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2011 Annual Gathering Report from the Associate Conference Minister for Border and Latino Ministries

by the Rev. Dr. Carlos J. Correa Bernier

     There is no doubt that Centro Romero is not only needed in the San Diego-Tijuana border region, but also a welcome presence by the communities, churches and organization of the San Diego County and beyond, but especially by the communities of San Ysidro and the city of Tijuana.

      Three years after our inauguration, we have now a better understanding of our program successes, needs and challenges. The process through which the JWM and SCNC boards worked, in the development of our border ministry, still is the “act to follow” for many, especially when it comes to opportunities and the vision of developing partnerships within our beloved UCC family and beyond. As we move forward, I would like to share with you what I consider to be key information which I hope will help you develop a better understanding of where we are [as a program] and where we see ourselves going in the near future.

     First of all, I would like to share with you a summary of impressions about the first three years of Centro Romero:

I. Impressions:
     a. Program: First of all, I believe we have the right curriculum in place, which appears to be fulfilling the objective we had in mind when writing the implementation proposal. I am basing my previous statement in the content of the evaluations we have gather from our participants. The recommendations made by our participants have been more often in relation to group dynamics and procedures rather than around program content. Most comments made regarding our programs have been very positive. We must keep working at our programs in order to keep strengthening our approach to the border crossing experiences we provide. 

     b. Network: When thinking about other border ministries, i.e., Casa Puente (El Paso); Solidaridad (Brownsville) and Border Link (Tucson) I have to modestly accept the fact that we have in place one of the best networks in the region. The comments from our participants regarding the quality of our partners in Tijuana, as well as in San Diego, are great testimonies to our commitment toward a better program. Contact with our partners in Tijuana has been, without a doubt, a point of transformation for those coming through Centro Romero. Our partners offer our program with an extraordinary diversity of experiences and approximations to the social challenges affecting the border region. The strength of our ministry is our strategic geographical location and the programmatic potential we have in place thanks to a significant number of untapped partnerships we have in Tijuana and in San Diego.  

     c. Services: The services we offer throughout our program, i.e., hotel, ground transportation to Tijuana and meals have demonstrated to be nothing less than exceptional. Our personal relationship with our service suppliers helped us provide a border crossing experience define by our inclination toward excellence in everything we do. Our service providers have gone beyond their responsibilities in providing our participants with the best services they have to offer. Examples: The Economy Inn has provided our participants with larger and better equipped. Luis Torres has attended to special diet requests from our participants (going beyond his contract responsibilities) and Mexicoach has provided us with vehicles and drivers beyond our contracted hours without charging any extra fees.
The kind of services we have been able to provide our participants with are an important aspect in motivating them to come back and/or to recommend Centro Romero to others.      

     d. Implementation Process: We have been able to galvanize and clarify the implementation process of our program, especially since the arrival of our new Conference Minister, Rev. Félix Villanueva. There was a time when we, at Centro Romero, were trying to define our future without the advantage of a closer relationship with our Conference and at a geographical distance from Cleveland. We feel that we are now an active part of our Conference and we have become more proactive than ever in the establishment and strengthening of our relationship with our Conference and with the United Church of Christ in general.  

     e. Crime, the economy and the pandemic flu: Events affecting the quality of life, the economy and the health of the people on both sides of the border affected the flow of participants coming through our Center. The development of unexpected challenges found us, at Centro Romero, without an action plan to help us cope with a decreasing number of groups and participants. This is an area to which we must pay attention. 

     Our focus is now in developing new program while enhancing our promotional [marketing] efforts. The following are some of the areas/program we are in the process of developing:
 
      a. Promotion: Identify promotional routes, i.e., churches and groups to visit in the East Coast and the Midwest to be included as part of my monthly visits to Cleveland. The content of such visits will be “integrative” i.e., by touching aspects of the EJ portfolio as well as providing information about Centro Romero as a potential laboratory to examine, first hand, subjects related to the environment, immigration, globalization, etc. 

     b. Art and Culture Program: An educational/transformational program lifting up the cultural aspect of the border region. We are looking into offering a series of art programs at Centro Romero that are consistent with the values and mission of our Center. Our research indicates that through the San Diego Foundation; the University Of Southern California Division Of Arts and Humanities and the San Diego Commission for the Arts and Culture funds might be available for the development and implementation of such programs. A grant writer will help us put together the technical aspects of our proposals and I, along with other partners, will work in putting together the curriculum aspects of the program[s]. 

     c. Justice Documentary Training Program for Young Adults: Besides offering a great educational / transformational experience our documentary training program will also teach our participants how to think critically about issues related to social justice. This particular program will be highly innovative not only on its content but also in the “laboratory” exercises and “theater” we will be able to provide our participants with. The proposed program is also consistent with the technological age and the highly technical culture of our youth as well as necessary for our partners in Tijuana as they are constantly trying to tell their story. This program will be funded through private donations and will be conducted by a lead volunteer and a team of facilitators.

     d. Environmental Educational and Laboratory Program: Today many more people are interested in the environment than never before. The United Church of Christ and JWM have a tremendous legacy, when it comes to environmental issues. Now the Church has Centro Romero as a new setting through which we can provide environmentalist with a firsthand experience whenever they are interested in examining and understanding the aspects and consequences of global warming, climate change or environmental racism. The Environmental Protection Agency provides funds for environmental educational experiences and in working with a grant writer we are sure we will be able to secure enough funds to develop an invigorating environmental program at Centro Romero, based on Freire’s educational approach of action-reflection-praxis.  

     e. Centro Romero and the United Nations: Our geographical location is one of the most important assets of our Center. The question at hand is: how can we make the best “use” of our location? One of the best actions we can take at our location is to make sure that our efforts for educational and transformational experiences continue to be bi-national experiences, not only in essence but also in practice. Based on the premise of a bi-national program I looking into the development and implementation of a program “reverse immersion” experience. Through our “United Nations Immersion Program” we will take groups of young adults to visit the United Nation building in New York where they will be exposed to the flow of work of such an important body of world leaders. By strengthening our relationship with Dr. Bob Orr and with his guidance, we will be able to implement the program as well as to identify funding sources.
From the United Nations we will continue the immersion experience into Washington, D.C. where our group will be at our UCC Program Offices where participants will be train [by JWM staff] in the aspects of the United States government, legislative process and procedures, as well as in advocacy.  

     f. Theological Education: One of the most noticeable transformative aspects in our local church members attending programs at Centro Romero is in their expanded interest in theological education. In order to satisfy the educational needs of our pastors and lay leaders Centro Romero is looking into developing a closer relationship with several of our Seminaries.This program will be developed and implemented as a bi-lingual and bicultural program.

     g. The Transnational Music Program: It has been demonstrated that having young people as an active part of our ministry is not only necessary but also transformational for them as well as for the Center. Music has the ability of breaking down generational as well as racial barriers. Through our “Transnational Music Program” we are helping our young people to celebrate who they are as members of the Hispanic community, including their bi-cultural and bi-national realities.

     As part of the program we would like to implement the concept of a “sacred conversation on race through music” to be held at Centro Romero, with the participation of musicians, dancers and actors representing our churches. Participants will be active members of the development and implementation group.

     We are convinced that all these programs, with a well thought implementation strategy, will result in greater educational/transformational experiences for all of our participants. Obviously, we are in need of your support and participation in order to be able to develop each of the programs mentioned above.

Latino and Border Ministries:

     We are currently developing the parameters that will guide us through an extensive evaluation and envisioning process of each of our Latino churches in the Southern California Nevada Conference. While my office will be responsible for developing our research strategy as well as all investigative tools, we have invited Rev. David Alicea to facilitate the envisioning – strategic process for and with our Latino/a pastors and lay leaders representing each of our SCNC Latino Congregations. We are looking forward to this process and to the work and opportunities that will come as a result of it.

Respectfully,

Dr. Carlos J. Correa Bernier
Associate Conference Minister
Border and Latino Ministries
Centro Romero

Other Reports:

Report of the Conference Minister

Report of the Board Chair

Repoort of the Associate Conference Minister for Border & Latino Ministries

Report of the Director of Finance, Administration & Communication

Report of the Associate for Church Development & Renewal

Report of the Youth & Young Adults Ministries Coordinator

Report of the Financial Development Team

Report of the Pilgrim Pines Camp Executive Director

Report of the President of the Pacific School of Religion

Report of the Coordinator of Parish Ministries

Report of Peppermint Ridge

Report of Retirement Housing Foundation

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