Bethany Fellows receives PEN Catalyst Grant to expand their work

Jan 08, 2015 | Pastoral Excellence Network


The Pastoral Excellence Network is pleased to announce that Bethany Fellows has been awarded a $25,000 PEN Catalyst Grant to expand their work into widening, ecumenical circles. Since 1999, Bethany Fellows has been fine-tuning a process which has proven successful in the support and development of young, ordained pastors in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) who are in their first five years of ministry. This PEN grant will allow the experience and wisdom gained through that process to be multiplied, responding to requests to form an ecumenical group which follows the Bethany Fellows model. The impetus for this ecumenical approach came through conversations with seminaries and theological schools, which tend to serve ecumenical student bodies. These conversations led Bethany Fellows leaders to realize that there is a need for post-seminary ecumenical offerings.

With this new initiative, called “Expanding the Bethany Circle,” an initial group of 25 participants will be recruited to attend two five-day retreats a year for four years. Each retreat will include personal narrative sharing, a visit to a dynamic congregation, engagement with theologians and church practitioners, small group sharing, spiritual direction, and a 24-hour period of silence. In addition, a core leadership team of seven will be serve the larger group and form their own community of shared life and ministry, accountability, and prayer. The leadership group will hold its own five-day retreat each year of the initiative and will provide on-going support and mentorship between retreats.

Participants in this new initiative are being recruited through referrals from seminaries and theological schools, as well as referrals from Bethany Fellows and Walker Foundation Scholars. Potential participants will attend a “Come and See” retreat to begin a process of discernment. A pilot retreat was held in September 2014 and a Leader/Mentor retreat is scheduled for February 2015. The full program will be launched in April 2015.

The goal of this new initiative is to create outcomes in an ecumenical arena which mirror the successes of the Bethany Fellows’ Transition into Ministry program in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). In the 15 years of that program, 130 pastors in their first five years of ministry and the congregations they serve have benefitted immeasurably. Many of the alumni have reported that they would not have remained in ministry were it not for their participation in the program. Currently, 80–90 percent of the participants remain in congregational ministry and an additional nine percent serve in ministries other than a congregational setting.

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1 Comment

  1. 1 Alicia M. McDougal 24 Mar
    i did like to see this article.