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Columbia Theological Seminary’s S3 Project Offers Grants to Pastors for Sustaining Excellence in Ministry


Decatur, GA. – Applications are being accepted through April 23 for participation in Columbia Theological Seminary’s S3 Project. Funded with a $1.3 million grant from the Lilly Endowment, the project offers opportunities for pastors of all denominations, working in small groups, to develop models for sustaining excellence in the practice of ministry. For the two-year program, participants receive approximately $1,000 each per year to fund self-directed group work that focuses on aspects of Sabbath, study, and service. Each participant also receives up to $300 in need-based aid for travel to the program orientation and subsequent annual meetings, which are held each August. With an eye toward reconciliation among diverse religions, members of the Atlanta-based group “Interfaith Pilgrimage” listed the observance of Ramadan among their most meaningful experiences in the first year of their S3 project. Lanny Peters of Oakhurst Baptist Church, Gerald Durley of Providence Baptist, Claiborne Jones of Church of the Epiphany, Elizabeth Rechter of the Cathedral of St. Phillip, Bradley Schmeling of St. John’s Lutheran, James Lamkin of Northside Baptist, Jan Swanson of Faith and the City, and Winston Lawson of Hillside Presbyterian are the eight Atlanta area church leaders whose experiences with Atlanta Jewish, Muslim, and Christian leaders during a previous trip to Turkey prompted a desire to deepen their own faith and respective ministries through interaction with people of other religious faiths. The group has planned a series of pilgrimages and retreats utilizing spiritual disciplines from other faith traditions in order to enrich their balance of Sabbath, study, and service. The highlight of their coming year together, they say, will be a pilgrimage to Morocco, where they will visit the Christian Community of Al Akhawayn University in Ifrane, an American-style, English language university established in 1995. Here they anticipate taking part in the mission of the university, which has committed itself to being a place of encounter and dialogue among Muslims, Christians, and Jews. Group members hope to incorporate their experiences in Morocco, as well as the encounters they have planned in Jewish, Christian, and Native American faith communities, into their personal and congregational ministries. The goal, they say, is to build a model of interfaith learning, which could show others how to participate in God’s reconciling work in the world. The application procedure requires a group proposal and individual applications for each group member. Information and application materials are available through Columbia’s website,, under Lifelong Learning, Continuing Education programs, or by contacting Sarah Erickson, associate director for Continuing Education and S3 project coordinator, at 404 687-4526, or at Applications are due April 23, 2004. Groups will be notified of acceptance by May 14. Each group is expected to attend an orientation workshop on the Columbia campus August 23-27. Dent C. Davis, vice president and dean of Lifelong Learning at Columbia, serves as director of S3 Project. “The project develops support groups, fosters skills and ideas for ministry, and offers opportunity for the development of creative approaches for learning,” Davis says. Columbia’s role in the project is to provide resources, coaching, structure, and other support to the project’s groups. Out of 730 proposals submitted in 2003 and 2004, Columbia’s S3 Project is one of 64 “Sustaining Pastoral Excellence” grants awarded by the Lilly Endowment. Three other seminaries of the Presbyterian Church (USA) also received grants. “Sustaining Pastoral Excellence” is an effort of the Lilly Endowment to focus attention and energy on maintaining a high caliber of leadership among the country’s pastors. xxx

Genie Addleton, 404 687-4530
FAX 404-377-9696

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