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Training Hispanic church leaders is one goal of Brite's Borderlands Center.

The Rev. Luis Bernard, an ordained minister in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), was pastor of Beneva Christian Church in Sarasota, Fla., when the position of director at Brite's Borderlands Center for Latina/o Church Studies opened. When the church's national pastor for Hispanic ministries approached him about considering the position, Bernard hardly gave it a thought. But something struck a chord when Brite Dean Nancy Ramsay invited him to Fort Worth. He accepted the position and began his duties as director February 1.

What is the Borderlands Center?
The Borderlands program is intended to be a bridge between Anglos and Hispanics -- the Anglos are there and the Hispanics are there and often neither side talks to each other. As an educational institution, we have a goal of developing leadership in the Hispanic church; we want to get people educated, trained and ordained. We reach out to Hispanics to tell them about TCU, about Brite, about how to go through the education process. We provide workshops and classes, all taught in Spanish. We also do fellowship and worship services in a Hispanic environment.

Why is this kind of program important?
The Hispanic community is growing and we don't have enough pastors. If you're a second-, third- or fourth-generation Hispanic, you know English. But first-generation, even some second-generation immigrants are still Spanish-dominant. With this wave of immigration, there are so many who are Spanish-dominant, they aren't ready to come to TCU or to Brite. We'll make the transition to English, but at this point, if we don't teach in Spanish they won't get the training. A lot of these folks are going to enter the ministry in Hispanic congregations. In June we have a weeklong seminar called Brite Summer Institute, taught exclusively in Spanish. It's an intensive week. People from our region and across the state come and enjoy taking classes in Spanish.

What is the Anglo side of the interface?
In the fall, we have a lecture/workshop called Crossing Borders; in the spring, we have the Borderlands Lecture. What we try to do in these lectures is reach out to the Anglo side by bringing in scholars and lecturers who speak to our community at the university. For example, in April we brought in a Roman Catholic theologian from Boston College who spoke to us about Hispanic theology. Our goal is to work together as one church to build the kingdom.

What are your goals?
We want Latinos to understand what Brite is doing, to create awareness -- if they don't know about it, they won't come. Recruitment is important in creating a pool of candidates to go through our system and be trained. Individuals don't often have resources, so we provide programs to train church members, lay leaders and pastors themselves.

What would you like the church community to know?
We provide training in Spanish for church members, whether someone just wants to grow spiritually or wants to bump to another level, to learn how to be a Bible or Sunday school teacher or how to do evangelism. We provide the sort of program that strengthens the churches; it also helps pastors by creating a pool of people who are trained. We also have a two-year program in counseling, taught in Spanish. People can go through the program, then go back to their local church and assist their pastor in helping their brothers and sisters. It doesn't make them licensed counselors, but they're certified as religious workers and can provide services in a religious context

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