Rev. Abner Cotto-Bonilla: Putting faith into practice in a communal sense requires an intergenerational presence

Photo of Abner Cotto-Bonilla

Rev. Abner Cotto-Bonilla is a keynote speaker at ABHMS’ Space for Grace & Spiritual Caregivers Conference 2024 in April.

Why is it important to a community of faith to have intergenerational engagement? Why is it important to recognize, validate and affirm each component of each generation? Why is faith still one of the most important and key elements for doing ministry? I have tried to look for the answers to these questions in the present and past. It has also helped me to discern what kind of ministry we will have to do in the future. The dominance a particular generation’s perspective on faith prevents others from being fully included in the body of Christ. The passing of faith among generations, in a dual direction, brings richness to what God wants with the church today.

“La comunidad,” Spanish for the community, is the concept of identity in the Latino population within the United States. Community is not just what generations or cultures are present in a group, but the interaction and engagement among them. How can we put our faith into practice in a communal sense if we do not recognize the importance of all the generations present? The intergenerational approach has not been fully present in the church. It is fascinating to learn about how children express their faith, and how it is considered by everyone. Youth and young adults can contribute unique knowledge that is relevant to our time. Adults can offer their wisdom to invite other generations to reflect on history. It is time to not only listen to a single generation. Rather, it is time for each generation to express their faith and see how they can contribute to the mission of the church.

Space for Grace & Spiritual Caregivers Conference 2024, themed  “Engaging Intergenerational Faith: Listen. Learn. Live.,” brings a unique experience where leaders will be theologizing this important topic in both theoretical and practical ways. In addition to the variety of speakers, we count on having worship experiences, including expressions of arts and moments of “koinonia,” or Christian fellowship. We hope to see you there!

Born and raised in Puerto Rico, the Reverend Abner Cotto-Bonilla is national coordinator for Latino Ministries at American Baptist Home Mission Societies. After graduating from Andover Newton Seminary at Yale University, Cotto-Bonilla served Iglesia Misión Bautista Hispana de Westchester (White Plains, N.Y.) from 2015 to 2022. Concurrently, he was active at the national denominational level as president of the National Hispanic Caucus (2016-2022) and president of the ABCUSA Inter-caucus (2022). He currently serves on  Andover Newton’s advisory council.