Inspiring, educational and entertaining

Posted Mar 08, 2017 | Lilly Endowment Clergy Renewal Programs

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This blog post is part of a series that features guest posts from pastors who have participated in Lilly Endowment Clergy Renewal grants. We wish to highlight some helpful approaches to the process which have allowed these grants to be blessings to both the pastors who go on renewal leaves and to the congregations themselves.

It can be difficult for clergypersons to achieve and maintain a healthy plan for self-care. It is easy to become depleted of your energy, self-care and spiritual practices because you are constantly giving so much of yourself and your personal time away with very little regard for needed time for renewal. The impact of my renewal leave experience was very positive in this regard because it afforded me time for rest and relaxation as well as time for reflection to focus on rebuilding certain spiritual practices, reclaiming and guarding personal and family time and engaging in activities with family and friends.

Miami is home for me; it is where I grew up and the majority of my family lives. What was so exciting about this part of my renewal leave was that I would have the opportunity to attend church and worship with my family during Holy Week and Easter.

My temporary residence while in Florida was a place of solace. The first several days upon arriving in Florida were spent at the hotel simply resting. I knew I was extremely tried, as preparations for being away from work for four months involved a great deal of planning. But it wasn’t until I finally stopped that the heaviness of the entire experience became a reality.

My routine for the first few days was simply sleeping, eating, and praying. After about the fourth day I added walking and reading into my regimen. I found the morning sunrise an excellent time for morning prayer and to simply be still before God. Slowly but surely I began to regain myself. Those first few days of my renewal leave were a healing balm.

The next goal of my renewal leave was to make a pilgrimage to Rome and Florence, Italy, with one of my dearest friend and longtime prayer partners. One of the great benefits of the sabbatical, and there were many, was the fact that for the most part we were not on anyone’s schedule but our own. The usual demands commonly found at work of rushing from one meeting, task or service to the next, and responding to emails and to text messages, were gone.

The impact was inspiring, educational and entertaining. At the time I was working on the application, my son, Samuel, watched as I worked all day and then came home and continued to work for several more hours on the renewal application. He commented several times about watching me work so hard and how determined I was to complete the process. When we were notified that Trinity had received a renewal grant, he was elated! Samuel became my travel companion for our time in Atlanta, GA and Washington D.C. We arrived in Atlanta, GA the day of the Grand Opening of the Center for Civil and Human Rights in downtown Atlanta. Although Samuel had studied the Civil Rights movement in school, and heard stories of first hand experiences from family members and friends of acts of discrimination and racism, to tour the different galleries and watch the videos and see the pictures up close was a powerful and dramatic learning experience for him.

By all means, the Lilly Endowment Clergy Renewal Programs are a tremendous gift to clergy and churches. Advice I would offer other clergy considering making an application are:

  • Recruit several members to serve on your planning committee with knowledge and skills in areas such as finance, grant writing, and program planning.
  • Be prepared to invest a large amount of time in the planning and writing process.
  • Start on the application as soon as possible.
  • Although it may not happen as planned, it is important to allow plenty of time for reentry.
  • Appoint members on your committee to serve as monitors to help the clergy person supervise and track grant goals, progress, budget and reporting process.

This piece has been adapted from the reflections of the Rev. Karen L. King of Trinity Episcopal Church, Indianapolis, IN.

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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