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“Equip the Saints” is asset-based program of the Massachusetts Council of Churches, designed to support preachers in preparing, preaching biblically, beautifully socially-engaged sermons, grounded in the traditions of Black churches and open to all.

We envision a program that is unashamedly Black, unapologetically Christian, and unabashedly inclusive. 

Purpose: Our purpose in “Equip the Saints” is first and foremost support for Black clergy. From our design meeting, Black clergy shared that they felt the despair and malaise of their congregation, and their own impending sense of burnout through the multiple pandemics of the past three years. Everything we do in this program point towards increased vocational support. We believe this focus on support for Black clergy is just and appropriate, given the systemic racism of our region and escalating white supremacist violence. Our overall objective also includes equipping all clergy to faithfully and biblically preach against the idolatry of white supremacy cloaked in Christianity and preach towards the unity of the body of Christ. 

Process: Black clergy from across the Church in Massachusetts will be eligible to apply to join Cohorts of 20 preacher-practitioners per year over the course of five program years, starting in June 2024. We will support and strengthen compelling preaching through regular podcasts, annual clergy cohorts, via “Preachers-in-Residence,” and peer-to-peer support with an annual Preaching Symposium, “Blow the Trumpet in Zion.”

We prioritize Black preacher mental health with two sessions of support from a preacher-social worker each year. We aim to cultivate and strengthen a fellowship of committed and confident preachers across Massachusetts.

Each Cohort will begin their preaching formation journey together with a pilgrimage to the African Meeting House on Nantucket, an icon of local resilient Black preaching that very few people other than wealthy white individuals have been able to visit. 

Each Cohort will engage in a rhythm of learning, practice, and reflection with Preachers-in-Residence. Preachers will then return to their congregation to practice their new skills or ideas. A second session returns to the Cohort for a reflection on their practice. In this way, we build up both preaching resources and capacity in our network of preachers. The annual Preaching Symposium, modeled off of CTS’s Mixed Methods Preaching Conference, serves as a Church wide gathering to learn, and grow in strength and solidarity. 

Rationale: We at the Massachusetts Council of Churches are particularly called to this work as a historic, ecumenical organization with anti-racist commitments, our history of convening, our established denominational relationships. As Christians, we believe white supremacists’ propaganda is anathema to gospel of Jesus Christ. We can and must equip the preachers of this moment to effectively notice, name, and preach against this heresy. If not, history and God will hold us accountable.