Rev. Suzan Johnson Prepare dinner’s Black Girls Program on the Division receives a $ 1 million grant

(RNS) – A new program in which black women in the ministry work with mentors has received a $ 1 million Lilly Endowment Scholarship.

Rev. Suzan Johnson Cook, former US Ambassador for International Religious Freedom, and her home church, the Union Baptist Church in Harlem, New York, have joined the REAL THRIVE initiative. The program includes women in metropolitan New York and Washington, as well as Florida, Kentucky, Louisiana and Texas.

The acronym REAL stands for relationship building, equipment and expansion, access and leadership as well as legacy development. There will be two groups of 25 senior pastors and church planters present to serve as mentors to women representing about a dozen denominations.

The scholarship is part of Lilly Endowment’s Thriving in Ministry focus, which helps US religious organizations launch or improve programs that help seasoned ministers mentor newer pastors as they lead churches.

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The Rev. Suzan Johnson Cook. Courtesy photo

“This is truly a blessing and a game changer for glass ceilings, not only for the 50 women who are now advancing, being blessed and placed in parish offices and exalted by this scholarship, but we hope it will help many generations that follow” Cook said in an announcement made Monday (Feb. 1).

Cook is the former minister of Mariners’ Temple Baptist Church, where she was the first senior black woman pastor in American Baptist Churches USA history.

In a recent interview with the Religion News Service, Cook said the initiative marks a new addition to her endeavors as a faith leader, entrepreneur, and diplomat as she continues to support women in the ministry.

“Right now, my concern is with legacy to make sure our people are whole and healthy,” she said.

Christopher L. Coble, vice president of religion at Lilly Endowment, said programs like the REAL Thrive Initiative are particularly helping ministers with important career transitions.

“When pastors have the opportunity to build meaningful relationships with seasoned colleagues,” he said in the announcement, “they are able to negotiate the challenges of the ministry and their leadership thrives.”

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RNS receives funding from Lilly Endowment.

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