Shaw University Divinity School awarded $1 million Thriving Congregations Initiative Grant

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Divinity School launches Black Church Leadership Academy

Raleigh, NC — Shaw University Divinity School has received a grant of $1 million from Lilly Endowment Inc. to help establish the Black Church Leadership Academy. The program is funded through Lilly Endowment’s Thriving Congregations Initiative. The aim of the national initiative is to strengthen Christian congregations so they can help people deepen their relationships with God, build strong relationships with each other, and contribute to the flourishing of local communities and the world. Lilly Endowment is making nearly $93 million in grants through the initiative. 

The grants will support organizations as they work directly with congregations and help them gain clarity about their values and missions, explore and understand better the communities in which they serve, and draw upon their theological traditions as they adapt ministries to meet changing needs. 

Shaw University Divinity School is launching the Black Church Leadership Academy to support the thriving and revitalization of Black Baptist congregations in North Carolina, and the broader Black Church, regionally and nationally.  Through critical engagement with pastoral and lay leaders, the initiative will help deepen the spiritual and prophetic vitality of congregations to seek innovative practices for ministry in today’s ever-changing world. 

“Churches are often a primary resource to their communities. By revitalizing churches, we will bring hope and needed solutions to people looking for help,” stated Dr. Paulette Dillard, President of Shaw University. 

Dr. Johnny Bernard Hill, Dean of the Divinity School stated, “This bold and transformative program is an extraordinary moment for Black Baptist congregations in North Carolina by offering a path to new ways of discovering spiritual awakening so desperately needed in today’s world.” 

The program seeks to help awaken the deep spiritual and prophetic roots of the Black Baptist Church for effective and transformative ministry for the present and future generations.

Shaw University Divinity School is one of 92 organizations taking part in the initiative. They represent and serve churches in a broad spectrum of Christian traditions, including Anabaptist, Baptist, Episcopal, evangelical, Lutheran, Methodist, Mennonite, Pentecostal, Presbyterian, Reformed, Restoration, Roman Catholic and Orthodox, as well as congregations that describe themselves as nondenominational. Several organizations serve congregations in Black, Hispanic, and Asian-American traditions. 

“In the midst of a rapidly changing world, Christian congregations are grappling with how they can best carry forward their ministries,” said Christopher Coble, Lilly Endowment’s vice president for religion. “These grants will help congregations assess their ministries and draw on practices in their theological traditions to address new challenges and better nurture the spiritual vitality of the people they serve.” 

The Divinity School was also awarded a $1 million dollar grant to support Divinity students to help reduce student indebtedness, enhance its scholarship programs, and strengthen its overall ability to serve its students, faculty and alumni community as well.

Lilly Endowment launched the Thriving Congregations Initiative in 2019 as part of its commitment to support efforts that enhance the vitality of Christian congregations. 

Shaw University Divinity School helps to form visionary leaders as pastors, activists, chaplains, missionaries, and pastoral counselors. The Divinity School celebrates values of integrity, social justice, black liberation theology, womanism, and prophetic preaching.

Founded in 1865, Shaw University is the oldest historically Black university in the Southern United States. A private liberal arts institution affiliated with the Baptist church, Shaw has a rich history steeped in tradition, activism, and service, Shaw fulfills its mission to transform its diverse community of learners into global leaders.

Lilly Endowment Inc. is an Indianapolis-based private philanthropic foundation created in 1937 by J.K. Lilly Sr. and sons Eli and J.K. Jr. through gifts of stock in their pharmaceutical business, Eli Lilly & Company. Although the gifts of stock remain a financial bedrock of the Endowment, it is a separate entity from the company, with a distinct governing board, staff and location. In keeping with the founders’ wishes, the Endowment exists to support the causes of religion, education and community development. 

The Endowment funds significant programs throughout the United States, especially in the field of religion. However, it maintains a special commitment to its hometown, Indianapolis and home state, Indiana. The principal aim of the Endowment’s grantmaking in religion is to deepen and enrich the lives of Christians in the United States, primarily by seeking out and supporting efforts that enhance the vitality of congregations and strengthen their pastoral and lay leadership.

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