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Marti’s Latest Research Explores Latino Protestant Congregations

The Latino Protestant Congregations (LPC) Project, directed by Dr. Mark Mulder and Congregational Studies Team member Dr. Gerardo Marti, is a team-based examination of Latino Protestants in the U.S. This project is a close look at a large gap in the current literature, to explore the variety and complexity of Latino Protestant congregations in the United States, focusing on a qualitative approach.

From their website,

Our motivation for a larger project on Latino Protestant churches comes not only from a realization of how distressingly little we know, but also from a conviction that direct observation and careful interviewing will challenge common sense assumptions and tease out what researchers, denominational leaders, and local church pastors should be paying attention to. The research seeks to draw data from all strands of Protestantism (Evangelical, Pentecostal, and Mainline), to be attentive to generational dynamics (new immigrants to well-established Hispanics), to notice alternative liturgical structures (language dominance, places of worship, styles of music and preaching), and to be sensitive to the levels and degrees of Catholic influence and resistance.

Most importantly, our research resists homogenizing “Latinos” to be a singular ethnic or racial group but explicitly acknowledges that Hispanics in the United States are made of groups that are both recent and long-time residents with different countries of origin and different linguistic characteristics. In capturing the variety of Latino Protestantism, we wish to bring knowledge driven attention to how important these churches are to the present and future of American religion.

Because the project is team-based, all the team members will approach their congregations focusing on the congregational culture, including the activities, artifacts, and accounts of the leaders and members within each church. Each team member will frame their observations with a few key questions (from the website):

Who attends the congregation?

What do the rituals look like?

Which rituals are most significant to attenders?

What is the unifying vision of the congregation?

What kind of missional presence is practiced?

What are the props and residue of the rituals?

What kinds of spaces are used for worship?

Where are the sacred spaces?

What are the important stories that are retold?

What are the histories and theologies?

What are the prominent symbols, images, and metaphors?

From these starting points, the research team will use other tools in the Tool-Kit for Studying Congregations to develop narrative descriptions of a broad range of Latino Protestant congregational life.

Check out our post by LPC Research Fellow Lil Milagro Henriquez Faith and Political Engagement: Latina/o Protestants At the Intersection.

About the Author
Dr. Gerardo Marti is the L. Richardson King Associate Professor of Sociology and chair of the Sociology Department at Davidson College. He is a member of the Congregational Studies Team.