Rev. Dr. Jacqui Lewis
- What gifts did you and/or your congregation bring into 2020 that were most useful during the pandemic?
- When you or your congregation face adversity, is your first instinct survival or opportunity? If you tend toward survival, what could shift that conversation?
- After going through the pandemic, what feels essential for church?
- During the pandemic, how did you practice seeing others when you were apart? How did you practice knowing and being known? What can you bring forward from that practice into the years ahead?
- What do you picture when you hear the phrase, “fierce love”? How do you or could you practice that in your own life? In your congregation?
The Rev. Jacqui Lewis, PhD uses her gifts as author, activist, preacher, public theologian toward creating an antiracist, just, fully welcoming society in which everyone has enough. After graduating with an M.Div. from Princeton Theological Seminary in 1992, Jacqui fell in love with urban ministry, leading two churches in Trenton, New Jersey. Fascinated with how faith heals the soul—so we can heal the world—she returned to graduate school, for a Ph.D. in Psychology and Religion from Drew University (2004). Jacqui came to study Middle Church, received a call, and joined the staff in January 2004. Middle is the church of her dreams and prayers, a multiethnic rainbow coalition of love, justice, and worship that rocks her soul.
Jacqui is a womanist whose preaching, teaching, speaking, writing, and activism are aimed at racial equality, gun control, economic justice, and equal rights for all sexual orientations and genders. Jacqui has preached at the Festival of Homiletics, Wild Goose, The Children’s Defense Fund’s Haley Farm, and was a featured speaker on the Together national tour with best-selling author, Glennon Doyle.
Believing faith communities can lead the way to racial reconciliation, Dr. Lewis co-founded The Middle Project and The Revolutionary Love Conference with her spouse, The Rev. John Janka, which train leaders to create a more just society. Each year, Dr. Lewis curates a national justice conference—Revolutionary Love—which features speakers from many disciplines who are working to create a world based on a public ethic of love. America Ferrera, Ani Di Franco, Tituss Burgess, Van Jones, Valarie Kaur, William J. Barber II, Melissa Harris-Perry, Wajahat Ali, Linda Sarsour, Sharon Brous, Brian McLaren, angel Kyodo Williams and Ruby Sales are some of the speakers who have graced the Revolutionary Love stage. In the midst of the global COVID-19 pandemic, “Revolutionary Love Online—Toward a More Perfect Union” drew 650 attendees April 24-26, 2020. Because of their capacity to build curricular materials and networks, over 7,000 people have attended trainings offered by Dr. Lewis and Middle Church in 2020.
In her activism, preaching, speaking, writing, and teaching, Dr. Lewis advocates for racial equality, gun control, economic justice, equal rights for all sexual orientations/genders and marriage equality. Because of her dynamic leadership, Middle Church was featured in a national broadcast on CBS. A Bold New Love: Christmas Eve with Middle Collegiate Church aired on December 24, 2018 to more than 1,000,000 viewers. Dr. Lewis has been on the The Today Show, All In with Chris Hayes, AM Joy, The Melissa Harris Perry Show, NY1, ABC, NBC, PBS, CBS and WPIX, where she recently covered the Brooklyn memorial for George Floyd. Dr. Lewis has been interviewed on Through Her Eyes at Yahoo News, 30 Good Minutes, Grit TV, the New York Daily News, Here and Now with Sandra Bookman, and appeared on the History Channel H2 series, The Bible Rules.
The Associated Press covered the work of Middle Church and Dr. Lewis after the 2020 presidential election; over 13.3 million people read the story. Jacqui is sometimes in the media, doing public theology. She created two national shows: PBS Chapter and Verse and MSNBC.com’s Just Faith, in which she presented unorthodox conversations about culture and current events through the lens of progressive faith and spirituality. Other media — The Washington Post, The New York Times, The Associated Press, Ebony, Essence, CBS, CNN, NBC, ABC, and MSNBC have featured Jacqui and Middle Church. Lewis and Middle Church have been frequently featured in Now This news; her most recent post has received 222,000 views at their Instagram page. Dr. Lewis’ has been interviewed on the radio at Sirius (John Fugelsang and Mark Thompson), The Brian Lehrer Show and The Takeaway. Dr. Lewis’ work has also been featured in The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, The Washington Times, the front page of The New York Times website, New York Times Video, The New York Post, CNN i-report, Essence, Ebony.com, the New York Daily News, the New York Post, The Associated Press, The San Francisco Chronicle, U.S. News, The Public’s Radio, The Houston Chronicle, The Seattle Times, The San Diego Union Tribune, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and The Yakima Herald. Ordained in the Presbyterian Church (USA), Jacqui is the first African American and first woman to serve as a senior minister in the Collegiate Church, which was founded in New York City in 1628 and is the oldest continuous Protestant Church in North America.
In 2016, Dr. Lewis completed the six-city Together Tour with best-selling author Glennon Doyle, Seane Corn, Valarie Kaur, Jennifer Randolph, and special guest Alicia Keys. She has blogged for The Huffington Post, GLAAD, Patheos, and Believe Out Loud. Her books include The Power of Stories; Ten Essential Strategies (with John Janka); Becoming Like Creoles (with Curtiss de Young, et al), and the children’s book, You Are So Wonderful! Harmony/Penguin Random House will publish her book, The Fiercest Love: How to find it in yourself, grow it in your posse, and build it in the world in September 2021.
In 2005, she married her best friend, John Janka, a United Methodist minister and consultant to congregations. Together, they have a son, daughter-in-law, and grandbaby. With the staff of Middle Church, they produce an annual conference to train leaders how to grow multiracial communities of faith that disrupt racism.
Jacqui’s books include Ten Essential Strategies for Becoming a Multiracial Congregation, The Power of Stories, a Guide for Leaders in Multi-racial, Multi-cultural Congregations, the children’s book, You Are So Wonderful! a rhyming celebration of diversity, and a contributing chapter to Becoming Like Creoles: Living and Leading at the Intersections of Injustice, Culture and Religion. Jacqui is an Auburn Senior Fellow and is currently at work on a book about a call to moral courage and the fiercest love.