Esperanza has been awarded a $1 million grant from the Lilly Endowment

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE. Philadelphia, Pa. Esperanza has been awarded a $1 million grant from the Lilly Endowment to implement the Esperanza Thriving Congregations program, which will help to reinvigorate approximately 20 Latino churches across the Greater Philadelphia area.

Esperanza recognizes that thriving congregations are those that fulfill the mission to serve as the “hands and feet” of Christ in various ways – living out their calling through the activities of evangelization, discipleship, worship, prayer and service. Esperanza will recruit churches willing to make a 2-year commitment to a learning and reflective cohort and foster meaningful opportunities for engagement and application. Esperanza’s staff and contracted trainers, each familiar with the needs and experiences of Latino congregations, will walk leadership and selected congregational members through various stages to articulate and clarify their mission and purpose, and in turn, define how their congregation will choose to respond to a changing society.

These local congregations are navigating several key shifts: gentrification of traditionally Latino areas in the Greater Philadelphia Region, and the impact on their ministry relationship to those physical neighborhoods; whether to identify as a Latino or multi-ethnic congregation, and how these decisions affect engagement of congregants and/or the unchurched across generations; and the impact of technology. This is increasingly important given the current COVID-19 pandemic The program will begin with an assessment process to reflect upon the cultural shifts, neighborhood demographics, needs and relational assets; and an internal assessment of the giftings and callings of leadership and church members. With these missional declarations, congregations will be reinvigorated, enhance their current ministry components and possibly birth ministry programs and outreach that which represents the “hands and feet” activities of their articulated mission and will receive funds to bring those components to life.

Esperanza anticipates working with approximately 20 churches across two cohorts during the five-year grant period. Esperanza will evaluate and assess feedback from participating congregations, contributing to Lilly Endowment the lessons we learn and share with communities of faith about the growing, changing, and emergent Latino church. Mentorship and relationship will serve as tools for ongoing sustainability of the program and amplify its impact long-term. The proposed project is consistent with Esperanza’s own work to forge an opportunity community in the heart of North Philadelphia – a place where all aspire to live and have spaces in which to engage in spiritual practice and community.  We recognize that thriving congregations are a critical component of healthy communities and look forward to implementing this important initiative.

For further details or interest in participating in this project, you may contact Rev. Rubén Ortiz at rortiz@esperanza.us.


Esperanza is a national community-based social benefit organization founded in 1986 by the Reverend Luis Cortés Jr., and the Hispanic Clergy of Philadelphia & Vicinity with the biblical mandate to serve and advocate for “the least of these” (Matthew 25:40). Beginning with a local initiative, with programs targeted to address the unmet needs of North Philadelphia’s Hispanic community, Rev. Cortés is now sought by national and international leaders alike on issues of economic and workforce development, housing, immigration, and education. Under his leadership, Esperanza has grown from a small operation to a $52 million organization with more than 500 employees. Visit www.esperanza.us or follow us on social media @esperanza_us on Twitter and Instagram, EsperanzaUSA on Facebook and Esperanza US on YouTube.