Yale Divinity School Receives Lilly Endowment Grant to "Sustain Pastoral Excellence"

The Yale Divinity School has received a grant of over $1.5 million from Indianapolis-based Lilly Endowment Inc. to participate in a national program called “Sustaining Pastoral Excellence.”

The program is a new effort of the Endowment to focus attention and energy on maintaining the high caliber of many of the country’s pastoral leaders.

Overall, 47 grants were awarded for a total of $57.9 million to religiously affiliated organizations across the country. The three- to five-year awards range from $252,355 to $2 million.

The grant awarded to the Divinity School will fund a comprehensive, national project to help pastors articulate, embody and communicate Christian faith as a way of life. The project, titled “Faith as a Way of Life,” will focus on the practice of pastoral ministry and education for pastoral ministry. Local and national working groups of pastors, laity, scholars and theologians will meet regularly for study and reflection on the project’s topic. The groups will also help create and introduce theological curricula that connect concepts of faith with the practice of faith.

“This grant will enable us to enhance our core mission of training leaders of communities of faith,” said Harold Attridge, dean of the Yale Divinity School. He added that the project “fits into our long-range plans for strengthening our faculty and course offerings in this area.”

Much of the initiative for the creation of the project came from Miroslav Volf, the Henry B. Wright Professor of Theology at the Divinity School. Reflecting on the importance of sustaining pastoral excellence, Volf said about the grant, “Faith is a force that continues to shape the lives of people in contemporary societies in major ways, and the grant will help us not only to study faith but also to explore resources of faith for more salutary ways of living. Many people have contributed to the proposal-staff, faculty and administration-and I am grateful to all of them for their terrific work.”

Volf hopes that the findings of the project will result in a publication on the topic of Christian faith as a way of life.

Said Craig Dykstra, Lilly Endowment vice president for religion: “The Endowment’s current religion grant-making revolves around two major and interlocking considerations: identifying, nurturing and educating a talented new generation of pastors and, second, recognizing and supporting the excellent ones we have. Not surprisingly, we know that healthy, engaged, thoughtful, dedicated ministers usually go hand in hand with healthy, vibrant and effective congregations.”

Represented among the grants from nearly every major Christian faith tradition are theological schools, regional and national judicatories from large and small denominations, church-related colleges and universities, ecumenical organizations, retreat centers and a congregation, among others.

Most groups serve racially mixed groups of pastors, but two programs are aimed explicitly at African Americans, two at Hispanics, and one at Korean pastors on the West Coast. Most offer opportunities for pastors at any stage of their career, though several focus particularly on new pastors. “Peer group learning”-that is, small groups of pastors who meet regularly for several years for ongoing renewal and mutual support-form the basis for most of the programs.

“We will be most interested in following these projects over the next few years,” Dykstra said. “They offer the promise of meaningful renewal for many pastors in this country.”

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Media Contact

Dorie Baker: dorie.baker@yale.edu, 203-432-1345