As we close out this Hispanic Heritage month celebrating 150 years of God’s faithfulness to Berkeley School of Theology, we are mindful that our roots go back to the first missionary efforts of the American Baptist Ministries coming to the Bay Area to plant churches and educational institutions in the 1840’s when California was still a part of Mexico. We also acknowledge that even before that, this land was a colony of Spain, and that like those forebears, we (are still) settled on the unceded lands of the Ohlone peoples of the Ramaytush, Tamien, Chochenyo, Karkin, Muwekma, and Bay Miwok territories.
Those of us who have studied, lived, worked, played and learned, and still do, here at BST, are eternally grateful for the many contributions our Latino/a sisters and brothers in faith and life have contributed to the historic and ongoing formation of our beloved school.
BST was immensely blessed by our first Hispanic faculty member many years ago, Rev. Dr. Eduardo Font, now Faculty Emeritus, whose service, teaching, and leadership at BST, indeed, in other seminaries and classrooms before and since, stands out as a beacon of transformational influence on theological education writ large. We consider the contributions of other former and current faculty, like Dr. Pedro Pablo Morataya, Rev. Liliana Da Valle, Dr. Horacio DaValle, Dr. Enrique Torres, Rev. Alejandro Gaete, Dr. Cesar Melgar, Dr. Rogelio Ovalle, Dr. Eric Sias, Dr. Daniel Beteta, Ms. Corinna Guerrero to name a few. We are blessed by current board members, Rev. Doug Avilesbernal, Executive Minister of Evergreen American Baptist Churches, and Dr. Laura Miraz, Associate Director of American Baptist Home Ministries, who bring council and guidance to our culturally responsive and expanding mission and ministry. And to top it off, our buildings and offices remain well-cared for and clean because of Señora Gloria Tejada, who, in spite of her husband’s recent death, remains the head of their thriving family business, J.G. Best Maintenance Service.
We are grateful that the largest segment of the largest increase for many years in our incoming cohort of students this year are students in our Spanish speaking B.A. equivalency program, Entrenamiento en Liderazgo Cristiano. We are grateful for the vision and leadership that has brought about our new Spanish-language D.Min. track in Ministerial Training and Leadership for Latino/a Churches led by Dr. Pedro Pablo Morataya.
Whenever I hear the festive song, “O Santísimo, Felicísimo . . .Alegría, Alegría,” I am transported to my childhood home-church in Ybor City (Tampa), where abuelita Dominga would usher into our midst the presence of divinity as she led us singing (translated here), “O Most Holy One, O Most Blessed (lit. Happy) One . . . Joy, Joy!” For me and I trust for you also, that spirit of holy jubilation and gratitude sums up the faithful divine presence across time and space and cultures of BST at its best. One of my new favorite songs, especially, as we consider the theme of this 150th Anniversary Year is, “La Bondad de Dios!” (The Faithfulness of God!). I invite you to listen to the song sung by Puerto Rican Christian artist Blanca, here, in prayerful worship of the God “whose steadfast love endures forever; whose faithfulness extends to all generations.” (Ps. 100:5)