“At WomanPreach! Inc., we do one thing, and try to do that one thing well. We help preachers preach. We help preachers find focus, voice, process, and courage.”
WomanPreach! Inc. grew out of a course Dr. Valerie Bridgeman taught at Memphis Theological Seminary that also was offered at the University of Memphis in 2006 and 2007. She later adapted it for a week-long session she co-led with then Yale Divinity School dean Dr. emilie townes at the Cathedral College of Preachers at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. in 2008. That session, titled “The Sacred Rhetoric of African American Women,” drew women from a variety of denominational backgrounds and experiences. Leaders trained attendees to know their own voices for preaching and helped women learn literary and historical references on which to lean, and “preacherly” protocols when dealing with sexist and other marginalizing behaviors. Women were encouraged to preach for the whole church, especially for members who often are dismissed, overlooked, or minimized by preachers who do not take justice issues seriously.
Several women who attended Sacred Rhetoric, including the then-executive director of The Sister Fund, Rev. Kanyere Eaton, encouraged Valerie to think of ways to offer this service on a consistent basis. Rev. Eaton invited her to a training session with The Sister Fund, which she attended along with Rev. Charisse R. Tucker in the summer of 2009. Valerie and Charisse attended that session with a concept, but no name or structure for the ministry that has become WomanPreach! Inc. Over the course of a couple of days it became clear that God was whispering this ministry into existence and that a “baby” was being born. When the name WomanPreach! surfaced after hours of brainstorming, the ministry was concrete.
This ministry is committed to train preachers who often emerge from churches and academic institutions sometimes insensitive and/or inhospitable to their vocation, gifting, and voice, especially heterosexual women and LGBTQIA persons. We provide intimate, practical training and nurturing spaces that empower preachers. WomanPreach! Inc. provides an environment that acknowledges the socio-political, cultural, and religious context out of which preachers come and through which their unique persons and stories have been shaped. We provide an ideal setting to nurture preachers to hone their voices for public proclamation with a particular eye toward Womanist/Feminist concerns of justice. While most of our programming is geared toward women-identified persons, we have at least one program, Sophie’s Table, to includes all our colleagues, regardless of gender, age, or denominational affiliations. We strive to be radically hospitable and inclusive in our work.