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Howard University School of Divinity Receives $1.25 million grant from Lilly Endowment Inc.

The grant will support African American preaching and congregational care at select churches

Dean Kenyatta Gilbert

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Howard University’s School of Divinity (HUSD) has been awarded a $1.25 million grant from the Lilly Endowment Inc. to develop a comprehensive set of resources aimed at supporting clergy, lay leaders, seminarians, and theological educators. The grant will also assist Black congregations in implementing effective practices and establish a repository of research-based resources focused on preaching, congregational care, and social justice advocacy.  

The resource, initially housed online through the School of Divinity’s website will provide a valuable hub for congregations to learn, grow, and collaborate. In the future, plans are underway to establish a physical space where the community can access these resources. This initiative aims to empower African American preachers and congregations locally and nationally by equipping them with the necessary tools to address social justice issues, enhance congregational care, and deliver impactful sermons.`

The initiative, funded through Lilly Endowment’s Compelling Preaching Initiative, seeks to foster and support preaching that inspires, encourages, and guides individuals to deepen their relationship with God and live out their Christian faith more fully. The Howard University School of Divinity is one of 142 organizations receiving grants through this initiative, reflecting the diversity of Christianity in the United States including mainline Protestant, evangelical, Catholic, Orthodox Christian, and Pentecostal faith communities. Notably, many of these organizations are rooted in Black church, Hispanic, and Asian Christian traditions. 

“Preaching, by all accounts, is the foremost venerated and formative practice of the Church. African American preaching in North America, historically and contemporarily, has been esteemed for its aesthetic richness, persistent calls for justice, ecclesiastical reform, moral and ethical responsibility, spiritual redemption, and transformation. It is one means God uses to inject hope in a society of chaos and confusion,” said Kenyatta R. Gilbert, Ph.D., Dean of the Howard University School of Divinity. 

The grant will enable the School of Divinity to launch a national podcast dedicated to African American preaching, with a specific focus on social justice, congregational care, and preaching. Additionally, the initiative will establish an annual preaching symposium, providing mentoring opportunities for prospective graduates who will be paired with experienced clergy members. The program will also offer an opportunity for alumni to return to campus and mentor current students. Furthermore, the School of Divinity plans to develop two non-degree certificate programs in African American preaching. One centering a homiletical concentration tailored for HUSD’s current Master of Divinity and Doctor of Ministry degree-seeking students and the other will offer a pathway for non-degree seeking students to access a comprehensive curriculum covering the fundamentals and critical understanding of preaching.  

These efforts will involve establishing partnerships with other churches to enhance the program's impact and reach. Lastly, the School of Divinity aims to develop a teaching curriculum for its Doctor of Ministry program, which will be offered fully online. 

The $1.25 million grant from the Lilly Endowment Inc. will support Howard University’s School of Divinity's commitment to equipping individuals with the necessary tools and knowledge to engage in transformative preaching, congregational care, and social justice advocacy. Through these initiatives, the School of Divinity will continue to play a vital role in empowering African American clergy and lay leaders, while also enriching the broader Christian community. 

Media Contact: Simone Boyd; simone.boyd@howard.edu


About Howard University  

Founded in 1867, Howard University is a private, research university comprising 14 schools and colleges. Students pursue more than 140 programs of study leading to undergraduate, graduate and professional degrees. The University operates with a commitment to Excellence in Truth and Service and has produced three Schwarzman Scholars, four Marshall Scholars, four Rhodes Scholars, 12 Truman Scholars, 25 Pickering Fellows and more than 165 Fulbright recipients. Howard also produces more on-campus African American Ph.D. recipients than any other university in the United States. For more information on Howard University, visit www.howard.edu.  

About Lilly Endowment Inc. 

Lilly Endowment Inc. is a private foundation created in 1937 by J.K. Lilly Sr. and his sons Eli and J.K. Jr. through gifts of stock in their pharmaceutical business, Eli Lilly and Company. While those gifts remain the 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 supports the causes of community development, education and religion and maintains a special commitment to its hometown, Indianapolis, and home state, Indiana. A principal aim of the Endowment’s religion grantmaking 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 the pastoral and lay leadership of Christian communities. The Endowment also seeks to improve public understanding of diverse religious traditions by supporting fair and accurate portrayals of the role religion plays in the United States and across the globe.