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.
"Walking Emmaus" Group
Transformation and renewal for ministry is at the heart of the S3 project for one group of newly ordained pastors in Memphis and Nashville, TN. This group, whose members met while students at Columbia Theological Seminary in Decatur, GA, and call themselves “Walking Emmaus,” is dedicated to nurturing one another in their early years in ministry. Jennifer Fouse, campus minister at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Kate and Andrew Foster Connors of Idlewild Presbyterian Church in Memphis, and Anne H. K. Apple, also of Memphis, were inspired by the story of the encounter with the risen Christ on the road to Emmaus in the Gospel of Luke when they formed their group. Over the first five months of their S3 project, “Walking Emmaus” members have taken part in a planning summit for a youth conference and are undertaking a series of reflections about their individual ministries. Their time in the two-year project will culminate in June 2005 with a mission trip to Central America. Designed to minister to a community outside of their own familiar contexts, the group anticipates that this journey will enlighten and stimulate their ministries back home. When thinking about the radically different contexts of their own rolls as ministers, group members say they find themselves asking “‘Where is it we’ve come from?‘ and ‘Where is it we’re going?‘” Walking Emmaus hopes to answer those questions with hearts tuned to the shared aspects of their pastoral roles, as well as the diversity of their gifts and challenges.
"San Marco Clergy and Consultation" Group
Members of the Florida-based “San Marco Clergy & Consultation” group count the diversity of ministries of their group members among their greatest assets in their S3 project. The different challenges, they say, presented by such settings as a large downtown church, a hospital, and a pastoral counseling center, provide opportunities for mentoring among group members. Six pastors—Elizabeth Haynes of Northside Presbyterian Church and Kathryn Moore of in St. Vincent’s Medical Center in St. Augustine; Vincent Kolb of South Jacksonville Presbyterian, Louis Lothman of Pastoral Counseling Services, and John Ragsdale of Geneva Presbyterian in Jacksonville; and Timothy Simpson of Fellowship Presbyterian in Tallahassee—make up the San Marco Clergy group, utilizing their diverse skills as ministers and borrowing the model of a consulting firm to support one another’s ministries. “The feedback and engagement is life-giving to each of us,” group members say, adding, as they quote Prof. Emeritus Walter Brueggeman of Columbia Seminary, that they “are especially challenged by the call to Sabbath and by the painful reality of ministering in a culture of ‘militant consumerism.‘” As they study two books, Gregory Mayers’ Listen To The Desert: Secrets of Spiritual Maturity from the Desert Mothers and Fathers, and Parker Palmer’s Let Your Life Speak: Listening to the Voice of Vocation, the San Marco Clergy hope to strengthen their vocational skills. In continuing their study of wisdom literature, taking part in several retreats, and engaging in the service component of their project at the Spirituality Center at St. Vincent's Medical Center in Jacksonville, they aim to continue to provide vital collegial support and feedback to one another.
"Interfaith Pilgrimage" Group
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.
"Feast of Faith" Group
Last year, John and Tracy Weatherhogg of Doylestown Presbyterian Church in Doylestown, PA, Lynn and Mark Barger-Elliott of Riverside Presbyterian in Riverside, IL, Douglas Learned of Southminster Presbyterian Church in Wheaton, IL, Bob Bronkema of First Presbyterian Church in East Palatka, FL, Graham Robinson of Westminster Presbyterian Church in West Hartford, CT, and Amy Richter of St. Paul’s Milwaukee Episcopalian in Milwaukee, WI, were accepted to the S3 project. The group, which is called “Feast of Faith,” met while they were students at Princeton Theological Seminary in Princeton, NJ. They will travel to Rome this year to study the Waldensian church, the oldest Reformed Protestant denomination in the world. Other group members include pastors from Illinois, Wisconsin, Connecticut, and Florida. While in Rome, Feast of Faith members will spend two days with professors from Waldensian Theological Seminary. One of their goals is to understand what it’s like to be a minority Protestant faith group in a country where the vast majority of the population is Roman Catholic. The group will then take several days at a retreat center outside of Florence to participate in worship with the Waldensian church. While there, they will also help with the maintenance of the retreat center, and work in a local children’s home. The idea, they say, is not only to incorporate aspects of Sabbath, study, and service into all their activity while in Italy, but to learn how those aspects of ministry are carried out by the Waldensians, and to bring an understanding of that context back to their own churches in the States. were accepted to the S3 project along with a group of colleagues. The group, which is called “Feast of Faith,” met while they were students at Princeton Theological Seminary in Princeton, NJ. They will travel to Rome this year to study the Waldensian church, the oldest Reformed Protestant denomination in the world. Other group members include pastors from Illinois, Wisconsin, Connecticut, and Florida. While in Rome, Feast of Faith members will spend two days with professors from Waldensian Theological Seminary. One of their goals is to understand what it’s like to be a minority Protestant faith group in a country where the vast majority of the population is Roman Catholic. The group will then take several days at a retreat center outside of Florence to participate in worship with the Waldensian church. While there, they will also help with the maintenance of the retreat center, and work in a local children’s home. The idea, they say, is not only to incorporate aspects of Sabbath, study, and service into all their activity while in Italy, but to learn how those aspects of ministry are carried out by the Waldensians, and to bring an understanding of that context back to their own churches in the States.
Technology in Ministry Group
One group of North Carolina pastors accepted to the S3 Project’s inaugural year is focusing its efforts on how technology can effectively be harnessed by administrators, educators, and worship leaders in ministry. Four pastors—Kevin Conley of Covenant Presbyterian Church in Winston-Salem; Lucy Turner of Shallowford Presbyterian in Lewisville; Edward Carter of First Presbyterian in Mocksville; and Bill Hoyle of Clemmons Presbyterian in Clemmons—formed their group to investigate how pastors and smaller churches might take advantage of the vast and ever-changing market of technological resources. Expanding their knowledge of technological resources, evaluating software, and passing on their knowledge to colleagues are just several objectives the pastors have lined up for themselves. “We believe that a more effective use of technology [will] enhance our own personal ministries as well as the ministry of our presbytery as a whole,” the group’s project proposal explains. After evaluating products for database maintenance, website development, public presentations, digital photography, and computer hardware, the pastors hope to implement a number of technological resources in their own practices of ministry.
"Pastors, Golf, and Ecclesiology: The Church Then and Now" Group
Five pastors from Georgia and one from Oklahoma formed one of the peer groups that was accepted during the project’s inaugural year of 2003: Ray Dykes of the Personal Pastor Program in Oklahoma City, OK; Glenn Doak of First Presbyterian in Athens, GA and Robert Googe of the University of Georgia; Gary Lowe of Ray Memorial Presbyterian in Monroe; Jeffrey Newlin of Reid Memorial Presbyterian in Augusta; and Jerry Dean Weber of Presbyterian Homes of Georgia in Atlanta. Calling themselves “Pastors, Golf, and Ecclesiology: The Church Then and Now,” group members look forward to studying how the church has conducted ministry in the past, and asking where that ministry has placed the Presbyterian Church and the wider Christian community within today’s world of ministry. “The answer [to this question],” their project proposal explains, “will better prepare us to minister…to the Presbyterian Church of tomorrow.” For the Sabbath portion of their S3 project, members of Pastors, Golf, and Ecclesiology plan to gather several times during the coming year for group retreats in Georgia, North Carolina, and South Carolina. There they’ll continue their discussions on ecclesiology, focusing as well on their own experience in ministry. As avid golfers, they add, they’ll be sure to include enough time for at least 18 holes a day. And during the service component of their S3 project, the pastors will work with several seminary students, discussing their findings on ecclesiology.
"Eighth Day of Creation" Group
Seven pastors based in and around Anderson, SC were accepted during the project’s inaugural year of 2003: In Anderson, George West of AnMed Health System, David Bailey of Central Presbyterian Church, Johnny McKinney of Boulevard Baptist, Tom Richie of Young Memorial A.R. Presbyterian, and Samuel Stewart of Mt. Carmel Christian Methodist Episcopal; in Pelzer, Nancy Blakely of Hospice of the Upstate; and in Central, SC, Fr. David Randolph of Christ the Savior Mission/Antiochan Eastern Orthodox. Group members adopted the name “Eighth Day of Creation,” inspired by the early Christian church’s evolution from its roots in the Jewish synagogue into something far beyond those early Christians’ imaginations. Eighth Day members see a similar evolution in the role of today’s church. “We want to know how to lead congregations,” their project proposal explains, “in taking a critical look at the cultural pressures and demands that tend to control the direction of the church’s mission, message, and ministry.
The application procedure requires a group proposal and individual applications for each group member. Information and application materials are available through Columbia’s website, www.CTSnet.edu, 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 ericksons@CTSnet.edu. 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.
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