First Latino Priest to be Ordained in the Episcopal Diocese of Western Michigan

For immediate release.

October 13, 2017 Grand Haven, Michigan.

The Rev. John Infante at the Grand Haven Pier

It has been quite a journey from Bogota, Colombia, to Grand Haven, Michigan, for the Rev. John Infante, soon to be the first Latino priest ordained in the Episcopal Diocese of Western Michigan.

Born into the Episcopal Church in Colombia, his career path took him from a large hotel chain in Colombia, to law school in the evenings, and then a career as an attorney where he worked in Internal Affairs for the police in Colombia. During this this time, he served as Junior Warden and then Senior Warden of his parish and eventually as legal counsel for Province Nine of the Episcopal Church.

However, Infante had a deeper sense of calling for pastoral ministry in the church. He sensed a calling to priestly ministry and began the process of discernment and formation for the priesthood. He was licensed as a Lay Pastoral Minister in 2008 and appointed to work at St. Patrick’s Mission, outside of Bogota. In 2009, he began his studies at the Center for Theological Studies in Bogota, receiving a Licentiate in Theological Studies. He was ordained a transitional deacon in 2012 and assigned to continue his work at St. Patrick’s Mission.

In 2015, Deacon Infante began his final six months of Anglican Studies to be prepared for ordination to the Priesthood, studying at the Episcopal Seminary in Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic. It was during this time of study that he met the Rev. Dr. Jared C. Cramer who was at the Seminary doing intensive Spanish-language training in preparation for a new Latino ministry at his parish in Grand Haven, Michigan. After hearing of the ministry in Grand Haven, Deacon Infante offered to come and spend six months at St. John’s, helping launch their El Corazón Latino Ministry Initiative.

The ministry initiative at St. John’s was named “El Corazón” because of its focus to grow a Latino community that would be at the center/heart (el corazón) of the congregation, instead of at the edges. According to federal data provided by the Fair Housing Center of Grand Rapids, the Grand Rapids–Holland–Grand Haven metro area is the 20th most segregated in the United States. Grand Haven is located at the center of that segregation, an overwhelmingly white community, but with sizable Latino populations to the south in West Olive and Holland. That said, the Latino population in Grand Haven has been increasing over the years, now standing at 2.7% of the population—a nearly 44% increase since the 2010 data. However, there are still no churches in the Grand Haven area providing Spanish-language worship on a year-round basis.

In 2016, the parish applied to the Churchwide Office of the Episcopal Church to be named a Mission Enterprize Zone, giving it access to funding that, paired with parish and diocesan funds, could create a half-time Associate Rector position. Of the nearly seventy applications submitted across the Episcopal Church, only half were able to be funded—but St. John’s was among that half. Deacon Infante transferred his canonical residency to Western Michigan to complete his path to ordination and the Vestry of St. John’s enthusiastically called him as their Associate Rector.

The Latino Ministy at the Migrant Appreciation Festival

During 2017, Deacon Infante has been working with the Diocese of Western Michigan to finalize the steps for his priestly ordination while also working in and growing the Latino worshipping community at St. John’s. The parish hired a new bilingual Children & Youth Coordinator, Reyna Masko, to continue the work of the previous Coordinator, Luis Hernández, on bringing together the children and teenagers of both cultures. During this year alone, four new families have become a part of the Spanish-language worshipping community. The Mission Initiative ran a Taco Sale across from the grandstands of the United States Coast Guard Parade, raising nearly $1,000 for ministry. They spent an afternoon in the summer at the local Migrant Worker Appreciation Event, handing out food and household goods while also offering free face-painting and photos.

In August, the Latino Ministry celebrated its second anniversary and in September, Deacon Infante received his final approvals to be ordained to the priesthood. His ordination will take place at St. John’s on Saturday, October 28, at 11:00am, with a free celebratory catered luncheon of traditional Colombian food following for all who attend. Not only will Deacon Infante be the first Latino priest ordained in this diocese, but the ordination service will be the first ever bilingual ordination in the diocese. The celebrant will be the Rt. Rev. Whayne Hougland, 8th Bishop of Western Michigan, himself a descendent of Spanish heritage who is looking forward to speaking in both English and Spanish at the service. The preacher will be St. John’s Rector, Father Cramer, with the sermon being simultaneously translated into Spanish for the Spanish-speakers in attendance.

As the parish looks ahead, the excitement for their Latino ministry is evident. The cultures will continue to blend through offerings like regular bilingual liturgies throughout the year, the Día de Los Muertos Altar in November to celebrate All Saints’ Day and a planned Posada celebration in December that will culminate in the Lullaby to the Baby Jesus, a traditional Latino prayer service on Christmas Eve. The membership of the parish vestry now includes both English-speaking and Spanish-speaking members and they hope to continue efforts to ensure the community remains integrated in fellowship even as they worship in multiple languages.

St. John’s Episcopal Church is a diverse Christian community in the heart of downtown Grand Haven. One of the oldest places of worship in Grand Haven, they seek to blend historic liturgy with challenging education and active outreach. They gather together for Holy Eucharist on Sundays in English at 8:30am and 10:00am and in Spanish at 12:45pm. Additional information can be found at St. Johns website or Parish Office 616-842-6260.

October 13, 2017

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E-Newsletter for Sunday, October 15

Friday Fall Follies, Godly Play for Everyone, Harvest Festival Signup and More in the E-Newsletter for Sunday, October 15

From the Rector
The Rev. Dr. Jared C. Cramer, SCP

Dear *|FNAME|*,

I distinctly remember the first time I experienced a Godly Play story.

I was a relatively new member of the Church of the Heavenly Rest in Abilene, TX. It was the first Sunday of Advent and we began the season with a faith formation hour that would be led by a Godly Play Storyteller. The adults all sat on their chairs in a circle around the room and the kids sat in the middle with the Story Teller

As she began telling the story, the most amazing thing happened. Adults who were lounging and watching this kids event put both feet on the floor. They sat back in their chair and then leaned forward, drawn into the story being told. As the Story Teller began the "I wonder…" section, inviting the kids to wonder and explore the meanings of Advent, I saw some adults wiping tears from their eyes.

It was profound.

It has been a lot of work to bring Godly Play to St. John's. Our Children & Youth Coordinator, Reyna Mako, went through an intensive training in Traverse City, along with our Parish Intern, Jessica Robinson. Resources from the Hill Family Christian Education Fund at the Grand Haven Area Community Foundation were put to work purchasing the curriculum and supplies needed to do this ministry well.

Most importantly, a half dozen people have stepped up to serve as Godly Play Story Tellers, most of whom 
had not previously been active as Sunday School Teachers. 

I'm thrilled that this Sunday you will get to experience Godly Play for yourself. The children and Reyna will come upstairs to join the adults in the Guild Room. You'll be able to see first-hand what this new curriculum for our children is like, what your support for children and youth is resulting in at St. John's.

Trust me, you won't want to miss it. 

Through Grace,

PS~ Don't forget to mark your calendars for John's Ordination to the Priesthood here at St. John's on Saturday, October 28, at 11am. Click here for information on being a part of the parish gift to John for his ordination and the fundraiser for Latino ministry in his honor! We're already over 75% to our goal, with over $3,000 raised to help with costs of food, music, a special ordination gift for John, and a blessing of extra resources for ministry in the El Corazón Latino Ministry Fund! 

Read more in the E-Newsletter for Sunday, October 15

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E-Newsletter for Sunday, October 8

SAVVY is Back, Centering Prayer, Loving Spoonfuls Help and More in the E-Newsletter for Sunday, October 8

From the Rector
The Rev. Dr. Jared C. Cramer, SCP

Dear *|FNAME|*,

The month of September certainly flew by here at St. John's! In particular, we never really got a strong start in adult Faith Formation Hour at 11:30am in the Guild Room with all the other activities happening.

That all changes this Sunday.

We will be blessed to have Daniel Snyder leading our Faith Formation Hour this Sunday, introducing and exploring the concept of "Centering Prayer."

If you haven't yet gotten to know Daniel, you'll quickly see why you want to this Sunday at Faith Formation. A former Carmelite and Roman Catholic priest with nearly ten years in active ministry, Daniel has spent the past several decades as a clinical psychologist. The contemplative life, however, has always nourished him, and he is a member of the Community of Charity, an ecumenical religious community. 

This Sunday, Daniel will teach some of the basics and background of the centering prayer tradition, exploring how it can be experienced and practiced by the average Christian… and why the average Christian would want to engage in this spiritual practice. 

Daniel is teaching this class in advance of a new Centering Prayer opportunity that will be offered alongside adult Faith Formation. Starting on October 22. in the lower level chapel,  Lisa Bayne will begin leading regular centering prayer each Sunday at 11:30am for those who are not attending Faith Formation in the Guild Room but are, instead, looking for a place quietly to connect with God. 

I hope you'll take advantage of the opportunity this Sunday. And, starting on the 22nd, I hope you'll appreciate the addition of Centering Prayer to the 11:30am Faith Formation offerings at St. John's Episcopal Church. 

Through Grace,

PS~ Don't forget to mark your calendars for John's Ordination to the Priesthood here at St. John's on Saturday, October 28, at 11am. Click here for information on being a part of the parish gift to John for his ordination and the fundraiser for Latino ministry in his honor! We're already over 25% to our goal, with over $1,000 raised to help with costs of food, music, and a special ordination gift for John. 

Read more in the E-Newsletter for Sunday, October 8

Not subscribed to our Weekly E-Newsletter? You can do that here:

E-Newsletter for Sunday, September 24

Movie Group Tonight, Ordination News, Capital Campaign Celebration and More in the E-Newsletter for Sunday, September 24

From the Rector
The Rev. Dr. Jared C. Cramer, SCP

Dear *|FNAME|*,

We have tremendously exciting news to announce.

There are just a couple more forms to be turned in, but the date has now been set and, pending those final approvals, we can now let you know that…

By the Grace of God
and with the Consent of the People of God

The Right Reverend Whayne M. Hougland, Jr.
Bishop of Western Michigan
will ordain
the Rev. John Edwin Infante Pinzon
to the Sacred Order of Priests
Christ's One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church
Saturday, the twenty-eighth of October
in the Year of Our Lord Two Thousand Seventeen
at eleven o'clock in the morning
St. John's Episcopal Church
524 Washington Ave   Grand Haven, MI
Your prayers and presence are requested.

Luncheon reception to follow.

This will be a truly wonderful day, both for Deacon John and also for our congregation and diocese. I hope you will help us celebrate. If you want to help organize the luncheon, please contact the Parish Office this week. Next Tuesday we will e-mail everyone who has said they want to help and the group will come up with a plan of action.

As a gift to John on his ordination to the priesthood, the parish of St. John's will be giving him a custom cassock, made by House of Hansen in Chicago. House of Hansen is the nearest clerical tailor to us and they make excellent vestments at quite affordable prices. If you would like to make a donation towards this ordination gift, please send a check to the Parish Office with "John's Ordination Gift" in the memo line (or click here to make a gift online). Any funds raised in excess of the cost of the cassock will go to the El Corazón Latino Ministry Initiative in John's honor.

Mark your calendars. This will be a powerful and beautiful event!

Through Grace,

PS~ Bethany and I are looking forward to welcoming you to our house for our annual Rector's Open House this Saturday, September 23, from Noon-3:00pm. It will be at our new home, 11571 Oak Grove Rd in Grand Haven and will be a pot-luck style luncheon, so bring a snack/side/beverage to share. We'll be grilling out, so you can also bring meat and buns. Come and stay for the whole time, or just pop by for a visit. We look forward to welcoming you!

Read more in the E-Newsletter for Sunday, September 24

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E-Newsletter for Sunday, September 17

Holy Cross Service Tonight, Mustard Seed Sunday, Capital Campaign News and More in the E-Newsletter for Sunday, September 17

From the Rector
The Rev. Dr. Jared C. Cramer, SCP

Dear *|FNAME|*,

One of the favorite comments I get on Sundays are after a Mustard Seed Sunday experience.

For those who may not know, "Mustard Seed Sundays" are a tradition at St. John's where on a Sunday near the beginning of each liturgical season we place the children at the center of our community's worship. At all three services, the children are invited to join in the Gospel Procession. They sit at the chancel steps with me for the sermon. Then, they join the Offertory Procession and instead of simply remaining at the rail, they come right up into the altar area and stand there with the other worship ministers. 

More than a few adults have told me how much they like the sermons on Mustard Seed Sundays because they are not your typical "children's sermon." Rather, I often say that I try to preach in the style of "Shrek." That is, while talking to the children I try to communicate a more complex message to the adults who are overhearing. Together, hopefully, we have a lived experience of the Gospel.

I'm sure I don't hit it every Mustard Seed Sunday, but I always look forward to these opportunities—particularly for the wisdom our children often bring when they are invited to offer their own responses and experiences.

The next Mustard Seed Sunday is this Sunday, September 17, the beginning of the church school year. We will also be doing our annual Blessing of the Backpacks. So all kids are invited to bring their backpacks to worship for a special blessing. Teachers will also be invited to come forward and receive a special blessing as they embark on a new school year.

Through Grace,

PS~ Plans are being laid by our Children & Youth Coordinator, Reyna Masko, to organize a short mission-trip down to Houston, TX, to assist with Hurricane relief efforts. She is looking at options in late September or sometime in October and is currently in conversations with Episcopal parishes in the Houston area about how a group from St. John's might be of help. If you are interested (or think your teen may be interested) in finding out more, click here to e-mail Reyna. She can then keep you up to date as conversations progress. Father Christian Baron, from St. Philip's Beulah, also has a trip lined up from September 19—26, flying round trip out of Chicago for only $150. You can click here to e-mail him for more information. 

Read more in the E-Newsletter for Sunday, September 17

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