Pfeiffer University has been awarded a $300,000 grant from Lilly Endowment Inc. to continue and expand the Youth Theological Institute (YeTI). This award follows the $597,830 award Pfeiffer was granted in 2015 as part of Lilly Endowment's High School Youth Theology Institutes Initiative. During the past three summers, YeTI has welcomed 33 high school students and 16 college-aged mentors, with interests in becoming effective servant leaders in their communities and throughout the world.
In April, the Department of Religion welcomed Reverend Perry Washington Jr. as the Director of YeTI. In this role, he will develop and lead the institute's strategic plan, fundraising efforts, and daily operations. He will also join the department's stellar faculty. A native of the Mississippi Delta, Rev. Washington joins Pfeiffer after living in Metro Atlanta for seven years. He holds a B.A. in Religion from Morehouse College, an M.A. in Religion and Education from The Interdenominational Theological Center, and is completing a thesis for the Master of Theology (Th.M.) from Candler School of Theology at Emory University. He brings more than five years of professional experience in higher-ed administration, public policy, nonprofit leadership, legislative affairs, and ministerial leadership.
"The mission of the Pfeiffer Youth Theological Institute is to develop disciplined, socially conscious [young] practitioners of the faith," says Rev. Washington. "YeTI holds the personal story of each participant in a sacred community while empowering them to return home and effect change. This institute seeks to radically embrace the work of intersectionality by bringing theological inquiry to social location through the analysis and contextualization of world events, international humanitarian issues, and marginalized/"disinherited" identities. Partnering with 29 congregations and 31 faith-based organizations, participants, mentors, and leaders engage in activities and discussions that serve to expand the participants' understanding of ministry and invites them to consider their future in ministry. Of these participants, six are now serving their communities in nonprofits, full-time Christian ministry, or are in seminary. At the heart of Pfeiffer's mission is servant leadership. As YeTI's mission seeks to be aligned with the mission of the university, our program equips youth with an embodied, responsive theology."
As a result of COVID-19, Pfeiffer will not hold the traditional summer program but will engage in intentional programming, rebranding, and recruitment. Opportunities to virtually gather as a YeTI community are forthcoming. The Institute will have a Fall Ministry Day (J2) on November 14th, to give the community an opportunity to experience YeTI for a day. The "Jesus x Justice" (J2) initiative gives participants a rigorous theological experience that includes engagement with ministerial leaders and preeminent religious scholars in the areas of social justice, leadership, eco-theology/climate change, and burgeoning theological topics that lie close to the heart of Pfeiffer and the rural church. Holding fast to Wesleyan tradition and theology, we will conclude the day sharing "at the table" in communion. YeTI will be holding informational sessions in the coming months, preparing for the Fall Ministry Day. For more information regarding YeTI, please contact Rev. Perry Washington, Jr. at [email protected].
Ken Keuffel, who authored this article, has served as Pfeiffer’s Assistant Director of Communications since December 2019. He welcomes story ideas from Pfeiffer’s faculty, staff, students, alumni, and friends. The form for submitting story ideas is at www.pfeiffer.edu/newsform.