The Hispanic Summer Program offers Hispanic and [email protected] students of theology and ministry the chance to learn in a context closer to their cultural realities. The mission of the HSP is “to supplement and enrich the theological and ministerial education being offered in seminaries and universities, with academic courses and other activities directly addressing Hispanic history, ministry, and theology.” The 2012 HSP was held in San Juan, PR at the Evangelical Seminary of Puerto Rico.
The peacemaking course, taught by J. Manny Santiago and Leticia Guardiola-Sáenz, was sponsored by the Baptist Peace Fellowship of North America.
This summer, I had the blessing of being part of the faculty of the Hispanic Summer Program (HSP). This “seminary without walls” takes place every year and moves throughout the United States and Puerto Rico.
I first participated in the Hispanic Summer Program as a student in 2004 when it was held at Drew University, and again in 2005 at Fuller Seminary. During the 2005 program, I audited a class with New Testament scholar, and member of the BPFNA Board, Dr. Leticia Guardiola-Sáenz. Who would have known that in 2012, upon my return to the HSP, I would be co-teaching a class on peacemaking with Leticia!
This class was an experiment. Both the BPFNA and the HSP wanted to see how a possible partnership between the two organizations would work. But it was also an experiment because Leticia and I wanted to bring a class that covered both the theological and the practical aspects of the Reign of Peace that Christ asks us to build.
There were 10 students registered in our class from different denominations and even ethnicities. We had recent immigrants and third generation Hispanics. We had a Latino student of Asian descent and a Latina student of African descent. There were Pentecostals, Evangelicals, Methodists, Baptists, and Congregationalists. Some of the students came from theologically conservative backgrounds while others came from very progressive denominations and theological perspectives. It was really a blessing to be able to work with such a talented and energetic group of future ministers and to see the passion they had for social justice and reconciliation.
Working with such a diverse group was certainly a challenge; but it was a challenge that we – Leticia and I – enjoyed. The HSP gave all of us the opportunity to look at building the Reign of Peace even with all our differences. The idea is not to whitewash or erase our individuality, but to find common grounds for our work for justice.
As part of the class requirements, the students were asked to create an “action plan” that they would like to implement in their places of ministry. Here are some of the projects that were offered:
- The mobilization of workers to denounce the illegal practices of multinational corporations
- A project to collect the voices and experiences of Latina women in churches that are less than amicable to women
- An action to help a conservative congregation understand the need to open their Communion table to all
- The mobilization of an aging, mostly Anglo church, to open their doors to those around them, especially Hispanics, African-Americans and members of the LGBT community
- A special three-day retreat to help a conservative, Hispanic church understand the urgent need to protect the environment.
Thanks to the support of individuals and partner congregations and through the sharing of resources with the Baptist Peace Fellowship there is now a group of future Hispanic and Latino/Latina ministers ready to build the Reign of Peace here and now! Perhaps some people might think that these were only 10 students, but, in reality, these 10 students will go on to lead hundreds, if not thousands, of parishioners.
Moreover, those students who go back to work with Hispanic and Latino/Latina congregations and social agencies will reach out to even a larger number of people since the Hispanic community in the United States is growing exponentially. It is now when actions like these are needed so that present and future generations can have the resources to build the Reign of Peace.