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Iglesia El Buen Pastor : A Chronology

1993: In May, St. Andrew’s Episcopal church closed and Bishop Roberto W. Estill explored the idea of using the space for a new program fot the Hispanic community.  In June, Mother  Martha Clarck -Boothby began to celebrate a bilingual Eucharist Sunday afternoons for six weeks and offered a summer Bible school for twelve children.

1994-1997: With the help of various community organizations the building was used to house  el Centro Hispano of Durham and offered a wide range of services for Latino families.  These services included classes in English, help with school for children, a group for youth, a support group for women, summer camp for children and youth, workshops for health, immigration and education, assessment and referral and pastoral aide.

January 1, 1998: The Episcopal Diocese of North Carolina decided to formally establish a permanent Episcopal Hispanic mission with a full-time priest.  Fr. Nicolás Menjívar, a Salvadoren, became the vicar of the new mission.

February 8, 1998: Father Nicolás began to work in Durham. He spoke with the Latino community at laundromats, stores, and gas stations. He blessed houses and prayed and sang with the families that visited.

September 25, 1998: Gary Gloster, Bishop in the Episcopal Diocese of North Carolina, dedicated the building with its new name: El Buen Pastor (The Good Shepherd).  An article appeared in the Herald Sun newspaper. It is the first Hispanic Episcopal church established in the state of North Carolina.

February 9, 2000: The Diocesan Convention officially recognized El Buen Pastor for fulfilling the required canons.

March 4, 2007: Father Nicolás celebrated his final Eucharist as priest of  El Buen Pastor.  Bishop Michael Curry established a committee to direct the church during the period of transition.  The work of looking for a new priest began.

End of July 2007:The Diocese offered Christy Laborda the position of vicar.  Mother Christy accepted the offer and became the new priest.  August 6th was her first Sunday at El Buen Pastor.

December 9, 2007:The ordination of Mother Christy Laborda. “We Are Family! We Are Family! We Are Family!” exclaimed Bishop Michael Curry during the ordination of Mother Christy.

April 6, 2008: The members of El Buen Pastor celebrated a bilingual Eucharist with the members of St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church of Durham. They gave tribute to Father Derek Shows for his service as interim priest during the year of  2007. Father Robert “Bob” Kaynor, rector of St. Stephen’s, assisted in the celebration. Angel Gallardo gave a bilingual homily.

April 26, 2008: A brief article in the News and Observer of Durham mentioned the progress that Iglesia El Buen Pastor had in the recent months. The article explained that  “Christy Laborda , the priest, began work in Durham in August after graduating from the Theological Seminary of.  Mother Christy grew up near Philadelphia and was ordained under the auspices of the Diocese of  Pennsylvania”.

“The congregation has doubled in attendende since Mother Christy arrived and is growing with approximately 120 people at the Eucharist; a third of this number are children. Now the church is contemplating the possibility of beginning to celebrate a second mass at another time because the sanctuary is full.”

May 3, 2008:The youth group from Emanuel, Southern Pines gave the church a slide and swing set and came to install it and create a new playground.  They worked from 8:30 in the morning until 8:30 at night to finish the work.  They divided into teams and cleaned the garbage from the ground, installed a chain link fence to seperate the playground from the busy road, beautified the garden’, sanded and painted. The funds had been generously donated by the youth and other members of Emanuel Church who had raised funds through a chili cook-off.

May 4, 2008:The children’s choir of El Buen Pastor presented a song in the Sunday service for the first time. They sang “Vienen con Alegría” (Come with joy) and other songs.  Under the direction of Jesus , they began meeting two times a week for rehearsal.

May 17,  2008: We held a garage sale. Members and friends of El Buen Pastor contributed articles for the sale and worked the event.  The sale lasted from 8:00 am to 3:00 pm and we made a total of 1,159 dollars.

June 1, 2008: Mother Christy began celebrating a second Eucharist Sunday evenings.  This helped to solve the crowding problem.  When the sanctuary filled during the morning service, those arriving late were forced to remain standing in thel vestíbule. With the new service, attendance at the morning service decreased.

June 22, 2008:Assistant bishop William O. Gregg visited El Buen Pastor to confirm and receive new members and give the homily.

“I bring you greetings from Michael Curry, the Diocesan bishop, and from Bishop Chip Marble, our assisting bishop“, said Bishop Gregg.”We three feel great joy and happiness for you that make up, for the manner in which you testify the Gospel, for the mission and ministry you carry out, and especially for the marvelous growth and development you have achieved with Mother Christy, who is an excellent Vicar.”

October 5, 2008: In a bilingual service attended by one hundred people, El Buen Pastor  church celebrated its tenth aniversary.  Diocesan Bishop Michael Curry came with the bishop of Honduras, Lloyd Allen, who was visiting the area.

Bishop Curry recognized the aid that members of other Episcopal churches of the diocese had rendered toEl Buen Pastor during the period of transition during 2007 before the ordination of Mother Christy.  ”The church is not a building,” said the bishop. ”The church isn’t a bank account, the church isn’t a neighborhood.  The church is all of us!”.

Bishop Curry said that Peter accepted the call from Jesus to follow him because Jesus had a vision of what Peter could be and we have a church today because Peter and the rest of the disciples had a vision of what the church could be.

Bishop Curry said that God has a vision, a dream for our lives.  ”In the vision of God, we can all have a most abundant life“ affirmed Bishop Curry.

Bishop Lloyd Allen preached a brief sermon in Spanish and said he was surprised by the large number of members of El Buen Pastor -the largest Hispanic congregation he had visited in his years of visiting Spanish-speaking congregations in the United States.

After the service there was a party in the playground area with live and lively music, abundant food and five piñatas.

December 11,  2008: About 300 people gathered at El Buen Pastor to celebtate the Day of the Virgin of de Guadalupe .  The tradition is to sing Las Mañanitas to the Virgin at dawn on December 12th, her feast day.  Since many members of El Buen Pastor worked early in the morning we had the celebration in the evening.  We began by reciting the rosary followed by a serenade of six songs about the Virgin and a Eucharist ending with a party with food and live music.

March 7,  2009: This day El Buen Pastor began to function as a food site.  As of this month, once a month El Buen Pastor opens its doors to the community and shares food with those who need it.  The food is fresh and healthy and is provided by the Interfaith Food Shuttle, headquartered in Raleigh. The first Saturday of each month a big truck arrives with piles of food.  The members of El Buen Pastor (women, men and children)  organize themselves to unload, arrange, and distribute the food.  This program has been an enormous blessing for the congregation of El Buen Pastor.

April 12,  2009:  Easter service was attended by more than 250 people.  After the service there was a big party.

April 19,  2009: Mother Christy announced to the congregation that she had accepted a call to serve the Diocese of El Camino Real in California.

“I am going to be with El Buen Pastor until May 10th,” Christy wrote. ”It was a difficult and sad announcement, but I believe that the leaders and the congregation are accepting it better than I had expected.”

The Senior Warden read a letter from Bishop Curry in which the bishop emphasized the strength and vitality of El Buen Pastor .

April 21, 2009: The Rev. Michaell Hunn, canon to Bishop Curry, met with the vestry of El Buen Pastor to establish a transition plan. They set up a plan where the vestry would interview all the people interested in being the new priest of El Buen Pastor.

May 10, 2009: Since Mother Christy had accepted a call to the Diocese of El Camino Real in California, Mother’s Day was her last Sunday in Durham. The congregation celebrated Mothers Day but also said goodbye to Christy, and celebrated all she had done for El Buen Pastor.  When she arrived at El Buen Pastor, she was a deacon just out of seminary.  The congregation lamented Christy ‘s departure, but had confidence in their ability to assume responsibility for this mission and counted on the support of the diocese and the Durham convocation.

During the last two years, Mother Christy had done a lot of work to develop a dedicated group of leaders.  The congregation would have an important role in the next big decision: to recommend the new priest to the Bishop.

When Mother Christy arrived attendence at the Eucharist had been between 20 and 40 people and many seats were empty.  In the course of approximately a year the mission added a second service on Sunday evenings because the services at 11:30 had been already filled to the brim with people.  Sunday the church was full of parishoners to celebrate Mothers Day and say goodbye to Mother Christy with gratitude and best wishes. Christy left the church in good hands, with a capable vestrry and the support of the Durham convocation and the Diocese.