In January 2019, the In Trust Center participated in a three-day event in Indianapolis called Gathering First Fruits: National Summit on the Economics of Ministry. Funded by Lilly Endowment Inc., the summit focused on economic challenges facing church leaders and attracted leaders from more than 100 theological schools, churches, denominations, and organizations. The summit was a collaboration among one principal funder (Lilly Endowment Inc.) and coordinating organizations, including the Association of Theological Schools, the Center for Congregations in Indianapolis, and the In Trust Center. In Trust Center president Amy Kardash served on the steering committee, the In Trust Center hosted a resource table, and staff introduced presenters and workshops over the three days.

The gathering provided attendees with the opportunity to connect with Lilly-funded organizations and learn about the work of these organizations, especially as part of three initiatives — Economic Challenges Facing Future Ministers, Building Capacity in Historically Black Theological Schools, and Economic Challenges Facing Pastoral Leaders. The In Trust Center is the coordinating organization for the Building Capacity in Historically Black Theological Schools initiative.

Also at the summit, the In Trust Center’s senior consultant, Delores Brisbon, the In Trust Center staff, and the presidents, deans, development officers, board chairs, and church leaders from the six participating schools of the Building Capacity initiative — Hood Theological Seminary, Howard University School of Divinity, Interdenominational Theological Center, Payne Theological Seminary, Samuel DeWitt Proctor School of Theology at Virginia Union University, and Shaw University Divinity School — shared their learnings and plans for their future work. Group discussions focused on how the schools can take what they have learned in their work to those outside of the initiative.

In addition, Michael Brown, president of Payne, and Vergel Lattimore, president of Hood, hosted a workshop titled “The Gift of Black Theological Education: Educational, Economic, and Community Empowerment for the Church and the World.” The leaders of the two seminaries reflected on what they have gained as part of the Building Capacity initiative, highlighting the importance of relationship building and discussing next steps in bringing theological education to the wider community. Now in its fourth year, the Building Capacity in Historically Black Theological Schools initiative has provided opportunities to build both capacity and community within and among its six participating institutions.

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