I’ve visited over two dozen churches as part of this column, and many of them have had dedicated choirs and first rate music. For the instrumental offerings, however, it would be hard to top the First Hispanic Baptist Church of New London.
In addition to the group of singers and the familiar offerings of the organ and drums, the musicians at the front of the church included a violinist and electric guitarist. And, in a first, a brass musician. Throughout the course of the service, he changed from a trumpet to a trombone to what I’m pretty sure was a cornet. The pews were packed, there were quite a few younger attendees, and the band made it easy to tap your toes through the hymns.
The double doors leading into the church list the services in Spanish on one side and English on the other. The bilingual offerings continue once you’re inside. In addition to the occasional transition into English during the prayers and songs, the church offers clip-on devices with ear buds to translate the service. The one I got could be a little difficult to use; I finally found that putting pressure on the earphone jack was the best way to keep the audio from fizzling out. But for a visitor like myself whose Spanish is rusty at best, the translator was a very welcome offering.
Rev. Daniel Martino, the senior pastor at the church, gave a sermon on the importance of confession and personal repentance. Martino said such acts are often overlooked, and that doing them is not a condemnation of self but rather a way of improving one’s spiritual connections.
“There are things in our life that should not be there, and that damages our relationship with God,” he said.
Martino said the church’s mission is to reach a multicultural and diverse group of people with its teachings, and also to serve the New London community and improve its well-being.
“We’re a very evangelistic church,” he said. “We try to be very welcoming and hospitable, and to apply every lesson to your personal life.”
Part of the church’s community outreach is Encuentros de Esperanza, or Encounters of Hope. About 90 percent of this group’s work is funded by the church’s tithes and offerings. Encuentros de Esperanza focuses on education, social justice, and health issues. Its programs include health clinics and the College Access Program, which assists first-generation, low income students through college.
Deborah Pennuto, executive director of Encuentros de Esperanza, said the organization is not a social service agency but allows members to be social servants in the community, especially the Hispanic community. Pennuto said churches have stepped up in this area since New London closed its social services department in 2005.
“We really are a multi-service resource center,” she said.
Pennuto has attended the First Hispanic Baptist Church for eight years. She said she enjoyed the sense of family and community in the congregation as well as the church’s support of her effort to do service in the community.
Sunday services at the First Hispanic Baptist Church are held at 11:30 a.m.