The director, Samuel Escobar, a professor at Eastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wynnewood, said there is a great need for such locally produced works in the Protestant churches that are experiencing strong growth in the cities.
``Many materials produced in Latin America do not meet the specific needs of the Hispanic communities here,'' he said. ``The project has been fruitful because these are people who have a story to tell.''
The project is co-sponsored by the seminary, Hispanic Clergy of Philadelphia, and the Theological Fraternity of Latinoamericana, with underwriting by the Pew Charitable Trusts. Other books include introductions to new Christians and a manual on church administration.
Rodriguez, as president of the local Hispanic Clergy, said he often visits other churches, where his reputation as ``el poeta de Filadelfia'' precedes him and congregations want to hear his work.
``People like it, and I've been able to keep the interest in the church,'' he said. It reaches church members beyond ``just preaching . . . to make them see the pain of the city dying.''
Rodriguez, 51, has been pastor for seven years at First Spanish, Hancock and York Streets, the city's oldest Hispanic Protestant church. He spent his first 41 years in his native Puerto Rico.
Crossroads has 115 poems. The section called ``Con El'' - ``With Him'' - has poems about God, including Rodriguez's reworking of the Lord's Prayer.
``Con Ellos'' - ``With Them'' - offers poetic stories of poverty, addiction and neglect in the community.
``Click click'' is a narrative of a recent blizzard when Rodriguez watched TV, trying with no success to find news of the storm's effect on his own neighborhood.
``Nothing was coming here. So I was clicking the remote control: Click click. What happened was in Center City, the suburbs, everybody was getting clear, but here, nothing happens,'' he said.
The Rev. Will Rocha, associate director of Hispanic Clergy, said the project seeks to develop ``native Latino writers here in this area'' who draw on what they know to attract churchgoers.
``The experience of the Latino church in Philadelphia is very much different from Latin American countries,'' Rocha said.
The Rev. Miguel Diaz, pastor of Second Missionary Church on 4th near Girard Avenue, wrote ``Todos las Cosas Nuevas'' for the project. He calls it an introduction ``for new believers to Jesus Christ,'' written at an eighth grade Spanish reading level because many who come to the church are school dropouts.
Other authors are Miguel Palladino, with an introduction to Christianity, and Jose L. Ortiz, who wrote a handbook for church administration. The books are offered for sale from the authors' churches and from Hispanic Clergy, 215-324-0746.
The weekend conference, at the seminary and at Hispanic Clergy's offices, has invited two dozen writers and others.
While Proyecto develops religious literature for local Protestants, the National Conference of Catholic Bishops seeks another approach for Hispanic Catholics. The bishops, meeting this week in Washington, began voting on a first-ever U.S. Spanish translation of the sacramentary, a book of prayers priests use at Mass.
Approval by mail-in ballot, and then the Vatican, would lead to the first unified liturgy for the nation's 21 million Hispanics. They are using a half-dozen liturgies drawn from Mexico, Spain and Latin America.
A Sampling Here are a few excerpts from some of the Rev. Jaime Rodriguez's poems.
En la iglesia me contrataron
para ir a buscar a las almas,
pero yo me rebele en lugar de eso
me lance a busca a las personas.
(In the church they contracted me
to take care of the souls,
but I became rebellious,
and instead went looking for the persons.)
Click click (excerpts)
Inconsciente y mentalmente
comienzo a remedar a los
reporteros de la television:
Desde el barrio latino:
Sorry, no TV channels reporting.
. . . Que maravilloso el control remoto.
CLICK CLICK CLICK CLICK CLICK.
(Unconsciously I start
to mentally imitate
the reporters on television:
From the Latino neighborhood:
. . . It's such a miracle, the remote control.
CLICK CLICK CLICK CLICK CLICK.)
From ``Cruce de Caminos,'' by Jaime Rodriguez