Casa Emanu-El Invites Young Adults Into The Loft / El Desván

The Loft eating together

Spanish-language community offers new avenues for faith, belonging

Casa Emanu-El UMC in Dallas is a unique church, birthed from the joining of two congregations — one Hispanic and one predominantly white. Rev. Dr. Paul Barton has been the pastor since 2020 and celebrates their nearly 170 years of combined ministry in Dallas. 

“I am grateful for the privilege of supporting and encouraging the laypersons of Casa Emanu-El as we prepare to celebrate 100 years of ministry for the former Emanu-El UMC and 70 years of ministry of the former Casa View UMC,” Barton said. “Both of these predecessor churches have rich histories of ministry in their neighborhoods and addressing social injustice. I have reminded our church that, while we are celebrating our history, we are also making history.”

One way they are making history is through a completely lay-led initiative and a transformed space that welcomes young adults. Thanks to a Spark Tank grant from the NTC Center for Church Development, Casa Emanu-El launched The Loft / El Desván in September.

Church member and lay leader Joaquín Martínez felt the need for a dedicated space that would feel welcoming to people his own age. He wanted to create an opportunity for young adults to come together to discuss issues they face in light of their faith. Casa Emanu-El cast a vision for The Loft / El Desván almost a year ago. The group now meets twice monthly to share in powerful worship, good food and sharing faith.

“I have seen God’s blessing through having a space to begin this New Faces New Spaces expression for our journey of faith,” Martinez said. “Especially when we are reaching out to our young adults in our community that might be struggling to connect with God or a community of faith.”

The Loft music

Said Barton: “This ministry is very much a peer-to-peer ministry, meaning the young adults in our church are preparing the program for the gatherings of The Loft and are inviting other young adults to attend. I hope the young adults guiding this ministry will grow in their faith as they practice invitational evangelism and participate in worship through The Loft. I also hope that The Loft will serve as a conduit for our church to connect with other young adults. This has occurred, as we have seen young adults visit The Loft who have never attended our church before.”

Finding connection and meeting new people is a common challenge for young adults, and The Loft / El Desván is filling that need, as they’ve seen attendees linger in the kitchen late into the evening after the program is finished. Martinez sees this as an opportunity to build community in the same way the early Christians did.

“We hope that this ministry resembles how the early church began, like in Acts 2:42-47, to which they gather to learn, pray and break bread. We want to connect with God and with one another,” Martinez noted.

Barton emphasized: “The Loft represents an expression of Casa Emanu-El’s future, in this case, ministry to persons in our community and cultivating new relationships among Spanish-speaking persons and young adults. The young adults leading this ministry bring a sense of joy and faith, and a high level of energy and excitement that is contagious to others.”

The Loft / El Desván meets the second and fourth Wednesdays at 8 p.m. at Casa Emanu-El. For more information, email Joaquín Martínez.

Published: Wednesday, October 4, 2023