Philadelphia’s Esperanza: Hope for American Cities

“How has a community-strengthening organization founded and led by Hispanic clergy, with its mission "to serve the least of these," achieved such extraordinary success on so many fronts in Philadelphia's troubled North End? ”

Team Members/Contributors

James M Ault, Jr. New York Theological Seminary Contact Me

About this project grant for researchers

With over 160 hours of intimate ethnographic video filmed in 2016 and follow-up filming to be done with key characters in 2019, this project will portray Esperanza’s remarkable and multifaceted community-strengthening work in North Philadelphia, exploring its theological, spiritual and relational foundations. That includes its extraordinarily effective educational work with youth, which early roughcuts edited from our footage have focused on in its public charter high school and college. We will also build portraits of its remarkably effective business corridor development work, its housing, immigration and job counseling services, its national and international outreach, along with the work of its central leadership in defining its missions and setting the tone for the wider organization.

Several other remarkable aspects of Esperanza’s work hold important lessons for the North American church. One is the impressive racial/ethnic diversity of its leadership. Another is that, despite its faith-based Christian commitments, it includes and harnesses the dedicated efforts of individuals from diverse religious backgrounds: Jewish, Buddhist and even atheist. And, finally, in its community and national outreach, it routinely bridges partisan divides often paralyzing our political life, having, for example, both Mike Pence and Nancy Pelosi speak at its recent National Hispanic Prayer Breakfast.