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Lilly Endowment Inc. Donates $900K Grant to Spelman College

As part of Lilly Endowment Inc.’s Thriving in Ministry Initiative, the foundation has donated a $900,000 grant to Spelman College to help establish or strengthen programs that help female pastors network with other clergy and lead them through leadership challenges in congregational ministry to prepare them for their future career.

Spelman College’s Women in Spiritual Discernment of Ministry (WISDOM) Center and Sisters Chapel will use the funds to create a WISDOM Center Fellowship in addition to two Sisterhood Summits, according to a Spelman release.

“Spelman’s WISDOM Center has made an indelible mark on the Spelman legacy and the presence of Black women in ministry,” said Dr. Neichelle Guidry, dean of Sisters Chapel and director of the WISDOM center. “Our goal with the Thriving in Ministry grant is to build upon that leadership and history while also subverting traditional models of leadership. You do not have to be in a church or pulpit to do ministry. We want to shift the definitions and traditional approach to ministry leadership.”

Dr. Neichelle GuidryDr. Neichelle Guidry

Under the new fellowship, Spelman’s Thriving in Ministry program plans to find cohorts of six Black millennial women pastors, activists and theologians and couple them with WISDOM fellows requesting mentors in those fields for one year.

Through the Thriving in Ministry program, Spelman hopes that it will:

  • Address the challenge of adequate mentorship by experimenting with a three-tiered approach to mentoring women at various stages of ministry: sage-to-fellows, fellows-to-fellows and fellows-to-scholars.
  • Pilot new models for relationship building across denominations and generations and offer early career pastors lifestyle tools to promote their flourishing.
  • Produce research data on the vocational experiences of Black millennial women in ministry and college students who are in the throes of discerning their life’s work.
  • Establish a national network of Spelman alumnae in ministry to galvanize this network around the College’s work, and to utilize it for future works of mentorship, ministry partnership and WISDOM Center collaboration.
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