregations are less inclined to follow a preset order of worship than the bicultural/bilingual and English-speaking congregations.

Second, Spanish-language Hispanic Texas Baptist congregations use the worship service for evangelization more than the bicultural/bilingual and English-language congregations.

Third, Spanish-language and bicultural/bilingual Hispanic Texas Baptist congregations tend to use a greater selection of musical instruments in worship than the English-language congregations.

Fourth, Spanish-language and bicultural/bilingual Hispanic Texas Baptist congregations are grappling with the Spanish and English-language concern in worship, while that is not a concern to the English-language congregations.

Fifth, Spanish-language Hispanic Texas Baptist congregations have a more Latino style of worship than the bicultural/bilingual and English language congregations.

Recommendations

A fifth and final step in this study is to offer recommendations. Since Hispanic Texas Baptist churches worship in three distinct patterns, when denominational leaders provide support for these congregations, they must also implement helps in these three categories of worship.

Denominational leaders also need to tap into the information provided in these distinctive congregations as they seek to find answers to worship queries instead of seeking answers from outside the Hispanic culture.

This research has been a cursory token study in response to an established evangelistic denominational search for answers to the question of diversity. As a precursor to further understanding of how to work with Hispanic Baptist congregations, this researcher will continue to examine the timelines and life expectancies of Spanish-language congregations as they transition to bicultural/bilingual congregations and eventually to English-language congregations. The researcher will also identify trends in this timeline that will indicate pending transitions.

(1.) Jimmy Garcia, "Assimilation of Hispanics into the American culture" (An overview of assimilation of Hispanics prepared by the Ethnic Missions Coordinator, Baptist General Convention of Texas, 1995)

(2.) Joshua Grijalva. A History of Mexican Baptists in Texas (Dallas: Office of Language Missions, Baptist General Convention of Texas, 1982), 11-12.

(3.) To gather data for this study, a written questionnaire was sent to the ministers of 1,128 Hispanic Texas Baptist congregations; 165 ministers responded.

(4.) To gather data for this study, an oral questionnaire was used in the interviews with members of Hispanic Texas Baptist congregations. Fifteen members were interviewed.

Jimmy Garcia III is director of office of Hispanic work, Baptist General Convention of Texas.
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Author:Garcia, Jimmy III
Publication:Baptist History and Heritage
Date:Jun 22, 2002
Words:2136
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Next Article:Diverse worship styles among Tennessee Baptists. (Diverse Baptist worship styles: a panel).


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