International student finds home, new focus for ministry at Southwestern Seminary

Music rehearsal with worship band

From growing up in Mexico City, Mexico, to moving to Fort Worth, Texas, Hugo Encorrada, a Master of Music in Worship Leadership student at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, has followed God’s calling for his life every step of the way.

While in Mexico City, Encorrada was serving in a local church, but felt led to pursue higher education at the seminary level. Because of the online opportunities offered at Southwestern Seminary, Encorrada was able to attend classes from his home country.

“At the beginning, it was easy for me to start here because I was studying online with the Master of Theological Studies program in Spanish,” said Encorrada.

Encorrada switched from the MTS in Spanish program to the English language Master of Music program after moving to Fort Worth in 2021 at the encouragement of Chuck Lewis, associate dean of the School of Church Music and Worship (SCMW).

“I arrived here two-and-a-half years ago and I visited with the International Student Office, and they helped me the whole way,” said Encorrada. “They gave me everything I needed when I approached the council at Mexico, and they told me I was good to study here.”

Encorrada said that it was a large “leap of faith” for him and his family to move to Texas as he and his wife, Adriana, have six children.

Since being at Southwestern, Encorrada said that studying in person has helped deepen his learning in the various areas he has studied as well as making theology a priority in his thinking.

“One of the phrases that has been on my mind lately is ‘your theology informs your philosophy which informs your methodology,’” said Encorrada. “I think that is one of the main things I have learned at Southwestern because it has changed completely the way I approach worship leading in the church, even though I have been doing this for 30 years in Mexico.”

Master of Music student, Hugo Encorrada, and his family took a huge “leap of faith,” when they moved from Mexico City to Fort Worth so he could begin studying at Southwestern Seminary two-and-a-half years ago.

Encorrada said that what he has learned at Southwestern is not only shaping what he thinks about worship leadership, but is actively changing how he practices leading worship in his own church, The Heights en Español in Richardson, Texas.

“One thing I have learned from my classes is the Scripture-guided worship approach,” said Encorrada. “I love it. I have been using it since I learned about it and when I had the opportunity to do my recital, my worship project, that is the approach I used, and it is the approach I use right now in the ministry.”

Encorrada is set to graduate with his Master of Music degree in December, but he has his eyes set on another degree following his graduation.

“I am at the end of my program, but I already applied for the Ph.D. program,” said Encorrada. “I am very interested in helping mainly the Hispanic community because we don’t have any resources currently in Spanish related to Scripture-guided worship.”

Encorrada said he would enjoy being able to research how one can implement and develop a worship culture in multicultural churches, specifically churches with a large Hispanic presence. Encorrada would also like to prepare future generations to lead in various areas by earning his Doctor of Philosophy.

“I will try to be in the academic side of things because I love teaching and I think it is one of my spiritual gifts,” said Encorrada. “I would like to develop my Ph.D. so I can work in the academic area, but also so I can write because I think we need more resources in Spanish.”

Encorrada said that he wants to develop resources in the area of discipleship as it is “important that the next generations are prepared with this vision.” Encorrada said he would also enjoy advising churches on how they can change and adjust their practices to be more faithful in adhering to Scripture.

Encorrada helps lead worship at his church, The Heights en Español in Richardson, Texas, and also in Cantico Nuevo, the Latin band that assists in leading worship in chapel at Southwestern Seminary.

With beginning his studies in the Spanish degree program, Encorrada does not hold back in encouraging Hispanic students from attending Southwestern Seminary.

“I saw a Hispanic couple visiting the campus and I had the opportunity to talk to them,” said Encorrada. “I encouraged them that if they have the opportunity to come here and do their studies, it will change the way they do ministry. I told them if they couldn’t come here in person, they should do the Spanish Master of Theological Studies program.”

Encorrada said that he encourages any and all students to join the Southwestern community in person because of the various programs, but specifically the “wonderful programs in worship” where he is a student.

One of the extra-curricular activities Encorrada is involved in is participating in the Latin band that assists in leading worship in chapel.

“I have the blessing of being in the Latin band here within the School of Church Music and Worship,” said Encorrada. “Worshiping together with the community of believers is something that you cannot experience if you are not here.”

Since studying in person, Encorrada has been able to meet and get to know several professors, but one in particular has stood out to Encorrada as most impactful.

“Dr. Crider is one of the most influential professors I have had so far in my time at Southwestern,” said Encorrada, referring to Joseph Crider, dean of the SCMW. “All of my professors have been really good, but since my passion is now on Scripture-guided worship and he wrote that book on it, I love that I have been doing some things with him.”

Encorrada enjoys that he has been able to go to conferences with Crider and learn from watching him lead worship at different events on campus.

Moving his family from Mexico City to Fort Worth has not only had an impact on Encorrada’s studies, but it has also impacted his own children who are now college-aged adults.

“Living here on campus is something that I often really, really enjoy,” said Encorrada. “I’m here with my wife and my kids and now three of them are enrolled in Texas Baptist College, so doing life here in Texas as a family is something I am grateful to God for.”

Encorrada emphasized the importance of living on campus and attending classes in person in order to grow alongside others in a community.

“Being in a community and sharing common goals and helping each other to continue in our spiritual journey is something I appreciate,” said Encorrada. “Living here at the seminary and hanging out with all of the professors, along with all of my experiences on campus, help me also in my ministry.

Encorrada continues to follow God’s will for his life through studying at Southwestern Seminary, something that started by studying online from a different country.