Beginning in August 2014, the Church Council worked with me on applying for a National Clergy Renewal Grant from the Lilly Endowment. I was stunned and overjoyed to learn in August 2015 that we are to be the recipient of one of the grants. The question I answered for the grant proposal was what would make my heart sing? We proposed a grant based on the theme of pilgrimage that would allow me to:
- Connect with my family before departure in a Seaside cottage for a week.
- Walk the Camino de Santiago de la Compostela in Spain
- Breathe, relax, paint while staying on the Western coast of Ireland for a month. Karen will join me in Ireland.
- Take three weeks in England, where Karen and I met 35 years ago, to retrace our own journey of relationship and walk with Christ.
Why does the Lilly Endowment fund grants? As was written in the press release announcing the grants:
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 walk the Camino de Santiago in Spain (that’s me!). 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.”
For more information about the grant, please see the press release: https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/22646508/2015NationalCRPPressPacket.pdf
Our denomination recognizes the importance of providing formational and spiritual leave for clergy. Paragraph 351.3 of the United Methodist Book of Discipline grants such leave of up to 6 months every 6 years (of course all the details have to be worked out). I have never taken a three-month leave, nor sensed the deep importance of doing so until now. In 2001 I traveled to Israel for 5 weeks and took a class there.
A portion of the grant funding provides for pastoral coverage while I am gone, and congregational activities both while I am still here and while I am gone. I am currently working with the SPRC (members of church council: Fred Cooper, Debbie Gabel and Paige Flanagan) and some of my colleagues to provide that coverage. The renewal will begin August 8th, 2016 and last until November 13th. Throughout the year we will be hosting Listening Post times for you to share into this 20th year of yours and mine and also voice any thoughts or concerns you have regarding this time of renewal sabbatical. You may also speak with any member of church council, the SPRC or me (Pastor Brian) for more details. Keep sharing!