US Preserving Black Churches Project Receives $20 Million Donation

In Summary

A new effort that will go toward the restoration of more than 50 Black churches across the country has received a $20 million donation.

The Lilly Endowment Inc., which supports religious, educational, and humanitarian causes, has donated $20 million to the African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund as seed money for the Preserving Black Churches Project, per the Associated Press

Preserving Black Churches is a new initiative to assist historic Black churches in the United States that are both stewarded by active congregations and being adapted for new uses, such as community centers or treatment programs, conserve their assets and tell their own stories. 

RELATED: First Black Pastor Dominates Pulpit of Historic Ferguson Church 

“Historically Black churches deserve the same admiration and stewardship as the National Cathedral in Washington or New York’s Trinity Church,” said Brent Leggs, executive director of the fund. 

The National Cathedral in Washington is the world’s sixth-largest cathedral and a “architectural masterpiece designed to point eyes and hearts toward things above,” according to its website. AP reported Trinity, which houses the graves of Alexander Hamilton and other historical figures, became a national symbol following the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

St. James AME Church, which was built just three years after the Civil War and virtually destroyed by a tornado in Mayfield, Kentucky, last month, will receive $100,000 as the project’s first special emergency funding recipient. 

RELATED: Maxine McNair: Last Living Parent of Alabama Church Bombing Victim Dies 

The fund has previously aided churches such as Mother Emmanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina, where white supremacist Dylann Roof killed nine parishioners during a Bible study in 2015, and the Bethel Baptist Church in Birmingham, which was bombed in the 1950s and was a stalwart of the civil rights movement. 

The project plans to help more than 50 Black churches across the country over the next three years, including some that are vacant or slated for demolition or struggling with inadequate funding, aging members and dwindling membership, per AP.

RELATED: Church of MLK’s First Leadership Position Receives Funding to Become Museum 

Furthermore, the project will establish a Rapid Response & Emergency Grant Fund to address imminent threats to Black churches and provide targeted assistance and support to Black Churches serving as sites of conscience, memory, justice and reconciliation, among other objectives.

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