In some cases, the greater English emphasis has contributed to a growing phenomenon: evangelical Protestant megachurches drawing crowds in the thousands that aren’t white and suburban, but Latino and anchored in the inner city. Latino churches are part of the United States’ long tradition of religious congregations bonded by common ethnicity or language. While Italian and Irish Catholic parishes and other examples have largely faded from view, Latino churches are poised to endure thanks to high birth rates, close proximity to Latin America and the sheer numbers of people seeking a better life here. “The precedent churches are setting by preserving the Spanish language while breaking down ethnic differences and encouraging the use of English is really at the vanguard of where the United States is heading,” said Anthony Stevens-Arroyo, a Brooklyn College professor emeritus and co-author of “Recognizing the Latino Resurgence in American Religion.” “The definition of the United States as a great white Protestant nation is really up for grabs, and churches are doing an excellent job of preserving people’s identity and at the same time helping them function in contemporary society.” The glue – the thing that allows churches like the Carpenter’s House to flourish as a multiethnic mosaic of Mexicans, Hondurans, Puerto Ricans, Cubans and Colombians – has been the Spanish language. Yet as the children of immigrants grow up, churches are recognizing that it’s either bolster Spanish with English or give up on the future. A survey earlier this year by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life found that 77 percent of first-generation, churchgoing Hispanics in the United States choose churches with Hispanic clergy, Spanish-language services and a mostly Hispanic congregation. But as Latinos become more established in this country, the hold loosens: 53 percent of second-generation Latinos attend ethnic congregations, while the numbers drop to 42 percent for the third generation and higher. The Carpenter’s House sits in a red-brick building just off a busy intersection in Humboldt Park, a northside Chicago neighborhood that is predominantly Hispanic but gentrifying. The Rev. Isaias Mercado, the son of Puerto Rican musicians, grew up in the neighborhood and founded the church four years ago in a Boys and Girls Club as a place of worship primarily in Spanish. Raised in Pentecostal churches, he began counseling at a methadone clinic and earned a master’s in divinity and a doctorate in ministry from Chicago’s McCormick Theological Seminary, part of the Presbyterian Church (USA). Church members proudly call their pastor “Dr. Mercado.” To them, his credentials speak to the church’s emphasis on self-improvement, evidence that anyone can “go to a different level,” as Mercado says, with faith and hard work. Mercado, 40, added an English service three months ago, hoping the church will become not only multicultural but multiracial, drawing African Americans and whites from the neighborhood. He also said he was listening to market forces – the people wanted it. “It speaks to the fact that there is this Latino culture that is already having deep roots in North America,” he said. Walter Rubio was born and raised in Guatemala and moved to the United States when he was 12, in awe of bologna and Doritos. Now raising his own family, Rubio attends English services at the Carpenter’s House. “It’s simple,” said the 35-year-old construction worker. “My son and my daughter, they lean more toward English. If they understand it better, they get a better blessing.” Mercado acknowledges one risk to separate services in English and Spanish: a house divided. To keep the communities from splintering, he holds a joint bilingual service every three months. Some second- and third-generation Latinos prefer Spanish as their language of worship. When a group of young adults lingered after the Spanish service at the Carpenter’s House, their small talk was in English, not Spanish. “We grew up going to Spanish services,” said Abdiel Quiles, 28. “It just feels like home.” About 70 people attend the English service, while more than 200 fill the church for the Spanish one. There was one vivid contrast in the services: fervency. Unlike the relatively low-key English service, the Spanish worship ended with people crowded in the front, lifting their hands up high, reaching for tissue boxes as Mercado pressed his hands to foreheads and shouted prayers into a microphone. Regardless of language, Mercado said later, “We need to keep that Latin way of worship, that enthusiasm.” 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! CHICAGO – On Sundays at La Casa del Carpintero, or the Carpenter’s House, they’ve raised twin yellow banners for churchgoers that read “Welcome” and “Bienvenidos.” As a complement to the regular 11:30 a.m. Spanish service at the independent Pentecostal church, where they’ve worshipped Papi for years, there’s now a 9:30 a.m. English one where the faithful praise God the Father. While churches from every imaginable tradition have been adding Spanish services to meet the needs of new immigrants, an increasing number of Latino ethnic congregations are going the other way – starting English services. It’s an effort to meet the demands of second- and third-generation Hispanics, keep families together and reach non-Latinos.