Perkins 'Testimony HQ' Initiative Announces First Cohort


DALLAS (SMU) – The Lilly Endowment-funded initiative at Perkins School of Theology, “Testimony HQ,” has selected 10 congregations for the first cohort of developing thriving congregations through the practice of testimony as community engagement.

The first cohort includes:

These 10 congregations were selected from a substantial number of applications submitted from churches within a 350-mile radius of Dallas. “We carefully studied every church’s application and were inspired by the stories of resilience and creativity in many ministry contexts,” said Rev. Dr. Edgar Bazan, Testimony HQ Advisory Board Member and Senior Pastor, New World United Methodist Church, in Garland, Texas.

The cohort congregations will receive up to $5000 in grant funding to support their Testimony HQ work from January through December, 2022. The following year, in 2023, each of these churches will mentor a church selected to participate in the second cohort.

About the Testimony HQ Initiative

SMU is one of 92 organizations funded through Lilly Endowment’s Thriving Congregations Initiative. The aim of the initiative is to strengthen Christian congregations so they can help people deepen their relationships with God, build strong relationships with each other and contribute to the flourishing of local communities and the world. The grants will support organizations as they work directly with congregations and help them gain clarity about their values and missions; explore and understand better the communities in which they serve; and draw upon their theological traditions as they adapt ministries to meet changing needs.

Over the five-year course of the grant, the Testimony HQ program will help 30 congregations master how to utilize testimony as community engagement; lead each cohort congregation in four concentric circles of learning communities; develop a prescribed course of study for a Perkins Certificate of Practical Ministry in Evangelism; and establish the grant website ( as the vehicle for sharing resources, such as podcasts, webinars, downloadable resources and written materials.

The Rev. Dr. Priscilla Pope-Levison, Research Professor of Practical Theology, and Bart Patton, Director of the Office of External Programs, are the co-principal investigators on the grant. This is the second Lilly Endowment grant awarded to SMU to fund the work of Patton and Pope-Levison; the first was a $1 million grant awarded in 2018 to strengthen congregational ministries with youth.

For more information about the initiative and program resources, contact Jeanette Lopez Cordova, Administrative Assistant, Testimony HQ Grant, at