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Thursday, April 26, 2007

Hispanics Changing American Christianity

Here's an interesting profile piece on religious trends among Hispanics in the U.S., based on a recent survey of 4,600 people. A casual observer would probably have to say that these trends are at work in Connecticut as well:

'Evangelicalism as we know it in this country is fast disappearing in many places,'' said Luis Lugo, director of the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, which conducted 4,600 interviews for the survey with the Pew Hispanic Center. ``Not surprisingly, we're beginning to see some of that in the immigrants who are coming to this country. They're helping to transform American Christianity.''

In South Florida, Pentecostal and evangelical worship is growing among Hispanics as storefront churches multiply and megachurches draw thousands of Hispanic worshipers with lively worship and extensive social programs.

Calvary Chapel, a 20,000-member church in Fort Lauderdale, has about 4,000 Hispanic congregants, said Guillermo Novoa, Calvary's Spanish ministry assistant. The church's Hispanic outreach includes English classes, live Spanish translation of services and Bible study, discipleship and marriage counseling in Spanish.

Attendance in the Spanish-language services has grown to 300 people, up from 40 people when the church launched its Hispanic outreach seven years ago.

''The majority of them are Latin American immigrants who are Roman Catholic when they come here,'' Novoa said. ``They see it's a huge difference to be a Christian in this country.''

At El Rey Jesus, a 7,000-member church in West Kendall, worship services are punctuated with Pentecostal practices such as casting out demons and hands-on healing.

Some Spanish-speaking Pentecostal megachurches -- such as Alpha and Omega Church in south Miami-Dade County -- are offering live English translations of their services for second-generation Hispanics who prefer English.

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