News & Announcements

Building Partnerships for La Lucha    

Garrett Seminary Hires a New Director of the Hispanic/Latinx Center

We are thrilled to announce Dr. Emma Arely Escobar as our new Director of the Hispanic-Latinx Center and Assistant Professor of Faith-Based Organizing at Garrett Seminary! Before accepting this position, Dr. Escobar served as Coordinator of Hispanic-Latino Ministries and Community Organizing for the Baltimore/Washington Conference of the United Methodist Church. She brings deep roots in engaging Latiné faith communities and grassroots organizations throughout the United States, skills that will bring flourishing to both the Hispanic-Latinx Center and broader seminary life. “Having the opportunity to feature the diverse voices of our pueblo, it’s very important to me,” she says. “I’m here to collectively envision and build toward transformation.”

            This appointment is another piece of Garrett’s strategic plan, which identified strengthening relationships with Latiné communities as an essential element of the seminary’s mission. “Partnering with and resourcing the largest minoritized community in the United States is service to which God calls us,” says President Javier Viera. “Dr. Escobar brings a proven track record in this mission, but also a deep passion for preparing the next generation of Christian leaders for ministry in the public square. Her community organizing lens will equip students with the skills to galvanize communities for the work of healing and creating a more just world.” This joyous sentiment is shared by Dr. Nancy Bedford, who chaired the search committee. “As a theologian, I was especially taken with how skillful she is at weaving her theological convictions together with her activism,” Dr. Bedford says. “She is somebody who asks questions and who listens carefully to others, sensitive to minoritized communities within the Latiné world and beyond it.”

            When asked about what experiences bring her to this vocation, Dr. Escobar talks about her experience as an immigrant from El Salvador and the values she learned growing up in Latiné Methodist churches. “I bring the concept of familia,” she explains. “I’m coming to build in relationship with people. It’s not me telling people what to do, it’s about lifting up leaders who are already in our communities, bringing them to Garrett so we can all hear and learn from what is already happening—and offering them resources in return.” This reciprocal approach is foundational to any effective community organizing, and an essential part of the Hispanic-Latinx Center’s mission. “Another thing I’m thinking about is acompañamiento, how we accompany each other in the struggle, in the celebrations,” Dr. Escobar says. “We can be in partnership with communities where people are being agents of change, walking with one another.”

            In addition to her work at the center, Dr. Escobar will also teach classes about faith-based organizing. “One of the pieces I’m most excited about is travel seminars where students can go and be present to what they’re reading,” she says. Dr. Escobar has worked with the California-Pacific United Methodist Conference and the Methodist Church of Mexico to facilitate delegations where clergy and lay people learn about the realities of immigration at the Tijuana-San Diego border and collaborate with grassroots organizations that serve migrant communities. This engaged praxis is already delighting her colleagues. “Dr. Escobar’s life of grassroots organizing is a lived theology that grows from community,” says Dr. Jen Harvey, Garrett’s Academic Dean. “She brings our students the opportunity to connect with folks who are enacting God’s work of liberation and I couldn’t be more excited to welcome her to our faculty.” Indeed, it’s an embodiment of Garrett’s broader understanding of what it means to be Christian. “It’s one thing to talk about borders and what that looks like in our faith and how we advocate for migrants,” Dr. Escobar elaborates. “It’s another to be there, to serve people, and then to ask: How do we organize and connect with communities in the Evanston and Chicago area?”

Condensing this calling to be present in faith, solidarity and mutual benefit, Dr. Escobar names how she inherited these values in la lucha. “It’s translated as a fight or struggle, but la lucha is also the resilience that surrounds us,” she explains. “There’s something about being with your family in both celebration and moments of crying out—the Spirit that says, ‘we will overcome this.’ That’s what’s important to me as I engage my work.” Fierce love radiates through her words, what Dr. Bedford describes as “a palpable joy for the Latiné community that will connect the Hispanic-Latinx Center—and Garrett generally—in creative and generative ways to both churches and community organizations.” These combined skills as both an activist and a scholar promise to do just what Dr. Escobar intends: transform communities. “I am elated to welcome Dr. Escobar to Garrett,” President Viera concludes. “The strength she brings our faculty and the gifts she brings our students will usher in a new chapter for this already-vital part of our communal life.”