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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 22 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. Two central Florida pastors, Robert Wallace, Jr., Cocoa Presbyterian Church in Cocoa, and George Wilcox, Rockledge Presbyterian in Rockledge, have been selected to participate in an S3 project. Joining them is an ecumenical group of Brevard County pastors: Thomas Gibson, St. Mark’s Episcopal Church and David McGaffic, First United Methodist Church, in Cocoa; Clarice Mitchell, Hope United Church of Christ, in Rockledge; Robert Pearcy, Grace United Methodist Church, in Merritt Island; and Robert Wiseman, C.S.C., St. John the Evangelist Roman Catholic Church, in Viera. The name of the group, “Hokey Pokey Preachers,” was chosen after one member cited the Hokey Pokey as an example of how Christians need to “put your whole self in” and another followed by encouraging the members of his choir to participate in the Hokey Pokey as an expression of the Christian’s freedom to “dance” with our whole self. The name stuck with group members who see it as an affirmation of how the flow of ministry, especially between areas of Sabbath and service, involves “putting your whole self in and taking your whole self out.” The group of pastors had been meeting weekly to share their reflections on upcoming lectionary passages. When these discussions moved from homiletics to pastoral support, the idea for an S3 project grew out of their desire to move the group to a deeper level of effectiveness. Aware of the rich ecumenical diversity among group members, the project focuses on the effect a pastor’s life story has on his or her proclamation of the Scriptures. According to their project proposal, their work together “will consist of discovering and sharing one’s own life story, viewing it in the light of other life stories and discerning its effect on preaching.” With their emphasis on connecting the human story to God’s story, the Hokey Pokey Preachers hope the Sabbath portion of their project will help them to deepen their awareness to “rest” more assuredly in God—the world God has created, and the kingdom God is creating and how our individual stories are included in God’s creating activity. The S3 application procedure requires a group proposal and individual applications for each group member. Applications are due April 22, 2005. Groups will be notified of acceptance by May 13, 2005. Each group is expected to attend an orientation workshop on the Columbia campus August 15-19. For information about the S3 Project or application materials, please visit or contact Sarah Erickson, associate director for Lifelong Learning and S3 project coordinator, at 404 687-4526 or Out of 730 proposals submitted in 2003 and 2004, Columbia’s S3 Project is one of 63 “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. Columbia Theological Seminary, located in Decatur, Georgia, was established in 1828 and is one of 10 theological institutions of the Presbyterian Church (USA). 

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