A First at a Century-Old Seminary: A Black Woman Takes Charge

00seminary-jumboSource: The New York Times

First Corinthian Baptist Church in Harlem had 300 members and no website when LaKeesha Walrond and her husband took over as pastors. Yet, as many churches have strained to maintain their congregations, theirs flourished: More than 10,000 congregantsnow come for Sunday services and for mental health programs, yoga classes and a free co-working space.

The aim was to create a church that addressed the needs, spiritual and otherwise, of the people drawn to it. “It’s not just about having ministry and programming that nurture the people in the building, but having programming that nurtures people in the community,”Pastor Walrond said.

Now, she has been named president of New York Theological Seminary and is tasked with steering the century-old institution, anchored in Morningside Heights, through a precarious moment. She is the first African-American woman to lead the seminary.

Seminaries face a plight similar to churches: Enrollment has waned and the nature of spiritual expression has evolved. Pastor Walrond, 47, must prove that she can adapt the lessons she learned in leading a congregation to attract and prepare a new generation of pastors and religious scholars.


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