Practices of hope: the public presence of the church in Puerto Rico
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This dissertation examines local congregations in Puerto Rico to help articulate a theology of sustainable hope revealed through their outreach practices and ecclesiologies of public and political participation. Nurtured by qualitative research with six Christian congregations in Puerto Rico, the work moves from an articulation of context, hope, practice, and future to reveal its aim of liberation through sustainable hope. Puerto Rico’s continuous colonial history, and most recently its devastation during and after Hurricane María, heightened the socio-economic crisis that continues to hinder the hope of Puerto Ricans inside and outside the island. In this dissertation, I analyze the operations of political systems that suppress hope in Puerto Rico. I weave the theme of a theology of hope, with the fields of ecclesiology, memory studies, postcolonial and decolonial theory, liberation theology, and the study of social movements to build a model that puts hope at the center of our practices and moves toward a recipe for a hope that is sustainable in practice. Along with many other theologians and theorists, I converse with the work of theologians Rubem Alves and Ellen Ott Marshall. Alves shapes the definition of hope in this dissertation by challenging how society is organized and revealing how this organization oppresses imagination and people’s liberative agency. Marshall describes hope as elastic, making room for the expectation of a hopeful future that coexists in tension with the challenges of our daily lives. My writing is framed by an ecclesiological context; an articulation of a hope that does not remain static and responds to the challenges of colonialism, the erasure of memory, and oppression; and a liberation theology of creation. I present a way to articulate a hope that is able to sustain the people of Puerto Rico through their practices of hope.