The Rev. Dr. Jacqui Lewis uses her gifts as author, activist, preacher, and public theologian toward creating an antiracist, just, gun violence free, fully welcoming, gender affirming 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 Religion and Society: 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.
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. Now in its 17th year, this justice conference has featured thought leaders and change agents like 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.
Because of Dr. Lewis’ 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 and Middle Church have been featured on The Today Show, Good Morning America, Front Line at PBS, The Laura Flanders Show, and on Yahoo News, Grit TV, NY1, ABC, NBC, PBS, CBS New York Daily News, Here and Now with Sandra Bookman, and on the History Channel H2 series, The Bible Rules.
To promote frank conversation about faith and society, Dr. Lewis created two national television programs: Just Faith, an on-demand television program on MSNBC.com, and Chapter and Verse at PBS. Dr. 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, All Things Considered and The Takeaway. 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.
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. 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 published her book, Fierce Love: A Bold Path to Ferocious Courage and Rule-Breaking Kindness That Can Heal the World in 2021. Her next book is the Just Love Story Bible for Children (Beaming Books, 2024).
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. A womanist theologian, Jacqui has preached at the Festival of Homiletics, the Wild Goose Festival, The Children’s Defense Fund’s Haley Farm, and was a featured speaker on the Together national tour with best-selling author, Glennon Doyle.
Speaking of love, my spouse and best friend, The Rev. John Janka and I co-founded The Middle Project, which, along with Middle Church, hosted fifteen annual conferences to train faith leaders to combat racism, poverty and bigotry by growing multiethnic congregations that work for justice. This work has now transformed into a beautiful project called Freedom Rising, which provides antiracism and justice training to pastors, laypeople and secular companies and institutions alike. Education changes the world, and we’re deeply committed to bending hearts toward liberation. Speaking of world changing: When we got married, John gave me the best dowry ever: our son Joel, who married a lovely woman named Gabby. Together, they gave us two grandbabies named Ophelia and Octavius, who teach me daily how to love more deeply.
Despite being warned that women can’t talk in church, I was ordained in the Presbyterian Church (USA), and I talk in church almost every day! I am the first African American and first woman to serve as senior minister in the Collegiate Church, which was founded in New York City in 1628. (I’m not saying I’m proud of this history, and how long it took them to hire someone brown; I’m just sharing…) If you want to find my books, they are The Power of Stories: A Guide for Leading Multi-racial, and Multi-cultural Congregations; 10 Essential Strategies to Grow a Multiracial, Multicultural Congregation; and the children’s book, You Are So Wonderful! I’ve collaborated on some books that you can google. And I’m so excited to share my newest book with you, Fierce Love: A Bold Path to Ferocious Courage and Rule-Breaking Kindness That Can Heal the World. Out November 9, you can pre-order it today!Say Hi!