St. Luke’s Atlanta and Church Anew Receive $1.25 Million to Amplify Diverse Preaching Voices
The Grant, awarded by Lilly Endowment Inc., seeks to transform preaching in mainline Christian churches
Atlanta, Ga. (Oct. 30, 2023) — St. Luke’s Atlanta and Church Anew have received a grant of $1.25 million from Lilly Endowment Inc. to establish “Enfleshing Witness: Rewilding Otherwise Preaching” in support of the development of preachers of color in mainline churches.
"Our goal is to rewild the preacher and the sermon, allowing them to flourish in the diverse landscapes of the communities we live in," said the Rev. Winnie Varghese. "By encouraging preachers of color to embrace their unique perspectives and draw from their rich cultural backgrounds, we aim to amplify the voices that are often overlooked and bring new life to the art of preaching."
The Enfleshing Witness program, spearheaded by a team of exemplary preachers across various denominations, seeks to address the vital need for increased diversity of leadership and voices within the American Christian tradition. The Enfleshing Witness leadership team includes the Rev. Dr. Eric Barreto, Weyerhaeuser Associate Professor of New Testament at Princeton Theological Seminary, the Rev. Dr. Valerie Bridgeman, Dean and Vice President for Academic Affairs at Methodist Theological School in Ohio and founder and president of WomanPreach!, Inc., the Rev. Matthew Ian Fleming, founding director of Church Anew, the Rev. Mihee Kim-Kort, author and co-pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Annapolis, Md., the Rev. Wesley Morris, senior pastor of Faith Community Church in Greensboro, N.C., the Rev. Dr. Theresa S. Thames, Associate Dean of Religious Life and of the Chapel at Princeton University, and The Rev. Winnie Varghese, rector of St. Luke’s Atlanta. With a focus on reclaiming forgotten storytelling traditions, embracing innovative digital communication methods and incorporating the creative talents of artists into the sermon preparation process, this initiative aims to revolutionize the practice of preaching.
The program is funded through Lilly Endowment’s Compelling Preaching Initiative, which strives to foster and support preaching that inspires, encourages and guides people to come to know and love God and to live out their Christian faith more fully.
The Enfleshing Witness initiative will unfold over five years, with 50 preachers of color joining local cohorts, sharing knowledge and exploring alternative forms of preaching. These preachers will participate in platforming retreats, where they will enhance their digital proclamation skills and create compelling sermon videos that resonate with diverse audiences.
Congregations will also play a pivotal role in supporting their preachers, experimenting with creative ways to connect with their communities and engaging them with the good news. These local efforts will be supported by the solidarity formed among preachers within their respective communities.
Furthermore, all materials generated within the cohort gatherings will be made accessible to an engaged community of more than 325,000 Christian leaders and 1,500 congregations through Church Anew. This collaboration will foster imaginative approaches to preaching and help breathe new life into the practice of preaching across the nation.
"Enfleshing Witness: Rewilding Otherwise Preaching" is poised to reshape the landscape of preaching, amplify diverse voices and usher in a new era of preaching that reflects the rich tapestry of cultures within the Christian Church. With support from Lilly Endowment, St. Luke's and Church Anew will create a sustainable initiative that transforms preaching, amplifies shared visions, and invites the entire Church to embrace God's wild dreams for communities.
The proposal written by St. Luke’s and Church Anew is one of 81 receiving grants through this competitive round of the Compelling Preaching Initiative. The organizations receiving grants reflect the diversity of Christianity in the United States and are affiliated with mainline Protestant, evangelical, Catholic, Orthodox, Anabaptist and Pentecostal faith communities. Many of the organizations receiving grants are rooted in the Black Church and in Hispanic and Asian American Christian traditions.
“Throughout history, preachers often have needed to adapt their preaching practices to engage new generations of hearers more effectively,” said Christopher L. Coble, who is Lilly Endowment’s vice president for religion. “We are pleased that the organizations receiving grants in this initiative will help pastors and others in ministry engage in the kinds of preaching needed today to ensure that the gospel message is heard and accessible for all audiences.”
Lilly Endowment launched the Compelling Preaching Initiative in 2022 because of its interest in supporting projects that help to nurture the religious lives of individuals and families and foster the growth and vitality of Christian congregations in the United States.Learn more about the Enfleshing Witness program here: https://churchanew.org/enfleshingwitness.