Bishop Yehiel Curry receives Distinguished Service Award

Yehiel Curry, ELCA Bishop

Yehiel Curry (2009, TEEM; 2013, MDiv) received LSTC’s 2022 Distinguished Service Award May 16 during the annual leadership dinner that traditionally follows commencement and is part of the spring LSTC board of directors meeting.

The award, conferred by the board, recognizes exemplary service and mission and ministry of the seminary.

Curry, bishop of the Metropolitan Chicago Synod, is not only an LSTC graduate but serves on the board as the Region 5 bishop representative. He also received the 2017 LSTC Emerging Voice Distinguished Alumni Award.

In introducing Curry’s award, Wyvetta Bullock (1996, MDiv; 2003, DMin), board member and a member of his synod staff, traced the history of Curry’s connection to the ELCA and LSTC. She recalled the birth of Shekinah Chapel at her kitchen table, and Safe in My Brothers Arms (SIMBA) Circle to the Outdoor Ministries desk of the churchwide organization when she served there.

SIMBA Circle began as a youth development and mentoring program for African American youth. It continues now as Rescue, Release, Restore and includes youth from other communities. Curry served as pastor of Shekinah Chapel Lutheran Church from 2013-2019 before being elected bishop. He was also a mission developer there from 2007-2012. It was through his involvement with SIMBA Circle and Shekinah Chapel that he became more familiar, and involved with the wider ELCA.

In accepting the award, Curry thanked his wife, LaShonda, and all ministry spouses/partners; his mother, “the first person to believe in me”; mother-in-law—“when I had nothing, you believed in me”; and daughters, Shemiah (an LSTC MDiv student), Ashirah and Shekinah.

Curry said his place on the LSTC board is one of the only things he specifically chose in the Conference of Bishops. “When I learned that Bishop [Paul] Erickson’s time was concluding it’s the only time I spoke up at a Region 5 meeting: ‘I want to serve on that board,’” he said.

When Curry finished the TEEM program (Theological Education for Emerging Ministries) at LSTC in 2009, he said the school didn’t know what to do with him when he completed the process, and that there was no acknowledgement nor invitation to graduation.

As a result, the first thing he did as bishop was to begin revitalizing the TEEM program, crafting a vision of a cohort for the program. “First thing as bishop I wanted to do something around the TEEM process and LSTC said yes. They said yes to me and I wanted to say yes to them.”

“I need you to know I had a defining moment yesterday [commencement day] … I got emotional when we were in the chapel preparing to walk over to St. Thomas the Apostle… At the front of the line, the person who led the delegation is a leader by the name of Mike Willis, one of the four candidates for TEEM program… My first commencement with the board I got to see Mike leading the group from the chapel. And it got better. He had a robe on. His name was called and a certificate was given. My first initiative as bishop… I witnessed come true yesterday… Thank you. I’m so grateful for this recognition.”


Original article published in the Summer 2022 Epistle Magazine; written by Julie Sevig

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