November 14 – November 16, 2018
Loews Hotel, Philadelphia, PA. Learn More »
Rev. Doug Avilesbernal will be the Worship Leader for our 2016 Summer Conference. We were recently able to ask him a few questions to learn more about him and his passion for social justice.
Rev. Avilesbernal is the Pastor at Calvary Baptist Church in Norristown, PA. He is the son of a Missionary Pastor, having been born in Guatemala. His growth in Christian faith has spanned three decades, several continents, many countries, and the requisite number of schools, culminating in his 2005 Graduation from Eastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, PA.
BPFNA: What led you to become involved in your current peace and justice work? When or how did you know this was the work you were called to do?
DA: I came to the church I am serving now because they wanted to have someone help them reach out to the new and growing immigrant community in their changing neighborhood. After meeting many times and making it clear to each other that we meant it when we said we wanted to reach out to all I was called by the church. In our moving into life together with the new arrivals in our town put us very close to their lives and the injustices and violence with which they lived. As “they” started coming into our church and becoming “us” we could not help it but join them in a call for justice. The Gospel and peace voices from history helped us see that reconciliation that led for love for the other offered more permanent paths towards justice. I cannot think of a better way to carry out my call to ministry than to advocate for justice rooted in love as I hope to have learned it from Christ.
BPFNA: What gives you strength and what keeps you motivated to do this work?
DA: Life in diversity at our church is a big part of my motivation and strength. We are now living in a community that includes all of the major ethnic groups in our town. We live in a peaceful search for justice among ourselves and the world around us. Our peace is not exempt from misunderstandings, conflict, anger, joy, hope, on and on and that fullness of emotional life also contributes to my own strength to keep going in this work of following Christ into the world.
BPFNA: Who inspires you? Who are your role models?
DA: I suppose I could name familiar names that have inspired me, MLK, Rigoberta Machu, Zwingli, Einstein, and other very well known names. President Lincoln’s complex relationship with his war actions and his pain from its suffering as well as his nearly endless desire to forgive. Just as important to my formation, the endless names I’ve come across in life, grandmothers with boundless resources and patience, including my own. Peasants just as richly endowed with wisdom as many with much bigger names. My list is long and constantly being refreshed with recalling some I might have forgotten and those I meet. Christ’s love for us sits at the core of my inspiration and gives me a model of what to look for in the world around me.
BPFNA: What do you hope Summer Conference attendees take away from this week focused on breaking social and structural injustice?
DA: I love and dislike this question. On the one hand I have many hopes related to what attendees will take away. At the same time I feel I cannot really answer a question so broadly put. Who are they? What should the oppressed who come take away from it? What should the oppressors who refuse to acknowledge their oppressive practices take away? What about those of us who know the right way to advocate and dismiss different ways to love? Actually, I think discoveries that deepen our understanding of who we are and how that affects the world would cover a good bit of what I hope for many of us who will be present.
BPFNA: What’s one thing people can do in their own communities to raise awareness about or work toward changing these systems of injustice?
DA: Look to love the people you think deserve your ire.
BPFNA: Any additional thoughts to share?
DA: I am very flattered to be asked to participate in such an event that encourages, trains and recharges those who advocate for peace and justice in our world.