Title: ELCA Remembers Bishop Margarita Martinez ELCA NEWS SERVICE
April 25, 2007
ELCA Remembers Bishop Margarita Martinez 07-073-MRC
DORADO, Puerto Rico (ELCA) - With singing and prayers, members of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) said good-bye to the Rev. Margarita Martinez, bishop of the ELCA Caribbean Synod, in an April 23 memorial service here. Martinez died March 11 of cancer in Bayamon, Puerto Rico. She was 59.
The Rev. Mark S. Hanson, presiding bishop of the ELCA, preached and the Rev. Francisco L. Sosa, interim bishop of the ELCA Caribbean Synod, presided during the service. Gathered alongside one another at the altar were eight more of the ELCA's 65 synod bishops. Hundreds of members from across the church and staff of the churchwide organization, Chicago, attended the memorial to celebrate Martinez's life and legacy in the church. The service was held here at Christ of the Reconciliation Catholic Church.
Hanson preached on the Magnificat, Mary's song found in the Gospel of Luke. "It is Mary's song, but it is also Margarita's song," he said.
Hanson shared with the congregation memories of the time he spent with Martinez in the hospital, the day she was diagnosed with cancer. "I remember when I walked into her room the day that the doctors had delivered very bad news. She said (to me), 'I just can't pray today. I can't find any words to speak to God. So, I'll sing,'" said Hanson. "Singing was for Bishop Margarita both an act of defiance and an expression of her faith."
"Margarita never shrank back from human tragedy. She never denied the reality of injustice. She never shrank away from calling us, the church, to confront the injustices of racism and sexism. Yet, no matter how powerful those were, they were never strong enough to silence Margarita's song. It was a song of praise to God, and a song of protest when we were not living together as God intends for God's people," said Hanson.
"Mary's song, the Magnificat, was the song of God's transforming power of love and mercy, and Margarita's life of faith and leadership was that same song. (Mary's song was) a cry for justice and the bold announcement of God's forgiving mercy in Christ Jesus. That vision of Mary drove Margarita to protest the bombing practices of the U.S. Navy on Vieques. You succeeded as protesters. That vision of Mary was Margarita's vision, which called her to preserve the rain forests and to ask that her ashes be spread over them as a sign of God's gift of life for all of creation," said Hanson.
"Margarita was always in our face in Chicago about pastors and leaders in the Caribbean Synod (who) were inadequately paid. Margarita's was the vision of an inclusive, multilingual, multicultural diverse church enriched by diversity, not threatened by differences. That vision called her to global mission (work). That vision compelled her to be a strong voice for ecumenism," said Hanson.
"Margarita's vision, like Mary's, calls us to confront all the barriers we erect to exclude anyone," said Hanson, "barriers that are erected to preserve the power of the privileged, which usually means white male privilege. What better way for us in the church to honor the legacy of Margarita's leadership and of her faith than for us to continue to confront and remove those barriers, whether they are physical barriers that deter or prevent sensitivity, gender barriers that deny women full access to participation and leadership in church and society, barriers of race, class or language. Margarita was very clear about barriers of sexual orientation that precludes anyone from life and leadership in the church. Margarita was, especially for women in the Caribbean Synod, Latin America and all over the world, a model of leadership. Margarita never missed an opportunity to sing a song of God's all-inclusive mercy," he said.
"To be in Margarita's presence was literally to experience the contagious joy of one who lived every day through faith in God's grace for Jesus' sake. Margarita, like Mary, believed that God will always be faithful," said Hanson.
"God turned the world upside down, uplifting the poor, the oppressed, hungry and the forgotten. When does that happen? (It happens) when the living Word of God breaks into our lives. Margarita proclaimed that living Word of God boldly and without shame. She understood that God does some of God's best work with lives of people. God started a revolution in Mary and continued that revolution through Margarita. Through her tireless work for justice, through her compassion for those living in poverty and for a more inclusive church, Margarita was singing the song of God's vision for a new world," he said.
"Margarita, your voice is now silent, but your song continues to ring in our hearts and throughout the world. For you, Margarita, we say thanks be to God," said Hanson.
The United Lutheran Choir of the ELCA Caribbean Synod and members of Christus Victor Lutheran Church, Estate Lavallee, St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands, provided the music. The Rev. Jean Kloss, Lord of Sabaoth Lutheran Church, Christiansted, St. Croix, read the lessons.
The ELCA Caribbean Synod elected Martinez to a six-year term as bishop in 2001. The synod has 6,558 baptized members in 34 congregations in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The synod council appointed Sosa as acting bishop of the synod in 2006. Sosa preceded Martinez as the synod's bishop.
The synod will elect a new bishop at its June 21-23 synod assembly. The assembly will be held at Frederick Lutheran Church, Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands.
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