Reverend Cheryl Townsend Gilkes, (Pronounced “Jillks”), is an Assistant Pastor (for Special Projects) of the Union Baptist Church (Cambridge, Massachusetts) and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Professor of African-American Studies and Sociology at Colby College (Waterville, Maine). She holds degrees in sociology from Northeastern University (B.A.,M.A., Ph.D.) and has pursued graduate theological studies at Boston University’s School of Theology. Her research, teaching, and writing have specially focused on the diverse roles of black Christian women in the twentieth century. Some of her essays on black Christian women are gathered in her recent book, If It Wasn’t for the Women: Black Women’s Experience and Womanist Culture in Church and Community (Maryknoll, New York: Orbis Books, 2001). She has published in several social science and religious studies journals. A recent article, “‘Go and Tell Mary and Martha’: The Spirituals, Biblical Options for Women, and Cultural Tensions in the African American Religious Experience,” was published in Social Compass: International Review of Sociology of Religion and is part of her book-in-progress, That Blessed Book: The Bible and the African American Cultural Imagination. She has also contributed chapters to several anthologies on religion and on African American women’s lives. She has also lectured and presented papers at colleges, universities, and scholarly conferences in the United States, Canada, Germany, England, and South Africa. However, it is her love of the Bible — the Word of God — that is at the heart of her teaching ministry in churches and at conferences.
After answering her call to the preaching ministry in 1981, Rev. Dr. Gilkes was licensed (1982) and ordained (1986) through the Union Baptist Church in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in association with the United Baptist Convention of Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and New Hampshire. She is active with the United Baptist Convention of Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and New Hampshire and its Congress of Christian Education. She teaches and serves on the Board of the Congress and she is the parliamentarian for the United Baptist Convention. Rev. Dr. Gilkes has served as a volunteer chaplain at the Suffolk County House of Correction in Boston, Massachusetts, conducting Bible Study in the Women’s Units. Rev. Gilkes is a member of the Cambridge (MA) Branch of the NAACP and received the organization’s Education Award in 1997. She is also a Golden Life member of Delta Sigma Theta, Inc. and has been privileged to preach for the Ecumenical Service at the 1997 Eastern Region Conference and for the service commemorating the fiftieth anniversary of the Boston Alumnae Chapter. To the radio audience of central Maine, Rev. Gilkes is “Dr. Cheryl,” the host of a weekly gospel music program titled, “The Uncloudy Day” on WMHB, Waterville, Colby College’s station. She loves the Lord and is always “glad to be in the service.”