This past September, Toledo Mennonite Church and Pastor Joel Shenk received a grant from the Lilly Endowment National Clergy Renewal Program. This grant is for a pastoral renewal program/sabbatical that will take place from January 12th - April 27th, 2015. Read below for more informtion about the Lillly Endowment. And check out Joel's blog at jbshenk.blogspot.com for regular updates as well as more details about the theme of the renewal program.
INDIANAPOLIS - Christian Theological Seminary, in its role of administering the Lilly Endowment National Clergy Renewal Program, has awarded grants to 140 congregations located in 36 states to enable their pastors to step away from daily responsibilities for a period of reflection and renewal. The 2014 program provides pastors with time for travel and immersive experiences in different cultures, opportunities to participate in spiritual retreats and pilgrimages, and focused periods for writing and research about challenges facing Christian communities.
“Pastors play an indispensable role in guiding the work of congregations and the daily demands of leadership are unending,” said Dr. Christopher L. Coble, vice president for religion at the Endowment. “Lilly Endowment is pleased that this program enables hardworking pastors to step away briefly from their ministerial responsibilities for rest and renewal.”
Congregations are awarded grants in the National Clergy Renewal Program to honor and support renewal programs for their pastors. These congregations represent a diverse group that includes Protestant, Catholic and nondenominational churches. Congregational leaders worked with their pastor to design their renewal program and to determine how their pastor would use the grant funds to replenish, restore and renew their pastor’s ministry. Travel to varied destinations and journeys into nature are popular activities for the participating pastors. One pastor will travel to the Iona community in Scotland. Another will engage in study of peace and reconciliation at the Tantur Ecumenical Institute in Jerusalem, and several recipients will engage in cross-country trips with their families across the United States in order to visit significant places in their lives and ministries.
“We can think of no better way to honor these faithful men and women than to help them experience personal and spiritual renewal in ways that they themselves design and find meaningful,” Coble said. “We regularly hear that these renewal experiences are transformative for pastors, their families and their congregations.”
In addition to travel as a form of renewal, some pastors will use their time away from congregational leadership to explore music and the arts or enjoy extended periods of tranquil solitude and reflection. One congregation will send its pastor to engage in genealogical research while simultaneously immersing himself in the writings of John Wesley. Another pastor will practice techniques of improvisational theater to see how they might impact congregational ministry.
The Rev. Dr. Robert Saler, director of the Lilly Endowment Clergy Renewal Programs at Christian Theological Seminary in Indianapolis, noted that the National Clergy Renewal Program gives congregations an opportunity to demonstrate support, trust and encouragement for their pastor.
“The program is designed to respect the innate human need to balance times of work and service with periods of rest and replenishment,” Saler said. “It provides a means for congregations to express appreciation for their leader’s service and respect for his or her health and energy for continued ministry.”
Since 2000, more than 1,900 congregations across the nation have received grants in the National Clergy Renewal Program to support the renewal programs of their pastors. Congregations in the 2014 program received grants totaling more than $5 million. Christian congregations were invited to apply for program grants of up to $50,000. Up to $15,000 of the grant could be allocated to fund interim pastoral leadership as well as to support renewal activities within the congregation. Pastors were encouraged to include their families in the renewal activities.
“At a time when society is experiencing unprecedented levels of change at ever increasing speeds, it is rewarding to offer programs that recognize the value of retreat and renewal,” Saler said. “We are honored and privileged to work with Lilly Endowment in its support of congregational leaders.”
The National Clergy Renewal Program is part of Christian Theological Seminary’s Center for Pastoral Excellence, which has administered the Lilly Endowment Clergy Renewal Programs since 2012.
For a full list of 2014 award recipients, please see the full press release (PDF, 138 kb).