Renewal and welcome

Posted Mar 05, 2013 | Lilly Endowment Clergy Renewal Programs

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By Teri Thomas, guest blogger

Thanks to a Clergy Renewal Program grant, I was able to take a three and a half month sabbatical in 2010. It was the opportunity of a lifetime for me and for the congregation, and the most amazing part is that three years later, the renewal is still taking place. The sabbatical time allowed me to plant new seeds, and those are still taking root and sprouting. There are more discoveries and adventures ahead. The experience is not over and hopefully never will come to an end.

The focus of my renewal time was on hospitality and welcoming strangers. I have been changed forever by the people I met in Ethiopia and Kenya. I experienced a real conversion on issues of hunger and poverty and my ability to make a difference. This has also infected the congregation, and we have expanded our mission commitments. Next summer we are sending 20 members of the congregation to Kenya for a two week mission trip, and their lives will be changed as well.

As part of the renewal, our congregation engaged in a study of diversity and racism. We have, since that time, welcomed nine new families of color into our congregation. This is impacting everything from worship and music to fellowship and leadership. We have a new vision of who we are and what we can be in our community and in the world.

My absence from the congregation for 3 ½ months was of concern to many. But the congregation came forth with new leadership in several areas. The staff developed their leadership abilities and discovered new gifts and passions. I was able to loosen up on my own control needs and now feel more effective and faithful in my own leadership style.

This continues to be a renewal for me and for the congregation; a renewal of faith and discipleship and ministry.

Rev. Teri Thomas is pastor of Northminster Presbyterian Church in Indianapolis, IN. She is a past recipient of a Lilly Endowment Clergy Renewal Program for Indiana Congregations grant.

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 clergyrenewal@cts.edu.

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