Interview with Pastora Ana from Vision Y Fraternidad in Cranston, RI
Pastor Ana notes that “Pastor is just another hat I have to wear sometimes. At this moment, we are now still a relatively small Church, but we have a solid base.”
Pastor Ana is originally from Guatemala, and the 50 members are from a diverse set of Latin-American countries.
“We have people from Venezuela, Argentina, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Bolivia, Mexico, and Guatemala just to name a few.”
That is one of the reasons the Church is non-denominational, as the members come from a variety of backgrounds and Christian traditions.
“It’s a challenge because even though we all speak Spanish, we have a different background. The same word can mean different things and you have to be careful which words you are using. But we share that when we moved to this country, we had to learn to live in a multicultural country.”
When the pandemic hit and the Church had to close its doors for members, Visión & Fraternidad had only recently moved into its current building, which has a capacity of 70 persons. “February  was a wonderful month for us.”
They very soon started live-streaming worship services.
“I knew since long ago that I have to do that. In the time we are living it’s necessary. We didn’t because I wear so many hats, so I didn’t have the time. I postponed but then I was forced (laughs)”
Pastor Ana and her team would gather at the Church on Sundays to conduct the services and livestream through Facebook Live. Bible study also went online (and still is virtual), with the link being sent to members via a WhatsApp group chat.
The State of Rhode Island allowed houses of worship to resume services with restrictions, including a 25 percent capacity, starting May 30, 2020.
“We opened but with a lot of precautions. The pandemic was hard for all of us. But we didn’t try to fight the restrictions, if they said you have to do this, we did it. Even though the government doesn’t know everything, we are hoping that they know what they’re doing. We have doctors and governments for something. We didn’t fight the regulations, we just followed the regulations. And I am very happy about that. It wasn’t fun of course (laughs).”
Some gatherings were held outdoors.
“It is a family Church so they all came to my backyard. We had done that before and we created signs that said don’t touch one another.”
To keep members safe during indoor worship, various measures were adopted. The livestream continued, with the sermon later posted on the Church’s Facebook page.
“We noticed not many people showed up, so we didn’t have to turn people away. In October 2020 we celebrated the one-year anniversary of having our own building. That day a lot of people showed up, but that was the only time. We did social distancing and masking. I don’t want anybody to get infected, I want to diminish this possibility inside our place. We disinfected everyone’s shoes when they come in. After the service we clean everything, doors, bathrooms, even got these machines…”
Winning and Losing
Despite this, the pandemic has affected Visión & Fraternidad.
“For sure, we lost a lot of people. Some because they moved out of State. We also lost contributions. But we gained people from other places. In Guatemala, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Argentina, Spain; in these five places we have people who follow us and contribute. Now we have people from Argentinians in Spain who join irrespective of a six-hour time difference. So we will keep our online services.”
The goal is to recruit new members and grow.
“As a pastor at this moment I’m working for free. I founded this Church and I’m working on it, but not getting anything from it at this moment, but I’m praying it will grow. I’m planning to start a program. The idea is not to only have 70 people in there, but that we have to open a second service.
Back to normal?
“At the end of June 2021, we no longer require wearing masks. Still, most people wear it; they are nervous about Delta.”
“As leader of the ministry of men, my job is to try and build men in the Word of God in a manner that may serve them to use the tools that God has given us to live. I also want to create better relationships between men, in turn strengthening the family unit. This is important because the man is the head of the family unit, and if the man is strong, his family will be so too.”
Whether in-person or remote, Leonardo has consistently attended religious services during the COVID era. The early stages of the pandemic required all religious business to be conducted virtually, which Leonardo did not like.
“I had a need to congregate. I don’t like Zoom; I fall asleep looking at a screen. I’m the type of person that likes to hug, feel human contact. I feel like I need to make a live connection. I like to feel that human warmth you can only really get face to face.”
“When the Governor would let us congregate, I would always make sure to attend.”
Despite hardships during the pandemic, Leonardo says his faith grew stronger:
“Nothing happens by chance. I believe that God touched many people’s lives during the pandemic. I can assure you that he worked on me. He took me to where I could grow. He took me to another phase in my life, which is a job that I feel I have to do. I have seen myself forced to have more time with God, to read more, to study more.”