Helping 50 Women in Ministry THRIVE
Fifty Black women in ministry, from 7 regions, 11 states and 11 denominations will benefit from a $1 million Lilly “Thrive” Grant to the new partnership between Rev. Dr. Ambassador Suzan Johnson Cook and her home church, Union Baptist Church in the Village of Harlem, New York. Black women from the tri-state New York area, the DMV, as well as Florida, Louisiana, Texas, and Kentucky will be blessed.
While a student at Union Theological Seminary, Cook, then a member of Union Baptist Church in Harlem, chose Union Baptist for her field placement, under the leadership of Dr. Ollie B Wells. Shortly after, the historic Mariners Temple Baptist Church elected her senior pastor and she became the first Black female senior pastor in the American Baptist Church denomination’s 200 year history.
Later she met the Rev. Calvin Presley, a United Methodist pastor, who asked her to lead a new program, the Black Women in Ministry program, funded by the Lilly Endowment, to help advance and place Black women in ministry. Four decades later, in her fortieth year in ministry, she returns home to Union Baptist Church, now pastored by the Rev. Brian D. Scott, who invited her “back home” to partner and lead the 21st century version of this ministry. Together they have received a grant of $1 million to help establish the Black Women in Ministry REAL THRIVE Initiative (R.E.A.L. stands for Relationship building, Equipping and Expanding, Access and leadership and Legacy development). It is part of Lilly Endowment Inc.’s Thriving in Ministry, an initiative that supports a variety of religious organizations across the nation as they create or strengthen programs that help pastors build relationships with experienced clergy who can serve as mentors and guide them through key leadership challenges in congregational ministry. Together they will have two cohorts of 25 senior pastors/mentors and church planters, who will help 25 of the next generation of Black women church leaders, primarily from the East Coast, and representing 12 different traditions.
Pastor Brian Scott, who now has 10 women in ministry on his staff, says, “We are delighted to welcome our ‘first daughter’ back home in her fortieth year. What a testament of God’s grace and goodness, and we look forward to being good stewards who provide insight and inspiration, as we all grow together in this post-COVID church world.”
“This is truly a blessing and a stained glass ceiling game changer,” said Dr. Cook, “not only for the 50 women who are now advancing, being blessed and being placed and elevated in parish ministries, but we hope it will help many generations who follow. It’s amazing to go from Union (Theological Seminary) to Union (Baptist Church) on this 40 year journey, from field placement to affecting and impacting the world. I’m glad to be back home, and so excited for the new journey these 50 sisters in ministry are now on. We’ve had our first gathering and it’s electric.”