Clergy program grant awarded to Greenville First Presbyterian Church


GREENVILLE – First Presbyterian Church, Greenville, Ohio has received a grant of $50,000 to enable its minister, the Rev. Dr. John M. Person, to participate in the 2015 National Clergy Renewal Program.

First Presbyterian is one of 144 congregations across the country selected to participate in this competitive grant program, which is funded by Lilly Endowment Inc. and administered by Christian Theological Seminary in Indianapolis.

Established by the Endowment in 2000, the program’s grants allow Christian congregations to support their pastors with the gift of extended time away from their ministerial duties and responsibilities.

Ministers whose congregations are awarded the grants use their time away from the demands of daily ministry to engage in reflection and renewal. This approach respects the “Sabbath time” concept, offering ministers a carefully considered respite that may include travel, study, rest, immersive arts and cultural experiences and prayer.

Through the National Clergy Renewal Program, congregations apply for grants of up to $50,000 to support renewal programs for their pastors. Collaborative in nature and implementation, the program allows congregations to partner with their ministers in developing an experience that addresses their unique renewal needs and aspirations.

Recognizing that ministers’ families are subject to the stress and demands placed on pastoral leaders, the program encourages pastors to involve their families in renewal activities. Congregational needs during the minister’s renewal experience also are considered. Up to $15,000 of the grant may be used to support interim pastoral leadership during the pastor’s retreat, as well as renewal activities within the congregation. Since the National Clergy Renewal Program’s inception, more than 2,000 congregations have participated in the program, including the 144 congregations receiving grants in 2015.

The image that was chosen for both the congregational and pastoral renewal at First Presbyterian Church, Greenville, was from Psalm 1, “Trees planted by streams of water which yield their fruit in its season.”

“We want to be that growing, healthy and mature tree. To build on to what we already are as a congregation, we will develop mission strategies to understand our changing community, to adapt our ministry to be responsive to those changes, and to equip our members to be lay ministers in the community,” said Pastor John Person.

Several aspects will be part of the congregation’s renewal initiative. These are some of the activities that will be planned.

1. There will be a small group congregational study by John Ortberg on spiritual disciplines.

2. A series of Christian education classes on the spiritual gifts will be taught and open to the public.

3. Worship services led by laity and others will enhance this study on spiritual gifts.

4. A seminary trained teacher will preach about our reformed tradition and the distinctive principles that lead and guide us as Presbyterians.

5. Bagpipes will be used to touch on our reformed heritage.

6. Drama will help us visualize our local church history.

7. EPC (Evangelical Presbyterian Church) missionaries will speak about the ways we can connect with new mission in the world.

8. The congregation will travel to a Cincinnati Reds game.

9. Vegetable gardens will provide a harvest to share with our community.

10. Seed money to put into practice the Parable of the Talents will be given out to each member family.

11. A huge “Welcome Back Celebration” will be shared with our entire community at the end of the renewal period.

12. A congregational and community conference featuring a nationally recognized speaker on discipleship and evangelism will be planned.

John Person, the pastor of First Presbyterian Church, will also experience a time of Sabbath and renewal through travel, reflection, rest and various cultural experiences. Some of these activities will be here in Ohio and elsewhere.

1. Pastor John will have a time of decompression during a personal spiritual retreat of prayer, study and reflection.

2. Trips to his ethnic heritage of Sweden and Norway are also in the mix.

3. He and his wife will also take a reformation tour of Germany, France and Switzerland, following the footsteps of Luther, Calvin, and the other reformers.

4. Extended time with family will also be part of the experience.

“Lilly Endowment intends for this program to enable pastors to live for a while at a different pace and in a new environment, in Sabbath time and space” said Dr. Christopher L. Coble, vice president for religion at the Endowment. “We can think of no better way to honor these hardworking faithful men and women than to help them experience personal growth and spiritual renewal in ways that they themselves design and find meaningful. We regularly hear that these renewal experiences are transformative for pastors, their families and their congregations.”

The Rev. Robert Saler, research fellow and director of the Lilly Endowment Clergy Renewal Programs, noted that the National Clergy Renewal Program integrates key attributes of healthy congregations, including a mutual respect for the renewal needs of both ministers and the congregations they serve.

“The program provided an opportunity for congregations to express appreciation for their ministers’ service and leadership,” Saler said. “At a time when leaders are often praised for their pace of innovation and productivity, the National Clergy Renewal Program pays homage to the timeless wisdom embedded in the practice of reflection and renewal.”

Christian Theological Seminary in Indianapolis directs the Lilly Endowment Clergy Renewal Program for Indiana congregations and a second program for congregations across the United States through its Center for Pastoral Excellence.

Staff report

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