Growing in leadership

Posted Apr 04, 2017 | Lilly Endowment Clergy Renewal Programs

This blog post is part of a series that features guest posts from members of congregations that have received Lilly Endowment Clergy Renewal grants. We wish to highlight the ways in which these grants are blessings, not only to the pastors who go on renewal leaves, but to the congregations themselves.

The impact of the Clergy Renewal Program on Trinity congregation has been positive and strong. Lay persons were empowered, and the parish was stable both during Rev. King’s renewal leave and all of the other clergy and staff changes. Some have stated that the careful planning by our sabbatical committee contributed to the congregation’s success.
The most important goal of the Trinity Episcopal Church’s Clergy Renewal Program was to give the Rev. Karen L. King a much needed opportunity to reconnect with her family and her faith through an extended period of time away to rest, study, and travel. This goal was accomplished. The sabbatical committee’s other congregational goals included planning and implementing The Gift of Sabbath Lenten program; ensuring all church programs under Rev. King’s responsibility were carefully and completely covered by lay leaders and/or substitute clergy; empowering lay leadership to take on additional outreach and pastoral care roles and responsibilities to lessen the burden on Rev. King upon her return; and implementing new church programs and experiences based on Rev. King’s renewal leave experiences.
The Gift of Sabbath Lenten program was planned and implemented by the Trinity Adult Formation Committee, partially supported with funds from Rev. King’s renewal grant. The program involved a five week Sunday morning study on the book Sabbath Keeping; a Sabbath educational night specifically for Trinity vestry; three Wednesday evening dinner sessions; a Friday evening/Saturday Lenten retreat; and the opportunity for individual spiritual direction. The quality and comprehensiveness of this program caught the attention of Trinity parishioners. Soon, everyone was talking about “saving and keeping” the Sabbath, and new Sabbath practices were initiated and shared among parishioners.
The sabbatical committee took very seriously the goal of ensuring that all of Rev. King’s job responsibilities were covered and planned to run smoothly in her absence. A wonderful “send-off” celebration with banners, balloons, flowers, food, and speeches was held to bring the entire parish together in celebration of this opportunity for Rev. King. The message was clearly sent, and we felt received, that all is well and will be well during Rev. King’s absence. In addition, Rev. King wrote a sabbatical article for the church magazine carefully detailing her renewal leave plans and itinerary.
Oversight of the Trinity Outreach Center (TOC) was one of Rev. King’s major outreach responsibilities that was extremely time-consuming. Prior to Rev. King’s leaving, during a Sunday morning service the Trinity Outreach oversight committee chairperson was commissioned to assume this role. No interim clergy or staff were hired to cover Trinity Outreach responsibilities. An interim clergy person was hired to ensure that pastoral care was genuinely and readily available to all Trinity parishioners.
There are definitely several ways in which the clergy renewal experience will continue at Trinity. First, clearly there has been increased lay leadership in outreach and clergy-lay collaboration in pastoral care programs. Church lay leaders now oversee all Trinity Outreach Center facility and financial responsibilities. In addition, during Rev. King’s renewal leave, lay leaders initiated several new outreach programs. All of these programs will continue regardless of future clergy changes due to strong lay leadership and involvement. Also, spiritually, parishioners and clergy have continued their heightened awareness and practice of keeping the Sabbath.
We would definitely recommend the Clergy Renewal Program to other congregations. The program is a wonderful opportunity to give clergy time to renew and reconnect with their faith, families, and general well-being. Also, parishes have the opportunity to look inward, grow in leadership, and learn from the clergy’s sabbatical experiences.
It is important that all committee members understand the amount of work required before, during, and after the grant period. Creating a very detailed plan with clear goals, responsibilities, and expectations is critical to success. We also recommend that a committee has more rather than less committee members, and/or alternate members to ensure lay involvement throughout the entire Clergy Renewal Program process. It is also important that the entire parish be invested and eager for the clergy person to have the opportunity.
We would definitely welcome and look forward to another clergy renewal experience in the future.
This piece has been adapted from the reflections of congregation members from Trinity Episcopal Church, Indianapolis, IN, served by the Rev. Karen L. King.

The Lilly Endowment Clergy Renewal Programs at Christian Theological Seminary (CTS) seek to strengthen Christian congregations by providing opportunities for pastors to step away briefly from the persistent obligations of daily parish life and to engage in a period of renewal and reflection. To request permission to repost this content, please contact