St. Philip Lutheran Church, Mt. Dora, FL, has received a grant of $49,934 to enable its pastor, The Rev. Dr. Johan Bergh, to participate in the 2017 National Clergy Renewal Program. St. Philip is one of 146 congregations across the United States selected to participate in this competitive grant program, which is funded by Lilly Endowment Inc. and administered by Christian Theological Seminary in Indianapolis. Established by the Endowment in 2000, the program’s grants allow Christian congregations to support their pastors with the gift of extended time away from their ministerial duties and responsibilities.
Ministers whose congregations are awarded the grants use their time away from the demands of daily ministry to engage in reflection and renewal. The approach respects the “Sabbath time” concept, offering ministers a carefully considered 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. Recognizing that ministers’ families are subject to the stress and demands placed on pastoral leaders, the program encourages pastors to involve their families in renewal activities. Congregational needs during the minister’s renewal experience also are considered. 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. Since the National Clergy Renewal Program’s inception, more than 2,450 congregations have participated in the program, including the 146 congregations receiving grants in 2017.
For St. Philip and Pastor Bergh the focus of Renewal will be four-fold: Reflection, Recreation, Relationships, Restoration. Travel will include Italy, Germany, France and New York City.
For Reflection Pastor Bergh will focus on a particular part of the life and work of Dietrich Bonhoeffer: the topic of “a religion-less Christianity.” For the congregation, there will be a look at the ministry of the baptized and the ministry of the ordained and what the roles and responsibilities of congregational members and pastor really look like when ministry is shared.
For Recreation: Two Bicycle Tours in Europe and activity around Florida.
For Relationships: extended time for Pastor Bergh with his wife in places they love or will experience together for the first time as well as time with family in Germany. Included in the congregational life are meal celebration gatherings with cuisine and program that mirrors the activity and focus of Pastor Bergh’s time away.
For Restoration: After 36 years in ordained ministry Pastor Bergh will have extended time to breathe broadly and let the growth and development activities seep deeply.
“Lilly Endowment recognizes the important role that pastors play in shaping and guiding the work of Christian churches,” said Dr. Christopher L. Coble, the Endowment’s vice president for religion. “We can think of no better way to honor these hardworking, faithful men and women than to help them step away from the demands of leadership for a brief period of rest and spiritual renewal. We regularly hear that these renewal experiences are transformative for pastors, their families and their congregations.”
The Rev. Rev. Robert Saler, research fellow and director of the Lilly Endowment Clergy Renewal Programs, noted that 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 congregations 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.”
Christian Theological Seminary in Indianapolis directs the Lilly Endowment Clergy Renewal Program for Indiana Congregations and a second program for congregations across the United States through its Center for Pastoral Excellence.