Thirty Indiana congregations, including seven United Methodists – from Granger to New Albany – have received grants in Lilly Endowment’s 2009 Clergy Renewal Program for Indiana Congregations. They represent 14 counties, 18 cities and towns, 11 Christian denominations and one reform Jewish synagogue.

“Life-changing pilgrimages” is the term many pastors who have benefited from a clergy renewal grant use to describe their time away from the daily duties of congregational leadership. For them, their renewal leaves are rare opportunities to receive the gift of time in a new way-to rest, pray, explore new worlds, and deepen their relationships with those they love.

Through this program, the Endowment invites congregations throughout the state to apply for grants of up to $50,000 to support an extended period of intentional reflection and renewal that ministers, working with their congregations, design to suit their own needs and aspirations for pastoral renewal. The pastors are welcome to include their families in the renewal activities.

Further, up to $15,000 of the grant can be used for the congregation to pay for worship and pastoral care support while the pastor is away, as well as for renewal activities within the congregation.

“We hear wonderful stories from pastors and congregations that have participated in this program in the past 11 years,” says Craig Dykstra, the Endowment’s senior vice president for religion. “The pastors tell us that their sabbaticals have given them new energy for ministry and often a fresh vision for how they can do it better. The congregations find the programs to be renewing as well. Church members usually gain new appreciation for all that their pastors do. They also discover talents and capacities for ministry among themselves that come to the fore during their pastor’s absence.”

Creative ways

Most of the pastors will spend significant portions of their renewal in spiritual enrichment. They will set aside times for prayer, meditation and spiritual direction in various retreat centers and monasteries.

Many of the newly funded proposals describe creative ways that pastors are choosing to expand their horizons and enhance their capacities to serve the diversity of people who are members of their congregations. The Rev. Suhyoung Baik, who serves Broadway United Methodist Church, Indianapolis, is fluent both in Korean and Japanese. He will spend time in both countries in order to “help renew his vision for multicultural ministry” at Broadway.

Several pastors will devote part of their renewal time to improving their physical health, participating in fitness programs of all kinds-hiking, mountain climbing, working with a trainer or learning to prepare nutritious meals.

Several pastors in this year’s class continue a tradition of returning to beloved artistic endeavors. For the Rev. Kevin Armstrong, North United Methodist Church, Indianapolis, the capacity to pay careful attention is a crucial aspect of Christian faith. So, he will attend a writing festival for people of faith, work on his poetry, and develop his skills as an amateur photographer – all of which, in his view, enhance people’s capacities to see things truly, clearly and deeply. So that his parishioners can join him in learning the same discipline, church members will be given disposable cameras to take pictures that capture aspects of the good, the true and the beautiful from their particular points of view.

Other pastors plan photo safaris in the Alaskan wilderness and in Kenya; yet another will pursue her passion for singing and weaving during a sojourn in the Scottish highlands. Many of these pastors will study denominational and family roots.


“The main purpose of Lilly Endowment’s grant-making in religion,” says Dykstra, “is to strengthen and support excellence in pastoral ministry. Through its clergy renewal programs, the Endowment seeks not only to provide opportunities that enable good and faithful ministers to sustain their spiritual depth and pastoral strength over the course of their careers, but also to honor them publicly for the vital roles they play in the lives of their people and in the larger communities of which they are a part. We are eager to bolster the good work that America’s pastors and congregations are accomplishing in their mutual ministries.”

With these grants, the Endowment has made a total of 336 clergy renewal grants to Indiana congregations since the program began in 1999. In addition to the Indiana program, the Endowment also conducts a national clergy renewal program. Grants in that program will be announced later this fall.

The United Methodist congregations and pastors selected for the Indiana Clergy Renewal program are:

  • Broadway UMC, Indianapolis, $50,000, Suhyoung Baik
  • Church of the Four Seasons UMC, Crown Point, $49,948, Chris D. Nunley
  • Coalbush UMC, Mishawaka, $42,410, James Davidson
  • Granger Community UMC, $50,000, R. Mark Beeson
  • North UMC Indianapolis, $49,988, Kevin R. Armstrong
  • St. Luke’s UMC, Indianapolis, $48,310, Linda S. McCoy
  • Trinity UMC, Elkhart, $26,030, Mark O. Fenstermacher

Their renewal leaves are rare opportunities to receive the gift of time in a new way-to rest, pray, explore new worlds, and deepen their relationships with those they love.