(RNS) — The Progressive National Baptist Convention plans to use a new $1 million grant to fund a five-year training program for ministers of the historically Black denomination as they adapt their preaching in an age changed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
It is one of 32 recipients in an invitational round of grants provided by the Lilly Endowment through its “Compelling Preaching Initiative.”
PNBC President David R. Peoples said in a statement that “the purpose of this program is to re-ignite the flames of prophetic preaching with PNBC churches and beyond.”
Denomination officials announced receipt of the grant at their midwinter board meeting in Phoenix in mid-January but made public on Monday (Jan. 30) details of their plans for the program, which will be led by the Rev. Gary V. Simpson, senior pastor of Concord Baptist Church of Christ in New York City.
“Now that we are at this stage in the pandemic’s life with us,” Simpson in a statement, “we are all facing challenges of hybridity, and so the program will also examine questions like, ‘What shape and form will our preaching take? How do we employ available technology? Are there emerging models of proclamation worth studying more diligently?’”
The PNBC plans to host workshops at its regional and national meetings and in a dozen cities over the next five years. A steering committee of practitioners and scholars will guide the program to help some 200 faith leaders with preaching methods and will create a network of resources for preachers.
The Lilly Endowment grants to the 32 organizations total $31.7 million and were distributed in November. Other recipients, whose individual grants were from $829,000 to $1 million, included the Episcopal Preaching Foundation, the Catholic Bishop of Chicago (Archdiocese of Chicago), Church of the Nazarene Inc., National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary and Christianity Today International.
Judith Cebula, communications director for Lilly Endowment, said the grants will be used by organizations for initiatives that will offer certificates and courses in preaching, guide preachers on gaining feedback from groups of their congregants, and share best practices for how to use various media to communicate effectively.
Lilly Endowment plans to distribute some 60 grants of up to $1.25 million to religious organizations in a competitive round of applications that are due on May 15.