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Columbia Theological Seminary announces grant recipients in its ReKindle Congregational Development Program

The Center for Lifelong Learning selected 10 congregations for 2023 awards

by Columbia Theological Seminary | Special to Presbyterian News Service

Photo by Van Tay Media via Unsplash

DECATUR, Georgia — The Center for Lifelong Learning at Columbia Theological Seminary has announced the 2023 grant recipients of the ReKindle Congregational Development Program.

In 2020, Lilly Endowment Inc. provided the seminary a $969,500 grant to help the Center for Lifelong Learning develop the program “reKindle: Congregational Development in a Post-Covid Era.”

Grants of up to $10,000 are supporting congregations accepted into the reKindle program, which helps congregations realize their goal of being thriving congregations by supporting their focused attention on an identified mission priority.

“Reading through the many proposals that came in each year (45 in 2023) is heartening,” said the Rev. Dr. Julie Josund, the reKindle program coordinator. “Many congregations are actively working toward discovering viability for themselves and their communities.”

The 10 congregations selected for the program receive coaching, Columbia faculty teachings and $10,000 “to help them shift and thrive in this unique time,” Josund said.

The 2024 reKindle grant applications open Jan. 1, 2024, and close April 30, 2024. Learn more about the reKindle program here.

Among this year’s grant recipients:

  • First Presbyterian Church in Tallahassee, Florida. Drawing on the psalms and using restorative practices, “In the Midst: Glad Cries” seeks to strengthen the witness of First Presbyterian Church, a small congregation located blocks from the Florida Capitol. The grant will facilitate leadership development within the session, support a communications audit, develop small- and large-group practices in restorative justice — specifically compassionate witnessing — and fund a collaborative art project that bears witness to God’s faithfulness during conflict and chaos in church community.
  • White Bluff Presbyterian Church in Savannah, Georgia. Asbury Methodist Church, a predominantly Black congregation, planted its church in the social hall of White Bluff Presbyterian Church, a predominantly white congregation, on May 1. Realizing and embracing their differences, these two congregations believe that if people encounter each other with open spirits and warm hearts, they are prone to be open to what God can do when people of faith gather. The grant will help fund training to design and implement activities to strengthen the partnership.
  • Limestone Presbyterian Church in Gaffney, South Carolina. The “Intentionally Intergenerational” program will help the congregation delve into ways the generations can mutually influence and learn from each other, including incorporating younger members into leadership structures and opportunities.
  • Park Central Presbyterian Church in Syracuse, New York, a majority-white congregation in the heart of Syracuse, is living into its Matthew 25 commitment to dismantle structural racism “first in our own hearts and second in our church so that we may become a thriving multicultural congregation that comes beside our neighbors as loving allies in the larger work of justice.” The grant will “enable us to work with trained facilitators toward the goal” of widening “the church community’s involvement in personal and group training so we will be ready to enact deeper change in our worship practices, our organizational structures and systems, and our engagement with our neighbors.”
  • Church of All Nations in Columbia Heights, Minnesota. The church seeks to revitalize community life together through skill-sharing and multigenerational community-building by launching the CAN community education program. Through the program, congregants will be invited to lead one- to four-week courses on any topic they are equipped to teach. The classes will function as pockets of community connection.
  • First Presbyterian Church of Strasburg, Pennsylvania. The idea of “PSA” for “Prayer, Scripture, Action” came about when church leaders wanted to identify something around which the church could rally to rekindle the spark that had been present before the Covid pandemic. “We recognize that we spend more time as a body going to meetings as a church than we do in prayer together as a church or in reading Scripture,” the church said. The PSA project will help the church intentionally spend time in prayer and Scripture to undergird meetings and programming.

About Lilly Endowment Inc.

Lilly Endowment Inc. is an Indianapolis-based private foundation created in 1937 by J.K. Lilly Sr. and sons Eli and J.K. Jr. through gifts of stock in their pharmaceutical business, Eli Lilly & Company. Although the gifts of stock remain a financial bedrock of the Endowment, it is a separate entity from the company, with a distinct governing board, staff and location. In keeping with the founders’ wishes, the Endowment exists to support the causes of religion, education and community development. The principal aim of the Endowment’s grantmaking in religion is to deepen and enrich the lives of Christians in the United States, primarily by seeking out and supporting efforts to enhance the vitality of congregations and strengthen their pastoral and lay leadership. Learn more here.

About Columbia Theological Seminary

Columbia Theological Seminary is “cultivating faithful leaders for God’s changing world.” As an educational institution of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Columbia Seminary is a community of theological inquiry, leadership development and formation for ministry in the service of the Church of Jesus Christ. Columbia Seminary offers six graduate degree programs and dozens of courses and events as a resource for church professionals and lay people through The Center for Lifelong Learning. For more information, go here.

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