Church merger creates bilingual congregation

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — A Northwest Indianapolis congregation is spreading its message in a new way.

For the first time in Indiana, the United Methodist Church is merging English and Spanish into its services. Church leaders said the move represents the country we live in today.

Although the languages are different, the common denominator is a love of Christ and, followers say, that’s what matters most.

In church, many are taught to make a joyful noise. That’s what people are doing at Abundant Vieda Nueva United Methodist Church. But, listen closer: That joyful noise is a combination of different languages and so is the message.

On New Year’s Day, the church at 7840 Ditch Road will open its doors under its new name. The older Abundant Harvest and Vieda Nueva congregations will merge. The first such merger in central Indiana under the United Methodist Church.

“How can we be united? We have a one structure and have the leadership combined,” said David Penalva, senior pastor.

He said church leaders have been working to create a multicultural congregation for about a year an a half. He said this group represents nine countries and four languages.

“The second generation and the third generation, they’d rather speak English than Spanish,” Penalva said. “So it would be great if we can from now start providing a place where they already feel comfortable.”

The initial idea started when Abundant Harvest started seeing fewer members and Vieda Nueva found themselves in a church too big to handle. From there the agreement grew from shared space to becoming one congregation.

“But at the end of the day, today’s service was a culmination of all of their hard work,” said United Methodist conference superintendent of the central district Aleze Fullbright.

Church leaders agree, their No. 1 mission remains the same: reaching the most people.

Fullbright said she believes “as our culture is shifting and changing with many different cultures coming together that we will have to envision how best we are able to present the gospel message.”

Ahead of the merger, church representative say they’ve already been going out into the community inviting more people to come.