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(Decatur, Ga.) — The Center for Lifelong Learning at Columbia Theological Seminary has announced the 2023 grant recipients of the ReKindle Congregational Development Program.
Lilly Endowment provided a $969,500 grant to Columbia Theological Seminary to help the Center for Lifelong Learning develop the program “reKindle: Congregational Development in a Post-Covid Era.”
Grants of up to $10,000 support congregations accepted into the reKindle program, which helps congregations realize their goal of being thriving communities by supporting their focused attention on an identified mission priority. These projects should support the congregation’s capacity to enhance their vitality in a post–COVID–19 context, such as the summer food delivery program led by 2021 reKindle grant recipients, Faith Presbyterian Church and the Jewish Community of Blue Ridge.
“Reading through the many proposals that come in each year (45 in 2023) is heartening,” said the Rev. Dr. Julie Josund, the reKindle Program Coordinator. “Many congregations are actively working toward discovering viability for themselves and their communities. The ten congregations nationwide and many denominations selected for the program receive coaching, Columbia faculty teachings and $10,000 to help them shift and thrive in this unique time. It is fabulous to have a hand in supporting and encouraging congregations and the various ministry goals they are developing.”
The 2024 reKindle grant applications open on January 1 and close on April 30.
This year’s grant recipients are:
Chapel by the Sea, Clearwater Beach, FL “For Such a Time as This”
Chapel by the Sea’s “For Such a Time as This” initiative will enable the International Council of Community Churches congregation to discern, “What’s next? Who are we? What is God calling us to do together?” Chapel by the Sea was founded in 1949 as an interdenominational congregation and is the only church in Clearwater Beach. Members sometimes struggle to answer “What does Chapel by the Sea believe?” and “What are your core values?” Particularly important after the COVID-19 years, this initiative will help clarify the mission, vision, and values, as well as create a “Rule of Life” to give language to the value placed on orthopraxy rather than orthodoxy.
First Presbyterian Church, Tallahassee, FL “In the Midst: Glad Cries”
Drawing on the Psalms and using restorative practices, this project seeks to strengthen the witness of First Presbyterian Church, a small congregation located blocks away from the Florida Capitol. The reKindle grant will facilitate the implementation of leadership development with the Session, support a communications audit, develop small and large group practices in restorative justice—specifically compassionate witnessing—and fund a collaborative art project that bears witness to God’s faithfulness during conflict and chaos in church community. This project seeks to assist in redefining the mission and vision for the 21st Century as the congregation’s identity emerges.
White Bluff Presbyterian Church, Savannah, GA “Bending Lines, Making Circles”
Asbury United Methodist Church, a predominately black Methodist congregation, planted their church in the Social Hall of White Bluff Presbyterian Church, a predominately white Presbyterian congregation, on May 1, 2023. Realizing and embracing their differences, these two congregations believe that if people encounter each other with open spirits and warm hearts, they are prone to be open to what God can do when people of faith gather together. These two congregations strive to bend the lines that divide and expand the circles of worship, ministry, understanding and the common walk with God. The reKindle Grant will fund training to design and implement activities to strengthen the partnership.
Limestone Presbyterian Church, Gaffney, SC “Intentionally Intergenerational”
Limestone Presbyterian Church is a multigenerational congregation that purposefully gathers those generations together in full knowledge and appreciation of the gifts each generation brings. “Intentionally Intergenerational” will help this congregation explore ways the generations can mutually influence and learn from each other, including incorporating younger members into leadership structures and opportunities. Limestone Presbyterian Church seeks to discover and practice ways of being human that unite people across generations.
Park Central Presbyterian Church, Syracuse, NY “Joy and Justice: Living into the PC(USA) Matthew 25
Park Central is an urban congregation in the heart of Syracuse, New York. Beginning in 2016, Park Central took a risk as a majority-white congregation to learn together and increase their understanding of racism. The leaders realize that they must be transformed by dismantling structural racism first in our hearts and second in our church so that we may become a thriving, multicultural congregation that comes beside our neighbors as loving allies in the larger work of justice. “The reKindle Impact Grant will enable us to work with trained facilitators toward the goal of widening the circles of the church community’s involvement in personal and group training so we will be ready to enact deeper change in our worship practices, our organizational structures and systems, and our engagement with our neighbors.”
Church of All Nations, Columbia Heights, MN. “Church of All Nations (CAN) Community Education
Church of All Nations seeks to revitalize community life through skill-sharing and multigenerational community-building by launching the CAN Community Education program. Through this program, they will invite members to lead one- to four-week courses on any topic they can teach. Each class will bring together 6-20 people across race, class, age, sexuality, and gender. While in session, these classes will function as pockets of community connection. The program provides space and time for their congregation and community to build practical skills and equip people to address material needs and prepare for the future. Goals include curated classes to help people learn about and improve their health and wellness through education, movement, and social connections.
First Presbyterian Church of Strasburg, PA “PSA – Prayer Scripture Action”
During COVID, the divisiveness seen in the country manifested itself in the life of this congregation. First Presbyterian wanted to identify something around which the church could rally to rekindle the spark that had been present not many years ago. As a result, the idea of ‘PSA’ came to mind– Prayer, Scripture, Action. “We recognize that we spend more time as a body going to meetings as a church than we do in prayer together as a church or in reading Scripture.” The ‘PSA’ project will help the church intentionally spend time in prayer and Scripture to undergird meetings and programming. As a newly merged congregation, the Atlanta Mennonite Church, Atlanta, GA “Rekindle a Vibrant Peace Church in Atlanta,” is committed to being an Anabaptist Peace Church in an urban setting. In February 2023, the congregation took the Congregational Vitality Assessment (CVA) and scored “low to moderate health or vitality and is moderately sustainable.” The lowest areas were Context, Awareness and Inclusion, and Formation, Education, and Training. The project will help discern how to live into these core convictions and experience spiritual growth and renewed vibrancy. The tools and accountability of the reKindle grant will help to think boldly, creatively, and faithfully about what it means to be a vital community that follows Jesus, welcomes all, and works for peace and justice.
Sojourners United Church of Christ, Charlottesville, VA “Sojourners Team Ministry”
Sojourners UCC is a lay-led, self-governing congregation with values of creating processes and structures that are non-hierarchical and value the work and contributions that all people bring to our congregation. Consensus is a foundational value and an integral part of their decision-making process as a congregation. This project will help the congregation reexamine how those values are expressed and carried out in their current leadership structures while also helping them remain nimble and able to adapt to the changing religious landscape. Sojourners will engage a church consultation/coaching service to assist in examining the current leadership structure, envisioning what they want to keep and what might need updating, and creating an outline for a Team Ministry model.
St. Matthew’s United Methodist Church, Memphis, TN “Triumph Over Trauma Education for Women”
The mission of St. Matthew’s UMC is centered around eradicating homelessness, poverty, and suffering for humanity, focusing on radical hospitality where we embrace all humanity and offer grace, healing and restoration of the soul, body, and mind through Jesus Christ our Savior. This project will help the church thrive by empowering the women residing at the congregation’s homeless shelter to manage
the stressors of their trauma. St. Matthew’s will use The Triumph Over Trauma curriculum, a faith-based education program that provides self-awareness and a road to healing past trauma. Trauma impacts all humanity.
About Lilly Endowment Inc.
Lilly Endowment Inc. is an Indianapolis-based private foundation created in 1937 by J.K. Lilly Sr. and sons Eli and J.K. Jr. through gifts of stock in their pharmaceutical business, Eli Lilly & Company. Although the gifts of stock remain a financial bedrock of the Endowment, it is a separate entity from the company, with a distinct governing board, staff, and location. In keeping with the founder’s wishes, the endowment supports the causes of religion, education, and community development. The Endowment funds significant programs throughout the United States, especially in religion. However, it maintains a special commitment to its hometown, Indianapolis, and its home state, Indiana. The principal aim of the Endowment’s grantmaking in religion is to deepen and enrich the lives of Christians in the United States, primarily by seeking out and supporting efforts that enhance the vitality of congregations and strengthen their pastoral and lay leadership.
About Columbia Theological Seminary
Columbia Theological Seminary is “cultivating faithful leaders for God’s changing world.” As an educational institution of the Presbyterian Church (USA), Columbia Seminary is a community of theological inquiry, leadership development, and formation for ministry in the service of the Church of Jesus Christ. Columbia Seminary offers six graduate degree programs and dozens of courses and events as a resource for church professionals and lay people through The Center for Lifelong Learning. For more information, please visit www.CTSnet.edu.
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