Updated: Apr 11, 2022
Saludes en Cristo, mis amiges de AUCE - Greetings in Christ, my friends of AUCE.
It is with great pleasure and gratitude that I have been invited to say a few words to y’all. I am the Rev. Roberto Ochoa and I serve as the Associate for Congregations of Color/Ethnic Identified Congregations. I am part of the Faith Education, Innovation, and Formation (Faith INFO) ministry team within the Justice and Local Church Ministries of the United Church of Christ.
My ministerial call is in congregational care and assessment, support, and advancement for UCC congregations, especially rural, ethnic identified, and congregations of Color. In collaboration with local congregation, Association, and Conference leadership, I offer supportive and pastoral resources for congregational mission and vitality.
One of the key factors important for me is faith formation. I see faith formation as the essential ingredient to equip UCC’ers and the Wider Church for discipleship in spreading the Good News Gospel of Jesus Christ and the love of God through the guidance of the Holy Spirit. One of the greatest joys of my position is to learn the various ways faith formation teams in the local congregational setting engage their communities in spiritual education and training, as well as Conference/Association faith formation ministry teams that offer resources for pastoral and Christian education leadership for congregational leaders. I especially look for those curriculum resources that transcend ethnic identified cultural understandings of approaching Bible in their contextual perspective of understanding and relating.
Dr. Danny R. Swenson, in his article “A Faith-Based Context for Culturally-Relevant Instruction” writes: “…culturally-relevant pedagogies with biblical underpinnings have the potential to create educational environments that promote excellence, reflect the culture of the students and their communities, and develop awareness of societal injustices which inspire and equip prospective teachers to become agents of change.”
Replacing the terminology of teachers to pastoral and Christian education leaders, the changing dynamic of biblical understanding into the real life cultural context of today’s congregational members is essential for continuing faith formation for all ages in the UCC and wider Church.
I have been fortunate these past three years to be part of the Heartland Conference’s Faith Formation Network, which has developed a faith formation platform called “Learn It, Live It, Share It” — the “it” being the sacred scriptures of one’s choosing. What I like about this tool for faith formation is that it is not a curriculum. It can be adapted to any theological framework for a beloved and multi-generational community’s context: houses of worship, places of work, community engagement, the home, educational settings, etc.
As someone who approaches the Bible from a theological liberationist perspective, I have found that using principles like Walter Brueggemann’s “Prophetic Imagination” - or what Wilda Gafney would say in her book, Womanist Midrash, “sacred imagination”; or Patrick Reyes’ barrio style of storytelling of scripture in his book, The Purpose Gap - allows a refreshing and innovative retelling of the Bible that speaks to me in my many cultural contexts. Faith formation that allows for cultural contextual relevance, I believe, brings peoples together to find the common ground of our faith and celebrate the diversity of relating to the Divine and one another as beloved children of the Holy One.
Christian faith formation curricula is the engine that drives our mission, in not only spreading the good news of Jesus Christ, but in equipping us to be disciples, as well to do the work of love and justice in a world that yearns for it.
I am also privileged to be a facilitator for the UCC Our Whole Lives (OWL) spirituality and sexuality curriculum, and Sacred Conversations to End Racism. Working with my colleagues, Minister Amy Johnson and Rev. Dr. Velda Love, offers me other conduits for congregational engagement in faith formation on important and relevant societal issues facing the church today.
My friends, thank you for this opportunity to share with you, and I look forward in my continuing journey with members of AUCE and with your regional AUCE's as well. Please, if there is anything I can be of assistance with, or if you have a faith formation program that your regions are presenting, don’t hesitate to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Until then, know that my prayers remain with you, your loved ones, and your ministries.
Bendiciones y Cheers,
Rev. Roberto Ochoa is the Program Associate for Congregations of Color / Ethnic Identified Congregations on the Faith Education, Innovation, and Formation ministry team of the Justice & Local Church Ministries of the United Church of Christ. He sits on the Pathways Academic Council for Pathways Theological Education, Inc. and The Murray-Rustin Social Justice Institute Advisory Board for the Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference. Roberto is currently earning his D.Min. in Prophetic Leadership at Iliff Theological School in Denver, CO.