Christian Base Communities in El Salvador

by David Rohrer
A blog entry in response to our “A Year at the Table” series.
August 18, 2019

Laurel Marshall talks with the group about Christian base communities in El Salvador.
The group listens to Laurel Marshall explain about Salvadoran Christian base communities.

Today, following our time of worship at Raleigh Mennonite Church (RMC), Laurel Marshall shared from her experience with Salvadoran Christian base communities, abbreviated CEBs (communidades eclesiales de base). Later in the day, she met with the RMC delegation that will be visiting El Salvador this fall. We’re grateful for her guidance in helping us plan our trip focused on communion practices in CEBs. Laurel earned her master’s degree in Latin American theology from Universidad Americalatina ‘José Simeón Cañas’ (San Salvador) and is currently a Ph.D. candidate in systemic theology at Boston College. From 2011 to 2017, she worked as solidarity program coordinator for Fundación Hermano Mercedes Ruiz (FUNDAHMER), the organization that will host the delegation during our stay in El Salvador. 

Birthed from the Second Vatican Council (1962-65), CEBs call for full and active participation from everyone in church, using the model (1) see, (2) judge, (3) act. As they gather, they first look at their social context (see): What’s happened since we last met? What are the issues facing the community? They then look to the Bible (judge): What does God want us to do in response? Then they follow through on what they discern God is saying (act). 

Their faith runs very deep because they recognize their need for God, something we in the North often forget. In communion, CEBs practices reflect a broader use of scriptures involving food, for example, feeding of the five thousand. As Jesus did at the Last Supper, they use what’s available and what’s culturally appropriate, e.g., tortilla and coffee; or plantain and rice drink. And they provide an open table, welcoming children and adults, Christians and non-Christians alike. 

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