discipulin1An update from contributing writer Ted Parks, who is in Bayamón covering the Puerto Rican Disciples’ Centenary Convention.

Organizers of the Puerto Rican Disciples’ Centenary Convention held the Friday night service — focused on youth — in the Rubén Rodríguez Coliseum in Bayamón, the city west of San Juan where the convention began Thursday. Among those welcoming the crowd entering the stadium was “Discipulín,” a mascot dressed in a red felt costume shaped like the Disciples chalice with the familiar white cross for a nose.

Nearly 1,900 people attended the Friday youth service. Eliezer Ronda Pagán, the speaker — probably in his late 20s — preached about power, using references as diverse as the cartoon show ThunderCats, Alexander Campbell’s statement that division among Christians is evil, and Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have  a Dream” speech to encourage his young Disciples audience to see power in scripture as a divine gift enabling the church to work for oneness.

With “A Church that Lives and Celebrates Unity” the convention theme, Saturday’s program featured presentations by an “ecumenical panel” composed of the Roman Catholic archbishop of San Juan, a Church of God bishop, a Lutheran pastor, and the president of the Evangelical Seminary of Puerto Rico. The Church of God and Lutheran leaders addressed ecumenical relations by telling their own very personal stories, both leaders describing how education and travel opened their eyes to the importance of unity.

In an emotional moment, Idelfonso Caraballo, the Church of God panelist, publicly asked forgiveness for his tradition’s failure to acknowledge other believers as part of the body of Christ. The convention audience at the Buena Vista Christian Church, host of the Centenary Convention, responded with applause and shouts of “Glory to God!” In another show of unity, Lutheran pastor Marysol Díaz invited Monsignor Roberto González to address her congregation during its next celebration of Reformation Day.