We got this news in late August, and announced it in church at the time. But at that point, the granting agency hadn’t yet publicly announced this year’s recipients, so we were asked not to share widely. Now we can celebrate more openly! – MKH+
Back in the spring, we shared with the congregation that we were writing a grant application to the Clergy Renewal grant program. That program makes large grants to support clergy and congregations during the clergyperson’s sabbatical. A sabbatical is a time of rest and exploration away from the parish for a clergy person who’s been in one parish for seven or more years.
Here’s the summary statement from our application – it’s written in first person, but many of you helped develop the idea or encourage the process:
“For my sabbatical, I want to develop my approach to including children in the worship of my Episcopal parish, by visiting four churches that are integrating children into worship in transformative, life-giving ways. I will use these site visits, supported by reading and interviews, to both glean new ideas and to develop and articulate a fuller sense of the possibilities and purpose of including children in the weekly worship of a congregation. On our travels, my family will join me as participant observers and partners in the project. While I’m away, my parish will undertake a renewal project of their own: a season of activities focused on deepening cross-generational friendships within the parish. Their work will dovetail with my project to help us grow further as a meaningfully and joyfully age-diverse worshipping community.”
Well, friends – we got the grant.
What that means is that sometime in the next 18 months, I will take about three months away, with my family, for study and rest and travel and play. You’ll do your part too, then we’ll come back together to share what we’ve discovered and see how our experiences shape our ongoing ministry together.
While working on this grant proposal, we came to really appreciate how this program sees the sabbatical as a mutual good for the clergyperson and the congregation. We were invited to think concretely about how I’d bring my learnings home, and how the congregation could do something playful and renewing too, during my time away. It won’t just be pressing “pause” here. We’ll make sure we have really good leadership in place, both clergy and laypeople, and I expect it’ll be a joyful and productive season all around.
I know all this may cause a little anxiety for some people. You may miss me; I know I’ll miss you. You may worry about leadership in my absence. You may have seen a clergyperson use a sabbatical as a step towards leaving. You may wonder how this intersects with the timing of our proposed capital campaign (the short answer there is, I’m not going anywhere until we’re at a point where it’s OK for me to leave!).
All I can offer is that I’m not really worried about any of that. There’s lots to figure out, but we have plenty of time, and we have terrific leadership in this parish, and we’re going to figure it out and do it well.
I wasn’t at all sure whether we’d get the grant, but I always thought we were good candidates, because the application says that the best candidates are churches where there’s a strong, trusting partnership between parish and clergy. And I think we have that.
So: thank you for your support, your ideas, and your prayers. There probably won’t be any more news about this for a while, because we can’t start making concrete plans until we’re a little clearer on whether and when the capital campaign is moving forward. But feel free to ask questions, and if you’d like to read the whole grant proposal, let me know.
Here’s a little more about the grant program:
St. Dunstan’s is one of 146 congregations across the United States 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. The 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.