First Christian Church receives Lilly grant

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Greencastle's First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) is among the 19 congregations in 14 Indiana counties to receive grants that enable their ministers to participate in the 2011 Clergy Renewal Program for Indiana Congregations, funded by Lilly Endowment Inc.

The program -- now in its 13th year -- will provide $46,434 for Reverend Paul H. Champion to step back from his busy schedule and renew his spirits for challenges ahead.

The Endowment invites congregations and ministers to consider and plan a period of "intentional reflection and renewal." It is a time for ministers to take a break from their daily obligations and gain the fresh perspective and renewed energy that a carefully considered "sabbath time" of travel, study, rest and prayer can offer.

Getting away from their ordinary routines gives pastors a chance for private periods of reflection and reading. It also allows real family time together, far from the frequently unpredictable schedules at home. It is no surprise that many will head for points around the globe, from Ohio to China. Seven will head to Europe for study and pilgrimages to some of the Reformation sites in England, Scotland, France and Germany. Others will travel to places of Christianity's first days -- Rome, Greece, Turkey and the Holy Land. One plans to run in the Greek Marathon.

Two will go to China, one of whom will take her children to see their homeland for the first time since being adopted. Other pastors will retrace ancestral heritages in Korea, Kenya and Nigeria.

Not all will head overseas. An African American pastor will take his family to visit a former plantation in South Carolina. Another seven will go West to camp and explore in the Rocky Mountains. For the first time, two pastors will head "next door" to Ohio and its Amish country, where one will experience a "homestay" to learn what it means to live the simple life.

No matter where they spend this special time, they invariably return to their Indiana congregations feeling rested, refreshed and enthusiastic for the years ahead. Previous grantees describe their renewal experience as "profound" and "transforming."

"We ask these congregations and ministers to consider the question, 'What will make your heart sing?' as they devise their plans," said Craig Dykstra, senior vice president for religion at the Endowment. "They never fail to come up with wonderful and imaginative ways to fulfill their dreams. Their time away frees them up to pursue personal interests and needs in ways that give them new energy for ministry -- and the congregations discover while their pastors are away that they too experience refreshment and a newfound sense of their own strengths."

The Endowment's larger goal is to bolster the good work that America's pastors and congregations accomplish day in and day out, to reinforce and build upon the important work being done on both sides of the pulpit. "In our religion grantmaking, we hope to strengthen the efforts of today's excellent pastors because it is no secret that pastors who have reconnected themselves to the passions that led them to the ministry in the first place are more likely to lead healthy and vibrant congregations," Dykstra said.

Indiana congregations were invited to apply for a grant of up to $50,000. Up to $15,000 of that amount could be used to fulfill pastoral duties during the minister's absence and for expenses related to the congregation's own renewal. The 19 grants this year totaled more than $891,000. (The average grant amount was nearly $47,000.)

Since the program began in 1999, 382 renewal grants have been awarded to Indiana congregations. The renewal program will continue next year to benefit even more Indiana congregations and their pastors. Application information for the 2012 program will be available at by early September.

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