STEWARDING ADAPTIVE CHANGE: MINISTERING IN GOD’S BIG TENT
Miguelina Espinal Howell is Vicar of Christ Church Cathedral in Hartford, CT, and is at the General Convention, coordinating Latino volunteers from the Office of Latino/Hispanic Ministries of the Domestic & Foreign Missionary Society (DFMS).
Being Vicar of Christ Cathedral means pastoring the Cathedral congregation and overseeing the entire Cathedral staff, working together with the Cathedral Chapter. Miguelina’s comfortable authority in this august role is a testimony to the adventuresome imagination of the Cathedral congregation and its bishop, the Rt. Rev. Ian Douglas, who beheld in a young Hispanic woman priest from the Dominican Republic the gifts of episcope – a wonderful Greek word for “oversight” that gave birth to our word “episcopate,” but that extends far further than merely the role of the bishop in our church – and who called those gifts out in that young woman. They have found for themselves a leader with a clear head for structure and management and a vibrant voice for a generous sense of mission to their community and world. She calls her congregation to a renewed attention to what God is up to out there in the neighborhoods, so that they can serve God’s dynamic “new thing” around them.
We should not be surprised! Miguelina grew up in a devotedly faithful Episcopal family in the Dominican Republic, her father managing a small shop and serving as the church sexton. Her parents together set a model of generosity and compassion - supporting any who had need with what means they had, and sending their children off to educational opportunities they had never enjoyed. This compassion became part of the fabric of Miguelina’s character and faith. It bred in her a deep love of the Episcopal Church’s comprehensiveness and via media. “One of the things I most appreciate about the Episcopal Church is that we are able to use ALL the gifts God has given us, including our brains. We walk with the Spirit and with reason, one of the best gifts of our church. We’re able to reason and communicate both emotionally and intellectually. What a gift to our spiritual breadth!”
But her appreciation doesn’t stop there. “To agree to disagree – as we do in the Episcopal Church - requires much more from us, spiritually, emotionally, and intellectually. It drives us deeper into real community and gives us a bigger sense of God than those who can’t handle such diversity of thought and conviction. And it makes us open to change, open to resilient adaptation to what the Spirit is doing in the world.”
If we hope that our youth ministries will form Christians for leadership in the now and future Church, Miguelina is a striking example of how seamlessly we can move a woman into leadership, from youth in EYE, through ordination at 26 to Province 9 Youth Ministry Coordinator, to Executive Council membership, to President Bonnie Anderson’s Council of Advice, to planting churches in the Dominican Republic, to associate rector and then rectorships in Newark, membership on the TREC task force and on the staff of CREDO, and now to Cathedral leadership. Along the way, mentors at all levels of our church polity clearly discerned her gifts and called her into them, and with each call, she has risen to the occasion, with God’s help. Moving back and forth between the Dominican Republic and the United States, Miguelina has navigated differing cultures both inside the Church and out, and this cultural acrobatic continues to expand her vision of God’s big tent of mission and mercy more and more.
- The. Rev. Holly Lyman Antolini