2010 National Clergy Renewal Program Add 1
Further, up to $15,000 of the grant may be used for the congregation to pay for interim pastoral leadership while the pastor is away, as well as for renewal activities within the congregations.
“The intensity and demanding character of pastoral work in most congregations is difficult for many to appreciate,” says Craig Dykstra, senior vice president for religion at the Endowment. “They write and preach sermons, make hospital visits, administer the „business‟ of their churches, preside at weddings and funerals, and counsel parishioners. And they are expected to „be there,‟ to be available at both the best and the worst times in people‟s lives.
“The National Clergy Renewal Program gives pastors the gift of being able to live for a while at a different pace and in an alternative environment – to live in Sabbath time and space, and to honor that moment as God-given,” Dykstra says. “Many clergy renewal participants have reported to the Endowment that when they returned they found their vision for ministry enlarged and their call and commitment renewed.
“We find that these programs can be transformative for the congregations, too,” Dykstra continues. “Not only do members of these congregations grow in their leadership abilities in the pastor‟s absence; they also learn how to create an environment at their churches that supports their pastor‟s continued service at a pace that he or she can sustain. Many of them discover ways to renew and refresh their own lives and spirits as well.”
This year‟s group includes congregations located in 40 states and the District of Columbia; they are affiliated with 11 different denominational bodies. Nearly half the grantees see between 100 and 400 at worship on Sundays; eight report worship attendance of 1,000 or more. The oldest church – First Presbyterian Church of Smithtown, Pa. – traces its heritage back to 1675 when the first meeting house was built. The newest congregation – Living Water Christian Church in Parkville, Mo. – first “congregated” on Easter Sunday 2004.
What these pastors choose to do with their three- or four-month “gift of time” varies widely. Next summer more than 20 pastors will embark on journeys to biblical sites to participate in archaeological digs, go on pilgrimages to Jordan and Egypt, or trace the footsteps of St. Paul in Greece and Turkey. Twenty-nine more pastors will head for Africa to visit churches, teach in seminaries, work with orphan children – or with orphaned lion cubs.
Storytelling and story collecting are also important themes for renewal programs. This year one pastor will attempt a family reconciliation and then write about it. A Mississippi pastor,