The Hispanic Summer Program can be described as a “wandering institution” born of the hopes and struggles of a variety of Latinx faith communities as well as the institutions that work in solidarity with the broader Latinx communities. At its inception, the HSP was created to be an ecumenical academic program intended to enhance Christian Reflection and Ministry in and among the Latinx community in the United States. Since then, it has expanded to include a variety of faith traditions that also encompass the rich diversity of our Latinx peoples. As a result the HSP strives to represent among its faculty and student body the varieties of Latinx experience and national, regional, racial, gendered, economic, and cultural backgrounds.
With a focus on advancing “the theological education and the pastoral leadership of the ever growing Hispanic American Church,” the HSP began as an effort by the Association of Theological Schools that hired Dr. Cecilio Arrastía, a Cuban-born Presbyterian preacher and theological educator, to help them “find ways for theological schools of the mainline Protestant denominations to respond to and to integrate the ever growing number of Hispanic Americans into mainline theological education.”
Dr. Arrastía worked across Protestant denominations as well as with Roman Catholics to explore how these groups would best assist one another. Dr. Arrastía’s work was followed by that of Dr. Justo González who, funded by the Pew Charitable Trusts, conducted a national study on Latinx theological education which made clear that beyond financial assistance to attend seminaries, Latinx students “also needed an educational context that took seriously into account the challenges and questions that derive from their context of ministry and religious experiences.” So in the “absence of a full-fledged Hispanic seminary or Hispanic program of ministerial education and training, it was decided to have a two-week summer program whose character would be such that it would serve as a Latino seminary for that short period of time.” And so on June 25, 1989 the first HSP session took place in Andover Newton Theological School with Dr. Justo González as the Director assisted by Dr. Benjamín Alicea, who shortly after became the program manager of the Fund for Theological Education (now the Forum for Theological Exploration).
Since that first session in 1989, the HSP has remained true to the vision and hopes that led to its creation as stated in these six principles:
1. To provide theological education for Latinxs in a context of academic excellence and critical reflection.
2. To provide an academic context that is inclusive of faculty and students of all genders that, particularly, affirms the leadership of women in the academy, the church, and various religious institutions.
3. To provide an ecumenical theological learning experience that creates an ethos that will help students discover “the joy, richness, and faithfulness to God, of doing theology and pastoral work en conjunto.”
4. To create a space that gathers Latinx faculty and students from and in different regions of the country so as to maintain awareness of the great diversity of the Latinx realities both religious and cultural/social.
5. To create a program that values worship and understands that worship in such a diverse context is an opportunity for the students and faculty to “experience and honor each religious tradition as well as [have] an occasion to practice the values of respect, inclusiveness, and recognition of the diversity of Hispanic worship experiences.”
6. To provide an opportunity for the “growing number of non-Hispanic students who are committed to serve the Hispanic church and community” to engage in a program of theological education offered from the Latinx perspective and context.
The HSP has continued to grow and move forward under the leadership of these directors:
- Dr. Justo González (1989-1999)
- Dr. Ismael García (1999-2002)
- Sally Gómez (interim, 2002-2003)
- Dr. José Irizarry (2003-2006)
- Dr. Otto Maduro, (2006-2012)
- Dr. Daisy L. Machado (2012-present)
The first Governing Board of the HSP – one representative from each of the institutions which had already become HSP sponsors – met at Princeton Theological Seminary during the summer of 1995. From then on, nearly 40 other university departments of theology, seminaries, divinity and theological schools, Protestant, Catholic, Evangelical, Pentecostal, and Inter-religious have joined the roster of HSP sponsors.
Thus, since 1989, over 1,800 graduate students, mostly Latinxs, have studied at the HSP with over 100 Latinx faculty, and many have gone on to join the faculty and administrators of many institutions across the Americas, to become ministers in a variety of religious institutions throughout the continental U.S. and Puerto Rico; and/or become organizers, activists, political leaders in their communities of concern and accountability.
Since 2017, the HSP—under the leadership of Dr. Daisy L. Machado—has been awarded a series of grants (including from the Forum for Theological Exploration and the Lilly Endowment) to establish new programming and infrastructure that builds upon the historic vision and mission of the organization. With these new funds, the HSP has been able to meet the challenges of an ever-evolving Latinx community—one that is more religiously and linguistically diverse—while ensuring we continue the work we were entrusted to do by our founders: to shape the next generation of Latinx theological and academic leaders and tangibly pour into our Latinx community.
Truly, our history is barely beginning…