Hispanics pastors note drop in church attendance

Some undocumented Hispanics are staying away from church, apparently out of fear of being deported as federal immigration enforcement efforts are stepped up.

“All of our churches are seeing a decline in attendance,” said the Rev. John Pena, vice president of the Fellowship of Hispanic Pastors in the Tulsa area.

Pena has been pastor for 10 years of Templo Evangelistico, a Hispanic congregation that meets at SpiritLife Church, 5345 S. Peoria Ave.

He said his church, and other Hispanic churches in the area he is in contact with, have seen about a 10 percent decline in attendance.

“Many people have fear, and also a lot of rumors are going around that are not true,” Pena said, like Facebook warnings to avoid the 71st Street and Lewis Avenue area because ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) officials are there, or certain areas of east Tulsa because “a lot of police officers are congregating there.”

Pena said he knows people who have left Tulsa to go to sanctuary cities because they think they will be safer there. Sanctuary city is a loosely defined term that describes cities that have agreed not to cooperate with federal immigration enforcement efforts.

The Rev. Samuel Perez, pastor of St. Thomas More Catholic Church, Tulsa’s largest Hispanic congregation, said attendance at St. Thomas More has declined somewhat recently, but he does not know if it is related to immigration issues, or if some people are just going to another church, noting that another Tulsa Catholic church recently got a new Hispanic pastor.

Perez said children are coming to him from the congregation fearful…

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