If you’d asked a young Danielle Pilgrim growing up on the Caribbean island of Trinidad and Tobago whether she could envision herself becoming a pastor, the answer, more than likely, would have been an emphatic “No!” followed by a hearty laugh. Life, however, has a way of taking us places that we never imagined. After moving to the United States at the age of 14, she was introduced to the Adventist faith a few years later. Today, not only is she still active in the Church, but she is an associate pastor at one of the most recognized churches in North America, Atlanta Berean in Atlanta, Georgia. Recently, she became an award-winning pastor too.
Pilgrim was recognized as the Youth Pastor of the Year at the 23rd Annual Gospel Choice Awards in Atlanta, Georgia, on September 25, 2017. This prestigious honor has been bestowed upon many other leaders of note, and Pilgrim joins a long list of luminaries in ministry. In attendance were her fellow pastoral staff members, including Fredrick Russell, senior pastor; her family; and many members of the Berean congregation.
Pilgrim is a powerhouse in ministry, having already accomplished much in such a short period of time. A published author, she has written a biblical word search puzzle book, in addition to several thought pieces, like the article “Church Beyond Walls” in Spectrum Magazine, that have caused a shift in thinking for thousands. She has served in pastoral leadership in churches in Chicago, Illinois, and South Bend, Indiana. She especially enjoyed serving as the youth and young adult ministries leader in South Bend.
Prior to receiving her master of divinity degree from Andrews University in Berrien Springs, Michigan, Pilgrim received her bachelor of science in community health education from City University in New York. This informs her passion for taking the impact of the Church beyond the four walls of the building, and making it felt where it matters most — where the people truly live. She has created several initiatives to effect the change needed in communities, and joined forces with others who are actively working to make a difference.
One example is the Atlanta Berean summer program, Purity Camp, which she is rebranding and broadening to Youth Leadership Camp. She and her team are extending the two-week program to a month-long initiative, and expanding the topics beyond sexual purity to empowerment, self-awareness, and a host of other subjects that will help the young people in the community to be well-rounded and rooted in a more solid foundation. Ceasar Mitchell, Atlanta City Council president, was the 2017 Purity Camp guest speaker.
Pilgrim has also launched her own foundation, Happy Feet, which seeks to provide relief for individuals who are homeless and in need of clean/new shoes and socks. Pilgrim is also an active leader in The And Campaign, a non-denominational community organization that seeks to bridge the divide between social justice advocacy and faith-based groups.
“We have a calling to do so much more than feed the sheep that are already within the fold,” Pilgrim says. “Our commitment to spreading the Gospel means showing up in places where the Light of Jesus seldom shines. It means doing things to expose the Heart of Christ that makes us vulnerable and transparent. It means being as authentic in our service as we are in our worship. That means being real Christians, and showing real love to real people in the real world!”
With a name like Pilgrim, is it any wonder that she is a groundbreaking trailblazer in her own right? Her primary determination is simply to take Jesus where He isn’t, so that He can be fully represented and fully known for Who He is. Whether winning souls or winning awards, Pilgrim is all in for God’s Kingdom!
is the communication director at Berean Church in Atlanta, Georgia.
South Atlantic | December 2017