Immigration And Congregations

Watch This Video
Windows Media


There’s a church in Des Moines, Iowa that is modeling immigration reform and urban development in all the right ways. Two congregations, one primarily Anglo, one Hispanic, don’t just share use of a building, they share everything—from citizenship classes to daily meals to help make their city stronger. Reed Galin reports.

 New Items | Additional Stories | Archives


(Locator: Des Moines, Iowa)

Des Moines, Iowa could hardly be more different than where they came from. But Trinity United Methodist Church feels like home to many Central American immigrants, such as Manuel Catalan.

Manuel Catalan: “It’s my whole family.”

Here there are citizenship classes...

Teacher: “What do the stripes on the flag represent?”

Manuel: “The first thirteen colonies.”

…legal help with immigration issues, and English classes...

Teacher reads: “In the living room?

...and so much “personal” support that Catalan is emotional about how this church and its Anglo pastors have helped him and others.

The Rev. Barb Dinnen, Las Americas Comunidad de Fe: “Watching that true bridging of cultures, that’s pretty powerful stuff.”

Manuel Catalan: “I didn’t have nobody to trust.”

The Rev. Diane McClanahan, Trinity United Methodist Church: “We’re not two separate congregations that are using the same building, but two congregations that choose to be together in ministry.”

The service is multilingual. There is breakfast for all every morning, and dinner every night ... three hundred meals a day are served here. An after-school program shows the diversity of this neighborhood.

The Rev. Barb Dinnen: “Success is when people are willing to continue in the experiment, and when they show visible signs of personal growth, spiritual growth, and growth in numbers within the congregation.”

Felipa Garcia: “The church has been a very important aspect of my life. It has helped me through my struggles and it has helped me change.”

Participants describe Trinity not as a congregation, but as a community.

The Rev. Barb Dinnen: “This building is open from 6:30 to 8:30 most every day.  And during that time there are people working on issues with their children, issues with their health, every issue that comes into a family’s life.”

Few immigrants at Trinity ever expected to settle in Des Moines ... but Manuel Catalan found his home, and is about to take his citizenship test.

Manuel Catalan: “If the church wasn’t here, I might not be able to have all this happiness that I have now.” 


You can contact Trinity United Methodist Church by calling 515-288-4056.