Raúl B. Alegría: Why I Choose to be United Methodist

I am a lay member of Brentwood United Methodist Church in Brentwood, TN. I have been a member of Brentwood UMC since 1995 when my wife, Bilha and my daughters Cynthia and Monica joined BUMC. My journey in the United Methodist Church started when my parents, Ricardo and Marcela Alegria began attending a local church in Corpus Christi, Texas. My brothers, sister (we were 5 siblings then) attended church mostly with my Mother at St. Patrick's Church, a Roman Catholic Church. Between when I was age 6 to age 9 Mom and Dad changed churches, first to a Presbyterian church and then to a storefront church. All these churches were located on the West Side of Corpus Christi, Texas, which was then and still is today predominately Hispanic/Latino and very Mexican-American.

When I was 10 (around 1960) our storefront church, El Buen Pastor, was visited by "Methodists" who invited the church leaders to join the Rio Grande Annual Conference. In 1961 El Buen Pastor became a Methodist Church. El Buen Pastor changed locations in 1962. My first Methodist Pastor was Daniel Rodriguez who served El Buen Pastor church, followed by Ramon Ramirez (he would become my future father-in-law), Ruben Salcido, Ovidio Amaro and Brigido Vera. There was another Latino Methodist Church in Corpus, Kelsey Memorial. However my family's church was El Buen Pastor until my life's journey would lead me away from Corpus Christi.

I did not know much about the Methodist Church in 1960-1970 except that the Methodists changed names in 1968 and became a United Methodist Church and a Bishop, O. Eugene Slater, came to dedicate El Buen Pastor in May 1969 after its debt was paid off. I learned more about the United Methodist Church and what it was about after 1969.

1969 was a year of many cambios (changes) for me. I graduated from W.B. Ray High School, I started college and I accepted Jesus as my savior. Of course during the 1960's all of the Alegria siblings (brothers and sister) worked in the family business, 7 Seas Fish Market. That meant working for my father, the toughest boss I ever knew. My Dad was a plain-talking and hard-working man. Dad always told my brothers and me that none of us would ever be unemployed. I knew after I heard my Dad's words my path to personal happiness and professional satisfaction meant staying enrolled at Texas A&I University at Kingsville, Texas and eventually graduating from there in 1973. My life as a Latino young man involved my family, my local church, El Buen Pastor, my friends in and outside of my local church. My local church was a constant presence and support for my family and me.

After my graduation from Texas A&I University in 1973 I joined the staff of the General Board of Pensions (later to be renamed the General Board of Pension and Health Benefits) in Evanston, IL. In 1974 Bilha Ramirez (daughter of Ramon and Esperanza Ramirez) and I reconnected and fell in love (I always loved Bilha!!) and were engaged to be married. On Sunday June 22, 1975 (an extremely warm day) Bilha and I were married at El Buen Pastor UMC in Edinburg, Texas.

Raúl and Bilha with grandchildren
The family business of the Alegria's had been a fish market but in reality my work at the GBOPHB put me directly into the work of the United Methodist Church. Marrying a preacher's daughter reinforced the life journey God directed me towards. God has blessed Bilha and me with two daughters and three grandchildren. Our marriage and our faith moved us from Texas, Illinois, California, Tennessee and then only me to North Carolina and now Bilha and I (and our family) are together again in Tennessee.

My journey in the United Methodist Church has been a blessing. I have been blessed to know many persons in and outside the church across the years and have served the church in many different places. It is because of the church MARCHA (Methodists Associated Representing the Cause of Hispanic Americans) and I were connected, it is because of the church my family and I were welcomed into its membership and it is through the church my family and I are blessed by its care and love for each of us.

Why do I choose to be United Methodist? My local church, El Buen Pastor, in Corpus Christi, Texas that welcomed my family shared the story of Jesus' love for me. That church is directly connected to my local church in Brentwood, TN. The United Methodist Church is the place through which all of its local churches are connected and united. Wherever the United Methodist Church is (Brentwood, TN; Corpus Christi, Texas; Mutare, Zimbabwe; Northbrook, IL etc.,) our churches share the story of Jesus' love for each of us. It is by that story I am saved by God's grace. My late pastor, Howard Olds, always preached, "be a blessing to others". With God's guidance I hope to be that blessing so others can know God.

­¡A Dios sea la gloria!

Raúl Alegría serves as President of MARCHA, the national UM caucus advocating for Hispanics/Latinos within and outside the UMC. Raúl served as Treasurer of the Southeastern Jurisdiction from 2004-2012 and as Chief Financial Officer of Lake Junaluska Assembly, Inc. in North Carolina until his retirement on 12-31-2012.

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