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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. A group of four clergywomen from California and Colorado were invited to participate in an S3 project. The group, which is called “Women in Ministry,” met while they were students at San Francisco Theological Seminary. Now, all are in their first year of ordained ministry, serving as associate pastors to a male head of staff, in Presbyterian (USA) and United Methodist churches. The clergywomen who make up the Women in Ministry (WIM) group — Jeannie Kim, Monte Vista Presbyterian Church, Newbury Park, CA; Debbie Whaley, First Presbyterian Church, Berkeley, CA; Gail Doering, Lafayette-Orinda Presbyterian Church, Lafayette, CA; and Wendy Komori Stager, Simpson United Methodist Church, Arvada, CO—are all married and say they are learning to manage the complexities of being persons, pastors, spouses, and for three of them, mothers. As their project proposal explains, “Our project is intentionally holistic. The goal is not just to do acts of Sabbath, study, and service but to more fully understand and integrate these values for our daily and weekly routines, attending the work of the Spirit as we grow as disciples and pastors.” Their project will involve individual and group retreats in which group members will seek to renew themselves and their ministry through spiritual practices and mutual support and accountability. During their retreats, the group will also include a half-day of service projects, practicing the spiritual discipline of humility and compassion in the community near where they gather. Whether it is study or service, WIM will reflect on their experiences using the Ignation Prayer of Examen, the Quaker Clearness (discernment) process, journaling, and action-reflection learning methods. In particular, the Prayer of Examen will guide their discernment process as they ask the questions, “How was God present?” and “How was God absent?” It is hoped that the insights gained from these questions will help them clarify and deepen God’s call and mission for their lives and their ministry. 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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