ITC lands $1 million Lilly grant to help Black congregations thrive

The Rev. Matthew Wesley Williams has launched ITC 2.0. Williams is president of the institution.
The Rev. Matthew Wesley Williams has launched ITC 2.0. Williams is president of the institution.

Institution’s second $1 million grant from Lilly

The Atlanta-based Interdenominational Theological Center was recently awarded a $1 million grant from the Lilly Endowment to address congregational development for Black churches in the Southeast.

Through its “Thriving Prophetic Congregations” project, ITC will work directly with Black churches to “reimagine” their connection to the communities they serve in wake of the effects of the pandemic, racial unrest, gentrification, unemployment and changing demographics.

“This is a timely effort that promises to help revitalize the social impact of the Black church,” ITC’s President, the Rev. Matthew Wesley Williams, said in a press release announcing the grant.

At 44, Williams is the youngest person to lead the institution, which was formed in 1958. He earned a master’s of divinity degree from ITC in 2004.

Williams came in with a plan, ITC 2.0, to completely overhaul the institution and make it more viable and attractive to students, faculty and donors. He also wanted to make it more responsive to the communities that its graduates serve.

“When you leave the ITC, if all you know is preaching, teaching and administering the sacraments, then we have failed you,” Williams said in a previous interview. “Leadership in our community has never been either sacred or secular. It’s always been both.”

ITC will implement the program in partnership with the Community Innovation Lab in the Department of Urban Studies and Planning at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the Herman J. Russell Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, and Crossing Capital Group, based in New Jersey.

The initiative is funded through Lilly Endowment’s Thriving Congregations Initiative, a national project which focuses on strengthening congregations, so they can help members deepen their faith and contribute to the surrounding community and the world, according to a release.

ITC is one of 92 organizations awarded funding.

Earlier this year, ITC received a $1 million unrestricted grant from the Lilly Endowment to support its new strategic direction.

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