McCormick’s Sacred Memory Project receives $1.25 million grant from Lilly Endowment Inc.


McCormick’s Sacred Memory Project receives $1.25 million grant from Lilly Endowment Inc.

McCormick Theological Seminary has been awarded a $1.25 million grant from Lilly Endowment Inc. in support of McCormick’s Sacred Memory Work: Preaching Wisdom for Christian Innovation (the “Sacred Memory Project.”)  The program is being funded through Lilly Endowment’s Compelling Preaching Initiative.

Lilly Endowment launched the Compelling Preaching Initiative in 2022 with an invitational round of grants to over 30 seminaries, denominations, universities, and other non-profit organizations. McCormick’s award is part of the Initiative’s expansion in 2023 as a national competition. The Compelling Preaching Initiative is designed to cultivate practices among aspiring and active preachers that can help them to proclaim the gospel to a variety of audiences in more engaging and effective ways. 

The Sacred Memory Project seeks to develop change models for repair and restoration for all people whose memory and narratives have been omitted or distorted to diminish their collective value. The model expands the definition of preaching techniques to include preaching competencies that speak to our full humanity. This initiative also illuminates the diversity in those who “preach” to include Christians in public professions, artists, and emerging ministers with digital assemblies.  

McCormick President David H. Crawford states, “We live in a world of division and conflict, globally, nationally, and locally. Faith communities do not exist in isolation and many are struggling to respond to the rapidity of change and provide leadership in the repair and healing of the world around us. We believe the Sacred Memory Project offers an innovative and inclusive model of learning and teaching that lifts up and preserves the history and stories that have too often been demeaned and ignored. Remembering and acknowledging those stories is part of a process of repair and healing. We are deeply grateful to Lilly Endowment Inc. for its generous support of our work and for its on-going commitment to theological education. ”  

The Sacred Memory Project is led by Dr. Itihari Toure, Associate Dean for Curriculum and Assessment at McCormick. 

Dr. Toure shared, “We are at a critical moment in this country that will determine whose narratives will be valued and who gets to determine how the narratives will be shared. Story and storytelling are an essential component of multiple forms of preaching-orally, visually, and embodied.  We are excited and intentional about providing professional space that curates, ideates, and constructs competencies in sharing and learning from those stories in ways that accurately support our spiritual and religious witness while emphasizing the merits of innovation and ingenuity.”

Lilly Endowment has long supported pastoral leadership where there is significant attention to demographic trends and evolving contexts for pastoral leaders. The aim of the Sacred Memory Project is to ensure that clergy leaders have what they need to be effective in diverse communities while flourishing in what they have been called to be in this world. McCormick’s Sacred Memory Project addresses the need to support these leaders by providing the tools and skills that can sustain their ministry over time across different contexts. The Sacred Memory Project at McCormick Theological Seminary uses a culturally responsive, human-centered design process where seasoned and emerging leaders are active in the design of their life-long professional education as well as participants in its meaningful engagement. 



About Lilly Endowment Inc. 

Lilly Endowment Inc. is an Indianapolis-based private philanthropic foundation created in 1937 by J.K. Lilly Sr. and sons Eli and J.K. Jr. through gifts of stock in their pharmaceutical business, Eli Lilly & Company. Although the gifts of stock remain a financial bedrock of the Endowment, it is a separate entity from the company, with a distinct governing board, staff and location. In keeping with the founders’ wishes, the Endowment exists to support the causes of religion, education and community development. The Endowment funds significant programs throughout the United States, especially in the field of religion. However, it maintains a special commitment to its hometown, Indianapolis and home state, Indiana. The principal aim of the Endowment’s grantmaking in religion is to deepen and enrich the lives of Christians in the United States, primarily by seeking out and supporting efforts that enhance the vitality of congregations and strengthen their pastoral and lay leadership. 


About McCormick Theological Seminary

McCormick is a member of the Association of Chicago Theological Schools (ACTS) and an integral part of one of the world’s great centers of theological education and research. McCormick is also an institutional member of the Committee on Theological Education of  the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). Accredited by both the Association of Theological Schools (ATS) and the Higher Learning Commission (HLC), McCormick seeks to embody and create a more just and compassionate world through rigorous academic study, practical experience, spiritual formation and an active, engaged learning community. Founded in 1829 and a leader in the Chicago faith community since 1860, it is a seminary with a long history of high academic standards and a commitment to social justice.

McCormick’s student body represents a wide variety of Christian traditions including Baptist, UCC, AME, Pentecostal, non-denominational, and more. Common to all our students is a desire to live in a racially, ethnically, linguistically, and theologically diverse community rooted in our Reformed faith and a shared commitment to service for the common good.

Dr. Itihari Touré
Associate Dean for Curriculum and Assessment

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