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Lilly Grant Funds Continuation of Program for Pastors


Decatur, GA— The Lilly Endowment, Inc., has awarded Columbia Theological Seminary a five-year grant of $648,863 to support continuation of the seminary’s S3 Project, “Cultivation of Pastoral Excellence through Sabbath, Study, and Service.” Now in its seventh year, S3 offers small, self-selected groups of pastors the opportunity to design and participate in group learning projects that strengthen their practice of ministry. Groups are selected annually by application and receive some financial support for their projects. Participating groups also attend two retreats on the Columbia campus: one for orientation and a follow-up during which groups report and reflect on individual project outcomes. S3 applications for new group projects will be available at in April. S3 Project Results The project began in 2003, funded by a $1.2 million grant from the Lilly Endowment. During the past six years, 272 individuals (44 groups) have participated. Ninety percent were active clergy averaging 15 years of active service in various forms of ministry. The average age was 45; the male/female ratio, 6:4. Twenty seven percent were Columbia alumni/ae. The remainder represented 49 different seminaries. Nineteen different denominations were represented, among them Presbyterian (65 percent), United Methodist (13 percent), Baptist (nine percent), and Episcopal (three percent). Also represented were leaders of the Antiochan Greek Orthodox Church, the Roman Catholic Church, the Jewish faith, the Pentecostal Church, and the Metropolitan Community Church. The project has been fully subscribed since its beginning with more groups making application than could be accommodated. One of the most significant accomplishments of the project was its 99 percent retention rate. All 44 groups completed their two-year learning projects, with only three of the 272 individuals not continuing through the duration of their group’s projects. Each group documented their learning experience in writing, more than 200 documents in all. Their evaluations suggest that participation in S3 enhanced collegial relationships, offered practical information, skills, knowledge and insights for ministry, and provided experiences of transformation and renewal in ministry. As one participant wrote, “This was a marvelous opportunity to step out of the busy-ness and business of ministry for a bit, engage in some activities I probably would never have done otherwise, with some dear colleagues that I would have never even talked to apart from this project, and learn some things about myself, my ministry, and life that were significant, unforgettable, and fun.” More information: Dent Davis,, or 404.687.4558. Columbia Theological Seminary, located in Decatur, GA, was established in 1828 and is one of 10 theological institutions of the Presbyterian Church (USA). 

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