The National Trust for Historic Preservation’s African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund was blessed with a generous gift from Lilly Endowment Inc. which donated $20 million of funding for the preservation of historic black churches, according to The Christian Post. The donation came on the day Martin Luther King Jr.’s lasting legacy is celebrated.
The senior vice president and executive director of The National Trust for Historic Preservation’s African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund, Brent Leggs, shared that the preservation of black churches is an important part of preserving America’s history. Leggs told ABC News, “Black churches are exceptionally important in American democracy, not only for their legacy in civil and human rights, but also for their role in uplifting civic identity and community empowerment.”
The gift will help black churches increase their engagement and membership, and better meet the needs of their congregations and communities. The Christian Post reports that according to a 2019 study from Pew Research, millennials and members of Generation Z “seldom or never attend religious services.” Anthony B. Pinn, The Agnes Cullen Arnold professor of humanities and religion at Rice University in Houston, Texas suggests that if black churches position themselves as a meaningful place in the lives of younger generations, participation and attendance could see an improvement.
According to Christianity Today, “The African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund is expected to give direct and targeted funding and assistance to black churches for staffing and operations, help them create an emergency fund and help churches develop digital storytelling and documentation strategies,” as was reported by ABC News. One church that is expected to be among the first to receive $100,000 from the emergency fund is St. James AME Church in Mayfield, Kentucky, founded in 1868, that was destroyed in the December tornadoes.
The funding for the preservation of black churches has been provided by Lilly Endowment Inc., which was founded in 1937 for the “promotion and support of religious, educational or charitable purposes.” The private philanthropic foundation shares that they place special emphasis on projects that will benefit young people and strengthen the finances of institutions. With the new funding, churches will be able to reestablish themselves in the community and bring people from all generations together.