Rev. Jacqueline J. Lewis, Ph.D.
When she was eight years old, Jacqui Lewis hid under her bed as bullets flew in her Chicago neighborhood following the assassination of The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. In that moment, she felt called to work for racial equality in the United States. A wonderful Sunday School teacher, singing in gospel choirs, and summer camp all confirmed Jacqui's call to ministry. Time in corporate America only served to seal the deal.
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 coaltion of love, justice, and worship that rocks her soul.
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 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.
Jacqui is sometimes in the media, doing public theology. She recently hosted a PBS Chapter and Verse special on faith and justice, interviewing faith leaders including Linda Sarsour, Valarie Kaur, Brian McLaren, Otis Moss III, Ruby Sales, Traci Blackmon, and Sister Simone Campbell for WNET. She created 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. 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.
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.