I see worship as a form of hospitality and preaching as a gift of love to the congregation.
Just as one prepares thoughtfully for a dinner party where people come to be fed at your table, worship also requires a lot of thoughtful preparation in order for congregants to be fed spiritually on Sunday mornings and leave feeling nourished for the rest of the week.
The numbers in religious affiliation and worship attendance continue to drop in almost every denomination; including ours. I believe part of the reason is that the old models of church are not meeting the needs of people these days, and those models are not spiritually nourishing for many of us; in addition, there’s a lot of competition for that Sunday morning slot. I get it! I’ve been there!
As a minister, I see it simply: if people give us their precious Sunday morning, we need to give them experiences that are nourishing, uplifting, and that reconnect them to the transcendent and to our community.
There’s much suffering in the world today, and while I acknowledge the pain and the damage caused by colonization and capitalism (to people and to the environment), I also acknowledge the human longing for joy and awe. Since oppression keeps many of us from our birthright of Joy, my ministry facilitates multi-sensory experiences that remind us of our humanity and our capacity to feel ecstatic joy and reverent awe.
Lastly, I am seen (by congregants and colleagues) as a charismatic preacher who uplifts and motivates, while showing much love, care, and appreciation for life, for our denomination, and the people in the pews.
If people do not feel loved and inspired when they leave church on Sunday, I’ve failed. Yes, they’ll get woke in the process. Yes, they’ll learn a thing or two intellectually, but they will also feel loved, uplifted and empowered! That’s at the core of my philosophy of worship and preaching.
“Mariela is energetic and engaging as a speaker and worship leader.
Her services are clearly focused, and she has a gift for using visual props and multisensory elements to enliven and underscore the theme for different learning styles. She is deeply present when leading both a solemn memorial ritual and a joyous child dedication ceremony. Her sense of the holy is palpable to the congregation.
She crafts inclusive liturgy and demonstrates a deep multicultural sensitivity. She researches her topics, but doesn’t get bogged down in professorial relating of details – her services aim to be transformational, not simply informative. She adapts her style to accommodate different ages in the room.”
“Mariela has brought so much of herself to worship leadership. As someone who brings her body, soul, and spirit into worship and all of life – she has created a more embodied worship…
The thought and effort that Mariela puts into the worship experience is evident. She exudes an assuredness of the knowledge she shares and is remarkable in how she intertwines it with personal testimony. Her presence in the pulpit is warm, inviting and reverent…
Mariela’s sermons are engaging and spiritually fulfilling. Several people have commented that Mariela “incorporates her whole self” in the worship experience, meaning even her rhythm, body language, cadence, creativity and more!
[She] picked sermons topics that were timely (eg.“La Frontera/The Border”), prepared beautiful decorations and props for every service she led (decorated cardboard boxes representing the building blocks of her faith, carefully constructed yellow submarines), and presented information that both informed and inspired the congregation, drawing upon sources from multiple cultures and traditions as well as her own life experience.
[Mariela’s] presence and leadership was especially evident in the service she led in which the suicide of one of our members was announced. With little notice, Mariela restructured her prepared service on Nature, especially her preparation of the mandala of flower petals to honor our precious member so recently passed. Mariela’s calm and supportive presence was notable during the service when, during Joys and Sorrows, nearly every member lined up to be comforted by Mariela.
“[She] never fails to provide fascinating and challenging services that are embellished with visually interesting slides.
We have appreciated her sermon illustrations, some of them reflecting her own vulnerability; able to adeptly dance between science/knowledge/research and the deeply spiritual. Very satisfying incorporation and clear progression of ideas, building solidly so that everything ties together (very helpful to those of us without particularly good auditory processing!).
We appreciate the ways she includes the children in the story for all ages – they are usually both rapt and enthusiastic. Often uses object/pictures/map/song to begin engagement and gifts them with related concrete memorabilia to take with them (seed, stone, etc.). She also recently arranged a young children’s activity table within our sanctuary – not usual for our congregation – but reflective of her commitment to “oneness” of community.”