Transcending Language Barriers and Borders

Since February of 2011, Corpus Christi Unitarian Universalist Church has offered a two-hour Sunday afternoon program for English as a Second Language (ESL), Citizenship Test Preparation…and hopefully will include basic computer training this year.

Marilyn Bremser, congregation member, had been teaching these classes at the local library since 2006 but felt that the program could be expanded as an outreach program at our church. Friends with a local Hispanic community activist, Marilyn was invited to attend a “Fuerza Comunitaria” where a collection of local groups, (OSHA, Catholic Charities, insurance companies, etc.) offer free information and guidance to the immigrant community.  At that February Sunday afternoon gathering 23 people signed up to come to our church classes, most speaking no English at all.  With this large number to enroll, the pastor, the Rev. Phil Douglas, enlisted the assistance of the Literary Council whose director is also a church member.

Finding teachers and organizing classrooms in our small church was a challenge but as the year progressed we have settled into five classes: beginning, intermediate and fluency language; citizenship prep and the fifth class is taught by a bi-lingual teacher who kindly assists the more insecure.

We registered about 60 students in 2011.  In December we were able to give certificates to 20 students who studied more than 16 hours with us. Students have been predominantlyfrom Mexico, but others are from Venezuela, Turkey, India, Columbia, Cuba, Nicaragua, Korea, and Taiwan.

The Corpus Christi UU Church pays a young member to help set up the classrooms and to handle the child care.  Three of the volunteer teachers are church members and the other two were recruited through the Literacy Council. Their goal is to encourage students to qualify for enrollment in their local community college (DelMar) and/or to pass the citizenship test. (One student became a citizen in December!)

Clearly, this program offers an excellent opportunity for the Corpus Christi UU Church to be of service and extend their ministry in their wider community, which is made up of sixty-two percent Hispanic people.  This is a congregation committed to ministering to the needs in their local community and transforming lives, one person at a time.

The Corpus Christi UU Church has been one of our Annual Program Fund Honor Congregations for nearly all of the past 25 years.  For more information about the congregation and its ministries:

For more information about the UUA’s Annual Program Fund: