ROCKFORD (WIFR) -- GPS Faith Community has received a grant of $47,969 to enable its minister, the Reverend Robert James, to participate in the 2012 National Clergy Renewal Program funded by the Indianapolis-based Lilly Endowment Inc. It is one of 147 congregations across the country that will support their ministers in the program, which allows pastors to step back from their busy lives and renew their spirits for the benefit of their ongoing ministries.
Now in its 13th year, the program invites Christian congregations and ministers to plan a period of intentional reflection and renewal. It gives ministers time to take a break from their daily obligations and gain the fresh perspective and renewed energy that a carefully considered “sabbath time” of travel, study, rest and prayer can provide.
Through this program, Christian congregations apply for grants of up to $50,000 to support a renewal program for their pastors. Working with their congregations, the ministers design their renewal programs to fit their own needs and aspirations. Pastors are encouraged to include families in the renewal activities. Up to $15,000 of the grant may be used for the congregation to pay for interim pastoral leadership while the pastor is away, as well as for renewal activities within the congregation. 1,745 congregations have participated in the clergy renewal program since it began in 2000, including the 147 congregations in this round that received grants totaling nearly $6.5 million.
Pastor James will use his sabbatical time to rest and reflect while visiting notably successful social service organizations throughout the world to learn how they conduct their outreach programs. While Pastor James is away the congregation will complement Pastor James’ research by working with Lutheran Social Services of IL to explore expanding the congregation’s social outreach ministries in the northern Illinois area.
“Time and time again we hear that these renewal experiences are transformative for pastors, their families and their congregations,” said N. Clay Robbins, the Endowment’s president and CEO. “We intend 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.” Many pastors and their families return with a rich store of shared memories, having had large blocks of unbroken time together, uninterrupted by the 24-hour-a-day routine of the ministry. “The wealth of imagination unleashed by this program is truly wonderful to see,” he said. “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.”