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El Instituto Liderazgo: A Dream Come True

El Instituto Liderazgo: A Dream Come True

Like most good things in life, El Instituto Liderazgo, the Leadership Institute, started with a dream. The Rev. Martín Juarez, former vicar of El Buen Pastor, Durham, dreamed of developing Latino leadership for his congregation.  He recognized that while many Hispanics have a deep faith, they frequently lack leadership experience in and knowledge of The Episcopal Church. He wanted them to have opportunities for both.

In 2012, the Rev. Evelyn Morales, diocesan deacon for Hispanic ministry, attended Nuevo Amanecer, a biennial national conference sponsored at that time by The Episcopal Church’s Office of Latino/Hispanic Ministries.  There she learned about the Diocese of Los Angeles’s two-year leadership development program. With the encouragement of the Rt. Rev. Michael Curry and the Chartered Committee on Latino/Hispanic Ministries, the Rt. Rev. Anne Hodges-Copple facilitated months-long planning that envisioned two separate institutes: one each in the eastern and western ends of the diocese with a shared goal of developing leadership, knowledge and pedagogy.

The Rev. Harriette Sturgis, deacon at St. Cyprian’s, Oxford, headed the first eastern Spanish-language course on liturgy in the spring of 2014 at El Buen Pastor. Its success led to a fall course on Episcopal/Anglican identity and adult teaching methods, this time hosted by St. Cyprian’s and its vicar, the Rev. John Heinemeier. Meanwhile, at Holy Comforter, Charlotte, the Rev. Amanda Kucik, associate rector responsible for Spanish-language worship, and Lauren Cavins, the parish’s director of Hispanic ministries and chair of the diocesan Chartered Committee on Latino/Hispanic Ministry, led an institute dream team that culminated in the first western course on evangelism in the fall.

While the two institutes have unique characteristics, they share much in common. Different teachers take turns leading the morning-long Saturday sessions, using a range of styles and tools that include PowerPoint, video and small- and large-group discussion and experiential activities. Free childcare permits parents to attend and children to make new friends. Delicious food is enjoyed before, during and after each class.

The hundreds of hours of labor that have gone into this effort from people across the diocese have birthed a transformative experience. The spirituality impresses participant Ingrid Nuñez. Mauricio Chavez enjoys hearing the diversity of viewpoints. Fernanda Sarahi Torres loves the different teaching styles. Juan Carabaña, new interim executive director of the Episcopal Farmworker Ministry, enthuses about the institute’s practical content. And it is bearing fruit for others: Juan Gomez facilitated an Episcopal identity class at St. Cyprian’s during Advent.

Reflecting on this ministry, Javier Almendárez Bautista, discipleship programs coordinator at St. Philip’s, Durham, and teacher in the Institute, thinks of vocational discernment.  He says, “Participating in Instituto has been a constant reminder for me that vocational discernment has less to do with being ordained than with what we hold in common. The baptismal covenant is at the root of it all.”

El Instituto centers upon being called to serve individually and corporately. The diocesan Commission on Christian Formation is discussing how to provide diocesan-wide events in English and Spanish. Bishop Hodges-Copple comments, “While we want to meet people where they are, we also want to learn how to bring people together in intercultural events that proclaim our unity in Christ and proudly portray the diversity of our backgrounds and gifts.”

Dreams generally fade away with the hued colors of the dawn, but sometimes – sometimes they become a shining reality for us all.


This article that I wrote was published in the Winter 2015 issue of The NC Disciple, the diocesan magazine of the Episcopal Diocese of North Carolina.  I teach in El Instituto Liderazgo del Este, The Leadership Institute of the East.

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Saturday, 11 July 2020