Messiah Evangelical Lutheran Church recently received a $36,000 grant to enable its minister, the Rev. Aileen Robbins, to participate in the National Clergy Renewal program.
Messiah is one of 146 congregations across the U.S. selected to participate in the grant program funded by Lilly Endowment Inc. and administered by Christian Theological Seminary in Indianapolis.
Established by LEI in 2000, the grants allow Christian congregations to support their pastors with extended time away from their ministerial duties and responsibilities.
Ministers whose congregations receive the grants use their time away from daily ministry to engage in reflection and renewal. The approach respects the Sabbath time concept, offering ministers a respite that may include travel, study, rest, immersive arts and cultural experiences and prayer.
Through the National Clergy Renewal program, congregations apply for grants of up to $50,000 to support renewal programs for their pastors. Collaborative in nature and implementation, the program allows congregations to partner with their ministers in developing experiences that addresses their unique renewal needs and aspirations. The program encourages pastors to involve their families in renewal activities, recognizing that minister’s families are subject to the stress and demands placed on pastoral leaders.
The program also considers congregational needs during the minister’s renewal experience. Up to $15,000 of the grant may be used to support interim pastoral leadership during the pastor’s retreat as well as renewal activities within the congregation. More than 2,300 congregations have participated in the program, including the 147 congregations receiving grants in 2016, since the program’s inception.
Robbins will complete 450 miles of the Camino pilgrimage in Spain with her father starting in September. The pilgrimage will give them a chance to return to a place they lived when she was growing up, to reconnect and to contemplate where life has taken them and where it will take them into the future.
As they journey together, the congregation will begin its sabbatical with a retreat to focus on where they have traveled thus far and where the spirit might be moving them into the future. As they progress through the three months, there will be opportunities to partner more deeply with community organizations and to prayerfully move through the neighborhoods that surround the congregation. The sabbatical will end with a return celebration Dec. 2.
“Lilly Endowment intends for this program to enable pastors to live for a while at a different pace and in a new environment, in Sabbath time and space,” said Christopher Coble, president for religion at LEI. “We can think of no better way to honor these hardworking, faithful men and women than to help them experience personal growth and spiritual renewal in ways that they themselves design and find meaningful. We regularly hear that these renewal experiences are transformative for pastors, their families and their congregations.”
The Rev. Robert Saler, research fellow and program director, said the National Clergy Renewal program integrates key attributes of healthy congregations, including a mutual respect for the renewal needs of both ministers and the congregations they serve.
“The program provides an opportunity for congregation to express appreciation for their ministers’ service and leadership,” Saler said. “At a time when leaders are often praised for their pace of innovation and productivity, the National Clergy Renewal program pays homage to the timeless wisdom embedded in the practice of reflection and renewal.”