The Rev. Rafael J. Aragon assumed duties...

The Rev. Rafael J. Aragon assumed duties this month as the top executive for Presbyterian churches in Southern California--the first Latino to head a synod, or regional body, of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) outside of Puerto Rico.

Aragon replaces the Rev. Fred Beebe, who retired at the end of 1990. The Synod of Southern California and Hawaii, with headquarters in Los Angeles, includes more than 300 congregations and 130,000 members.

For 14 years, Aragon was associate executive for the synod’s Hispanic Ministries and Human Services, a department that assisted 12 “neighborhood houses” with job training and classes to help Latinos. Aragon established amnesty processing centers at Presbyterian churches to help thousands of immigrants receive legal status in this country.

A native of Cuba who graduated from a seminary there in 1961, Aragon served only 10 months in the pastorate before he was forced to flee Fidel Castro’s Cuba while under suspicion as a counter-revolutionary. After completing graduate studies at Princeton Theological Seminary, he served churches in New Jersey, Colorado and California.


His election last month to the synod executive position demonstrated “the willingness of the Presbyterian Church to be faithful to its mandate of being an (ethnically) inclusive church,” Aragon said.

The installation service will be held March 3 at Immanuel Presbyterian Church in Los Angeles’ Wilshire District.


Author-editor Martin E. Marty of the University of Chicago--one of the most widely quoted authorities on religion in America--will deliver lectures in San Bernardino and Claremont next week. Marty will speak on the Holocaust at 7:30 p.m. Monday in the Recital Hall at Cal State San Bernardino. He will give three lectures on fundamentalist movements, starting at 8 p.m. Tuesday at Pomona College’s Thatcher Music Building. The other talks are at 8 p.m. Wednesday and 11 a.m. Thursday. Marty directs the Fundamentalism Project, a long-term study sponsored by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.


Dominican priest Matthew Fox, who spent all of 1989 publicly silenced by the Vatican for “dangerous and deviant” theology, has been a popular lecturer since then among non-Catholic Christians interested in blending environmental concerns, justice, mysticism and spirituality. Under arrangements by New Creation Seminars, based in Lakeside in San Diego County, Fox begins a five-day lecture tour through the Southland with a 7:30 p.m. Wednesday talk at San Diego First United Methodist Church. His titles include “Beyond Fear and Fundamentalism to a Creative Global Spirituality” (at Plummer Auditorium in Fullerton, 8 p.m. Friday) and “Cosmic Wisdom: Rules for Living in the Universe” (at Congregational Church of Northridge, 2 p.m. Feb. 3).


The 123-year-old First Congregational Church of Los Angeles will welcome a new senior minister, the Rev. Steven E. Berry, this Sunday at the 9 a.m. and 11 a.m. services. Berry, elected to the post last October, has been serving at the Church in the Gardens in New York City. Both that church and his new congregation are affiliated with the National Assn. of Congregational Christian Churches.