By Jeff Jeremiah, stated clerk of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church.
My wife, Cindy, and I spent two days in Puerto Rico [in Feb., 2016] visiting two of the newest EPC congregations. On Sunday, the leaders and congregation of Westminster-Bayamon warmly welcomed us. For those who attended General Assembly last June in Orlando, you will recall this church as the first Puerto Rican congregation welcomed into the EPC after the boundaries of the Presbytery of Florida were expanded. We visited for their celebration of the first anniversary of their exit from their former denomination.
I realized how much they sacrificed for Christ, the gospel, and God’s Word after we saw the beautiful facilities they walked away from to form Westminster. However, Pastor Juan Rivera told me the congregation disconnected from the building quickly. “We’ve been focused on Jesus,” he said, “and we’ve constantly been surprised by how the Lord has provided for us.” Here’s an example of their commitment to Christ rather than a building: on the first Sunday after they left, the congregation worshiped on the second floor of a four-level parking garage.
After each worship service that day we “Happy Birthday, Westminster!” in Spanish and English, and then enjoyed birthday cake. What a glorious time celebrating with these brothers and sisters!
On Monday, we went to Mayaguez on the western side of the island—three hours by car from San Juan. We visited Iglesia Presbiteriana Evangelica en Mayaguez, a church plant of Westminster that was received by the Presbytery of Florida on February 20. Like Westminster, they are a group that walked away from its former denomination.
I was told that we would meet with the church-planting pastor and some of his lay leadership. Imagine my surprise when more than 100 of the 175 members gathered to welcome us! Commissioned Pastor Abraham Montes then led a two-hour worship service celebrating their reception into the EPC. They gave us a special gift to commemorate our visit, and concluded the service with an incredible “coro” that had been created especially for the occasion.
The EPC has received more than 350 churches since 2007, and each is a testament to God’s faithfulness and its leaders’ commitment to Christ. Yet I have never been with a group as energized and excited to become a member of the EPC as Iglesia Presbiteriana Evangelica en Mayaguez.
Let’s continue to thank the Lord for these new EPC congregations in Puerto Rico. He is risen!