Bringing leaders to the forefront

Published 6:47 pm Friday, July 9, 2021

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Kaiya Jennings grew up in Suffolk and had many women influence her in her life growing up.  She recently took the opportunity to highlight these women for their work in their communities.

Jennings is earning her doctorate of ministry at Duke University and is currently working on her thesis on Black clergywomen in leadership.

“Being a Black clergywoman in leadership, I know how difficult it has been to navigate in a male-dominated area and follow the call of God,” Jennings said. “I wanted to highlight women since they are not recognized enough in the Christian world. African American women in leadership is something not previously and still not something that is widely received.”

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Her thesis inspired her exhibition “On the Shoulders of Our Sisters!” that she was able to fund through earning Duke University Chapel’s C. Eric Lincoln Theology and Arts Fellowship starting May 23.

This fellowship is a semester-long program that provides funding to a student for a sacred art project and broadens the reach of artistic expression at the Duke University Chapel. This fellowship aims to create a bridge between theology and art.

Jennings’ exhibition highlights local Black women in leadership that had impacted her life and her ministry as a pastor. These women serve in churches in Suffolk, Richmond, Chesapeake, Virginia Beach, Lancaster, Glen Allen and Hampton.

“I feel that men are often in the forefront when it comes to ministry,” Jennings said. “There are women everywhere leading activities in their communities, and a lot of times, you don’t see that.”

Hanging on the chapel walls are pictures of these clergywomen at their churches in their Sunday best or robes. Accompanying the photos is a recorded montage of these women praying. In these prayers, these women give glory to God, ask for forgiveness and ask for His wisdom and guidance in their lives as they serve their communities.

Jennings hopes that this exhibition will inspire others to follow their God-given purpose in life, no matter how hard it may seem.

“I want people to look and identify with these Black clergywomen and look at what they have been called to do in their own lives,” Jennings said.

Due to COVID-19, this exhibition can be viewed virtually on the Duke University Chapel’s website as well as in person by appointment. The exhibition is available for viewing at