The viability of any congregation is linked to the health and wellness of its pastor.
Christian Theological Seminary in Indianapolis, Indiana in partnership with the Lilly Endowment award millions of dollars annually to congregations all over the United States to aide in the congregation providing a time of sabbatical for the pastor. A sabbatical is a period of paid leave for a leader or employee of an organization for the purposes of study, travel, development, or reflection. Lilly Endowment clergy renewal programs are administered by the Center for Pastoral Excellence at Christian Theological Seminary. Through its religion grantmaking, Lilly Endowment, an Indianapolis-based, private philanthropic foundation, seeks to deepen and enrich the lives of American Christians. It does this largely through initiatives to enhance and sustain the quality of ministry in American congregations and parishes. To this end, National and Indiana Clergy Renewal Programs provide an opportunity for pastors to step away briefly from the persistent obligations of daily parish life and engage in a period of renewal and reflection. Renewal periods are not vacations but times for intentional exploration and reflection, for drinking again from God’s life-giving waters, for regaining enthusiasm and creativity for ministry.
“Pastors play such an important role in nurturing our spiritual lives and guiding the ministries of our congregations,” said Christopher Coble, Lilly Endowment’s vice president for religion. “The past two years have been exceptionally challenging for pastoral leaders as they have helped their congregations navigate the unprecedented challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. We hope that these clergy renewal grants will help congregations celebrate the extraordinary service of their pastors and honor them by giving them opportunities to step away from the daily demands of ministry for rest and renewal.”
Rev. Kaloma Smith has been pastor of University A.M.E. Zion Church since 2013 after serving on the staff of Greater Centennial A.M.E Zion Church in Mt. Vernon, NY. He is no way a stranger to hard work and his story speaks to his commitment to ministry.
“We look forward to being better equipped to serve the people of University during this much needed sabbatical”, commented Rev. Smith.
It is notable to mention University is the only A.M.E. Zion Church in the entire denomination to be awarded the grant this year!
In addition to travel as a form of renewal, some pastors will use time away from their congregations to engage in new spiritual disciplines, focus on time with loved ones, and study topics that renew their excitement for preaching and congregational life. Activities for congregations include engaging intercultural faith narratives, seeking insight into the history of racism and race relations in the life of the church, exploring the meaning and application of Sabbath rest, and equipping lay leaders.
Dr. Robert Saler, director of the Lilly Endowment Clergy Renewal Programs at Christian Theological Seminary, noted that the grant programs integrate elements of support, trust and encouragement, which are all indicators of healthy congregations. “The programs are engineered to honor an innate human need to balance active service to others with periods of reflection and renewal. Animated by a spirit of gratitude and generosity, the programs provide a means for congregations to show appreciation for their leaders and actively invest in their pastors’ health and energy for continued ministry,” Saler says.