Spanish-Speaking Church Has First Service Today

Religion Editor

Columbia’s only Protestant Spanish-speaking congregation will hold it first worship services today as a Southern Baptist Church.

It is the first foreign language church for the S. C. Baptist Convention, which is also moving ahead with plans for a Chinese-speaking congregation.

Previously meeting as La Iglesia Evangelica Hispana, or Spanish Evangelical Church, the congregation now calls itself First Spanish Baptist church after aligning itself with the southern Baptist Convention in Constituting services last Sunday.

Services will continue to be in Spanish as the church becomes one of more than 1,800 Spanish-speaking Southern Baptist churches in the nation.

The congregation of fewer than 50 persons moved from its independent status into the large denominational structure mainly to get support for its mission work among other Spanish-speaking persons in the state, according to the lay pastor, Joel Martinez, a student at Columbia Bible College.

Though tiny, the church is already moving ahead with plans for outreach mission work to Spanish-speaking populations in Greenville and Charleston.

According to Martinez, they church members held lengthy discussions and study on Southern Baptist beliefs and practices before joining the SBC.

Sever new members were baptized at Kilbourne Park Baptist Church last Sunday in a bilingual service, and were recognized as charter members.

The new church was welcomed into the Columbia Metro Baptist Association by the Rev. James W. Salter, pastor of Blaney Baptist Church and association moderator, with a pledge of support. A similar pledge was given on behalf of the South Carolina Baptist Convention by the Rev. A. Harold Cole, general secretary-treasurer.

The charge to the church, outlining the nature and purpose of a New Testament Church in the Baptist view, was given by the Rev. Mike L. McGee, pastor of Temple Baptist Church and Chairman of the association’s missions committee.

The Rev. Fermin Whittaker of Atlanta, Ga., represented the Home Missions Board of the Southern Baptist Convention at the service.

A Spanish speaking congregation is currently worshiping in regular service at Columbia’s St. Joseph’s Roman Catholic Church and there are other Spanish-speaking congregations now meeting or being organized within South Carolina at the present time by the Roman Catholic Dioceses of Charleston.

The Spanish Evangelical Church in Columbia was started in 1971 by Army Sgt. Raoul Garcia as a department for Spanish-speaking persons attending Woodfield Park Baptist Church.

July 17, 1977  State (published as The State)  Columbia, South Carolina
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