You Are Empowered by the Holy Spirit That Is in and Through the Community You Come from and Are Also Sent Into

Rev. Dr. Amaury Tañón-Santos

Name: Rev. Dr. Amaury Tañón-Santos
Pronouns: He/Him/His
Ethnic Identity: Puerto Rican/Antillean
Denomination: Presbyterian Church (USA)
Ministry Role: Synod Networker
Ministry Context: Synod of the Northeast (New England, New Jersey and New York)
Seminary Attended: Princeton Theological Seminary, New Brunswick Theological Seminary

Muy estimados todos,

I open this letter in Spanish because it is my mother tongue – the language where I can speak and write from closer to my heart. I begin with this salutation as an affirmation that your seeking formal theological education anticipates for you an increased value for the service and leading of justice, equity, peace and love you are preparing for. By value I am not talking about an equivalence of your service to any monetary standard. What I am talking about is the abilities, perspectives and experiences you will gain for a more faithful, responsible and encouraging reading of the holy scriptures, of Christian traditions, and of the times. These abilities, perspectives and experiences you will gain – some by design and many seemingly by chance – will frame your leadership of the Church and of your Christian witness, be it in ways you know you will want to be and do, and in ways of being and doing you will seek to avoid altogether.

The journey of theological formation, no matter whether you are seeking to respond to a call to pastoral, social or scholarly service, is one that has meaning only if understood as a journey out of and into community. In the salutation of this letter the use of the plural in Spanish (estimados todos) is intended to be inclusive. Embracing the challenge of theological formation means that you are coming out of a community that affirmed your sense of discernment or call. It also means that you are joining a community of seekers of understanding, of making sense of life, faith, witness and mission. The use of the inclusive is an affirmation that you are not alone in this journey. You may feel alone at times in this journey. But you are a part of a community of seekers. As I engaged in theological formation, having an awareness of the existence of a community was grounding. A word of caution, not everybody in theological formation is a seeker. But know that, like you and I, there are other seekers around you in this moment.

What is problematic about the salutation is that, in Spanish, the inclusive is always gendered – it’s male. I am a cisgender man. I can choose not to worry about how these artificially set rules of the language affect everyone in their quest and right to self-determination. Gender is, indeed, only one aspect of how folks decide how they want to be known in and with the world. This journey will give you opportunities to affirm who you know yourself to be in the world – be that in acquiring new and more accurate language and/or finding that the way you present to the world is already good. This experience of self-determination is one you will engage using the limitations of human language – be that English, the dominant language of theological higher education in North America, and perhaps the language of your ancestors. I encourage you to acknowledge the limitation, but not to be bogged down by it. You are what you are! This experience is also one you will live with and among others. Being sure to exercise your right to self-determination is also accompanied with your ability to encourage others to do likewise. Solidarity in this journey, and in living in community, is essential. 

Esteemed colleagues and siblings, the journey to respond to the call of the divine to service – as a pastor, and/or a social organizer, and/or a scholar is for the wholehearted. But know that the strength and resilience to go through this journey emanate from the Holy Spirit through the community that sent you forth and the community that receives you. I pray you will find that community that will receive you soon! Godspeed! 

¡Fuerza! ¡Entereza! ¡Paz!


Resources Recommended:

Book: Meditations of the Heart by Howard Thurman – to stay grounded in the why of theological formation and vocational discernment.

Book: Eucharist and Globalization by Cláudio Carvalhaes – to challenge and be challenged about the why we do things the way we (Christians) do.

Website: HTI Open Plaza – to stay aware of new and different perspectives of approaching religious life, scholarship, thought, and witness through multiforme lenses.

Check out all of the seminary resources in our Resource Hub. If you wish to receive letters like this in your email inbox to accompany you on your seminary journey, Subscribe today!

No comments

Comments will be reviewed, and if necessary responded to as soon as possible. Note that pastors who have submitted letters do not receive or are expected to monitor these comments. Feel free to engage in conversation with others who utilize this site.