Our origin story
WomanPreach! Inc. was born out of a course taught by Rev. Dr. Valerie Bridgeman at Memphis Theological Seminary. This course was offered at the University of Memphis as well in 2006 and 2007, and eventually became a week-long session Dr. Bridgeman co-led with the then Dean of Yale Divinity School, Rev. Dr. emilie townes at the Cathedral College of Preachers in 2008 (held at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C.). That session, titled “The Sacred Rhetoric of African American Women,” drew women from various denominational backgrounds and experiences. The week-long session trained attendees to know their own voice for preaching, to learn historical and literary references to draw from, and how to deal with sexism and other marginalizing forces. They encouraged attendees to preach for the whole church, especially those who are often dismissed, overlooked, or minimized by preaching that does not take justice issues seriously.
Several attendees encouraged Dr. Bridgeman to imagine a way to offer this much-needed space and training on a more consistent basis. The then Executive Director of The Sister Fund, Rev. Kanyere Eaton, was among them and invited Dr. Bridgeman to a retreat with The Sister Fund, with the goal of helping those woman who attended to successfully get a grant from the organization. Rev. Charisse Tucker accompanied Dr. Bridgeman there, and in the midst of brainstorming with woman of other organizations, the shape of WomanPreach! begin to emerge. Laughing about how in Black church spaces, people respond to the speaker when it “gets good to them” with “preach, preacher, preach!” they begin to say, “Preach, Woman, Preach!” In that moment, the name seemed inevitable and the ministry became concrete.