A multilingual priest connects her congregation and its community through language and listening

www.faithandleadership.com | 8/20/2019 | Staff
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In an apartment in Greensboro, North Carolina, fresh fuchsia crepe myrtle flowers brightened the front left corner of a table serving as a makeshift altar. The Rev. Audra Abt, dressed in a clerical collar and a rainbow stole, lifted her hands as she presided over the Spanish-language “Misa,” or Mass.

Most of the nine people crammed into the living room were immigrants from Central America, including host José David Garay, who came from Honduras in 2013. Some sat on sofas next to the photos of his three children, while he and his son sat on the temporarily repurposed dining chairs.

Abt - Discussion - Meaning - Vows

Earlier, Abt had led a discussion about the meaning of the baptismal vows, translating as she went for those who didn’t speak Spanish.

“Buscarás y servirás a Cristo en todas las personas, amando a tu prójimo como a ti mismo?” Abt asked the group. “Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself?”

Morning - Abt - Pulpit - Episcopal - Church

The next morning, Abt stood in the pulpit of Episcopal Church of the Holy Spirit, preaching a Sunday sermon on the good Samaritan to the 20-member congregation, where she serves as part-time vicar.

“Your neighbor is anyone who has need or suffering that lays a claim on your love and care,” she preached. “But your neighbor is also the person that shows up when you’re suffering, even if they cussed you out last week.”

Days - Abt - Visitors - Church - Clinic

Two days later, Abt greeted visitors to the church’s weekly clinic in the rearranged sanctuary, where community members come to meet with a nurse and share a meal. The chairs now surrounded plastic tables instead of the pulpit, and adults chatted while kids chased each other around the room.

The 40-year-old priest’s ministry has multiple strands -- presiding at the Misa for a Latinx house church, mostly because she enjoys it; serving a small, multiracial...
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