Christian Theological Seminary Announces 87 Congregations Awarded Lilly Endowment 2013 National Clergy Renewal Program Grants

Sep 17, 2013 | Lilly Endowment Clergy Renewal Programs


Note to media: Please check the list of recipients in the body of this release to see if a congregation(s) in your community is among award recipients. This release and a full list of recipients is available at and


September 16, 2013

Contact:           Robert Saler
                       317-931-2348 /

Christian Theological Seminary, in its role of administering the Lilly Endowment National Clergy Renewal Program, has awarded grants to 87 congregations located in 31 states and the District of Columbia. The 2013 program allows congregations to support their pastors with the gift of extended time away from their ministerial duties and responsibilities. Pastors use their respite from congregational leadership for reflection and renewal, which often includes travel, scholarly research, and immersive experiences with different cultures and traditions.

Congregations awarded the National Clergy Renewal Program grants nominated their pastors to receive this honor. Pastors in the 2013 program represent a diverse group that includes Protestant, Catholic, nondenominational and multidenominational congregations. Each recipient, in consultation with the congregation, determines how he or she will use the grant to replenish, restore and renew their ministry. Travel to varied destinations and journeys into nature are popular activities for grant recipients: one grant recipient will travel to the ancient holy locations of Nestorian Christians and Buddhist ascetics, another will travel to America’s national parks integrating imagery from biblical Psalms through painting and photography, and several recipients will participate in the ancient Christian tradition of walking as pilgrims in various countries.

In addition to travel as a form of renewal, some pastors will use their time away from congregational leadership to explore music and the arts or enjoy extended periods of tranquil solitude and reflection. One 2013 program grant recipient will send its pastor to serve as a lighthouse keeper near Seattle, Washington, while taking an intensive course in piano performance. Another pastor will explore author Ernest Hemingway’s Paris as a backdrop for a creative writing experience.

Since Lilly Endowment introduced the National Clergy Renewal Program grants in 2000, more than 1,800 congregations across the nation have participated in the program. Congregations in the 2013 program received grants totaling nearly $4 million. The grants recognize the tremendous amount of energy, time and leadership that pastors invest in their congregations.

“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 Dr. Christopher L. Coble, vice president for religion at the Endowment. “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.”

Christian congregations were invited to apply for program grants of up to $50,000. The application process was participatory in nature, involving congregations and their pastors in the design and development of the renewal experience. Up to $15,000 of the grant could be allocated to fund interim pastoral leadership, as well as renewal activities within the congregation. Pastors were encouraged to include their families in the renewal activities.

Rev. Dr. Robert Saler, research fellow and director of the Lilly Endowment Clergy Renewal Programs, part of the Center for Pastoral Excellence at Christian Theological Seminary in Indianapolis, noted that the National Clergy Renewal Program leverages the reciprocal dynamics of support, trust and encouragement reflective of healthy congregations. “The program is designed to respect the innate human need for times of service and replenishment. It provides a means for congregations to express appreciation for their leader’s service and respect for his or her health and energy for continued ministry,” said Saler.

Christian Theological Seminary’s Center for Pastoral Excellence was selected in 2012 to administer the Lilly Endowment Clergy Renewal Programs. “At a time when society is experiencing unprecedented levels of change at ever increasing speeds, it is rewarding to offer programs that recognize the value of retreat and renewal,” said Saler. “We are honored and privileged to work with Lilly Endowment in its support of congregational leaders.”

For a full list of the 2013 award recipients, please see the full press release (PDF, 128 KB).

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