Several parishioners at Church of the Good Shepherd, Athens, have had ties to the city of Mérida, Mexico, capital of the Mexican state of Yucatán. They discovered, over a period of several years, the lack of an Anglican or Episcopal congregation where they could worship while they were in Mérida. After several short-lived attempts by Canadian and US expatriate residents and winter visitors to establish an Anglican presence in that city, an Anglican mission at last became a reality in 2016.
At first, they attended the Eucharist celebrated according to the Roman Catholic rite in English at one of the colonial, downtown churches. Fr. José Vieira, a bilingual Roman Catholic priest, celebrated for that community. However, Fr. Vieira felt called to serve as a priest in the Anglican Communion, and decided to leave the Roman church. The Anglican Church in Mexico, specifically the Diocese of Southeastern Mexico, agreed, and in March 2017, Fr. Vieira formally became a priest in the Anglican Communion. Fr. Vieira’s assignment is to serve as Priest-in-Charge of the newly formed St. Luke’s Anglican Mission in Mérida.
Under Fr. Vieira’s dynamic leadership the congregation not only reaches out to the expat and visitor communities but also to an ever increasing number of Mexicans who have chosen to follow Christ as practiced in the Anglican tradition. For the present, St Luke’s meets in the home of one of the parishioners, but soon will take residence in a building of its own. St Luke’s offers two celebrations of the Holy Eucharist each Sunday, one in English and another in Spanish. Attendance for both services numbers well over 30. There are two youth groups, one for teenagers and another for young adults. They have a website (https://www.stlukesmerida.org) and a Facebook page (St. Luke’s Anglican Mission in Merida).
In the summer of 2016, a parishioner at Good Shepherd who lives part of the year in Mérida asked that Good Shepherd donate any extra prayer books and hymnals to St Luke’s. Some 25 prayer books and 25 hymnals were gathered and sent to the church. There had also been a request that Good Shepherd seek to form a relationship of some kind with the mission in Mérida. In early May 2017, when another of St. Luke’s congregants was visiting members of her family that had just moved to Athens, she met with the Rev. Deborah Woolsey, Priest-in-Charge at Good Shepherd, and with Dr. David Burton, parishioner at Good Shepherd and retired professor of Spanish at Ohio University (OU) who had directed a Spanish-language study abroad in Mérida for more than twenty years.
The reason for the meeting was to explore the possibility of St Luke’s and Good Shepherd forming a more formal friendship/relationship since ties between the two already exist. Given the great distances that separate Anglican missions and/or parishes in Mexico, the state of non-Roman Catholic denominations in Mexico and the fact that many members of St Luke’s are Episcopalians, their desire has been to have close contact with an Episcopal church in the US in order to share our common bonds.
The vestry of Good Shepherd unanimously agreed to explore further the possibility of forming a relationship. To that end, Fr. Vieira and the Bishop’s Committee of St Luke’s have invited a small group from Good Shepherd to visit them to begin to form the relationship and to share in our common Episcopal bonds. At present, plans are to send a small, intergenerational group of Good Shepherd parishioners and OU students to Mérida for about a week in January 2018, with the purpose of meeting, getting to know one another, sharing our commonly-held Anglican/Episcopal values and the Eucharist with our sisters and brothers at St Luke’s. Good Shepherd will reciprocate with an invitation to a group from St Luke’s to visit Athens at a future date.
David Burton is a member of Good Shepherd, Athens, and facilitated the meeting between Good Shepherd and St. Luke’s.