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Columbia Theological Seminary Receives $1.25 Million Grant from Lilly Endowment Inc., for The Columbia Preachers Studio for Renewal

Columbia Theological Seminary has received a $1.25 million grant from Lilly Endowment Inc. to help establish Holy Encounters: The Columbia Preachers Studio for Renewal.

The program is being funded through Lilly Endowment’s Compelling Preaching Initiative. The aim of the initiative is to foster and support preaching that inspires, encourages and guides people to come to know and love God and to live out their Christian faith more fully.

The five-year grant program seeks to foster more compelling preaching among its constituents as it honors Columbia’s rich history in pastoral formation and embraces the many strengths and passion of its current homiletical faculty.

The Columbia Preachers Studio for Renewal is to cultivate practices, provide resources, and facilitate holy encounters to help preachers proclaim the gospel in postmodern contexts in more compelling, effective and faithful ways.  The program will include scripture engagement workshops, online pedagogy and peer learning opportunities, and preacher renewal experiences.

“In this season of the Church’s call for relevant and impacting proclamation, the Holy Encounters: The Columbia Preachers Studio for Renewal will provide cutting-edge tools and resources in unique platforms to equip and empower servant-preachers who are challenged with delivering the Good News amid the horrific conditions of the day,” said Columbia President Dr. Victor Aloyo Jr.  “This initiative is another marker of how Columbia Seminary seeks to boldly serve the Church and the world by supporting pastoral leaders in developing and implementing robust ministries.” 

“We are grateful to the Lilly Endowment for this significant grant, which promises to deepen Columbia’s support and care for preachers in urgently needed and meaningful ways,” added Dr. Christine Roy Yoder, Columbia’s Senior Vice President and Dean of Faculty. “Under the visionary leadership of Dr. Jake Myers and Dr. Anna Carter Florence, Columbia’s Preachers Studio for Renewal will offer a rich variety of resources and opportunities for preachers to retool and revitalize their practice of preaching and their ministries more broadly. We look forward to the many fruits of this bold initiative.”

The Rev. Dr. Anna Carter Florence, one of the program co-directors, said, “This grant from the Lilly Foundation provides a wonderful opportunity for Columbia to support preachers in their life and calling. Our vision is to meet preachers where they are, through workshops and online resources and retreats and pilgrimage events, so they can strengthen skills, learn new ones, reignite their love for Scripture, and reconnect with what led them to this ministry in the first place. I can’t wait to get going!” 

Co-director Dr. Jake Myers added, “Especially in light of the traffic on social media of late about pastors burning out and/or quitting ministry, we hope that the workshops, retreats, pilgrimages, and online learning resources we provide will empower and equip preachers to hold true to their calling. Ministry is hard at the best of times. Through our rejuvenation efforts, we hope to inspire preachers to rediscover joy in their various ministry contexts—for the good of the Church and the world.”

Columbia Theological Seminary is one of 81 organizations receiving grants through this competitive round of the Compelling Preaching Initiative. Reflecting the diversity of Christianity in the United States, the organizations are affiliated with mainline Protestant, evangelical, Catholic, Orthodox, Anabaptist and Pentecostal faith communities. Many of the organizations are rooted in the Black Church and in Hispanic and Asian American Christian traditions.

“Throughout history, preachers often have needed to adapt their preaching practices to engage new generations of hearers more effectively,” said Christopher L. Coble, Lilly Endowment’s vice president for religion. “We are pleased that the organizations receiving grants in this initiative will help pastors and others in ministry engage in the kinds of preaching needed today to ensure that the gospel message is heard and accessible for all audiences.”

Lilly Endowment launched the Compelling Preaching Initiative in 2022 because of its interest in supporting projects that help to nurture the religious lives of individuals and families and foster the growth and vitality of Christian congregations in the United States.  

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