First Presbyterian Church receives 2018 Lilly Endowment Grant for National Clergy Renewal Program

First Presbyterian Church Press Release
Contact: Dr. Wain Wesberry
[email protected]
October 15, 2018 1:00 p.m.

Reverend Wain Wesberry, minister of First Presbyterian Church in Fernandina Beach, Florida.

First Presbyterian Church (FPC) of Fernandina Beach, Florida has received a grant of $44,000 to enable its minister, the Rev. Dr. William Wain Wesberry, to participate in the 2018 National Clergy Renewal Program. FPC is one of 148 congregations across the United States selected to participate in this competitive grant program, which is funded by Lilly Endowment Inc. and administered by Christian Theological Seminary in Indianapolis. Established by the Endowment in 2000, the program’s grants allow Christian congregations to support their pastors with the gift of extended time away from their ministerial duties and responsibilities.

Ministers whose congregations are awarded the grants use their time away from the demands of daily ministry to engage in reflection and renewal. The approach respects the “Sabbath time” concept, offering ministers a carefully considered respite that may include travel, study, rest, immersive arts and cultural experiences, and prayer.

Through the National Clergy Renewal Program, congregations apply for grants of up to $50,000 to support renewal programs for their pastors. Collaborative in nature and implementation, the program allows congregations to partner with their ministers in developing experiences that addresses their unique renewal needs and aspirations. Recognizing that ministers’ families are subject to the stress and demands placed on pastoral leaders, the program encourages pastors to involve their families in renewal activities. Congregational needs during the minister’s renewal experience also are considered. Up to $15,000 of the grant may be used to support interim pastoral leadership during the pastor’s retreat, as well as renewal activities within the congregation. Since the National Clergy Renewal Program’s inception, more than 2,600 congregations have participated in the program, including the 148 congregations receiving grants in 2018.

FPC is one of two Florida congregations to receive the Lilly Endowment National Clergy Renewal Grant this year. A portion of the funding will be used to bring clergy from Illinois, Tennessee, Georgia, North Carolina, and Cuba to preach, teach, and engage the congregation, church staff, and officers. Memorial Day Weekend, a performance by “The Purple Hulls,” a bluegrass gospel sister duet, will launch the period of reflection and renewal.

In keeping with the theme of his grant application, “Listening to Common Folk,” Dr. Wesberry will explore how music has shaped and nurtured our faith lives in hearing and feeling God’s word. His sabbatical will include time for renewal and exploration in Greece, Colorado, and North Carolina and will culminate in the “Scottish Cradle of Christianity,” Iona, Scotland. “I am both elated and humbled by this sabbatical opportunity,” Dr. Wesberry says, “and I hope it refreshes both the congregation and me for an enriching next chapter of ministry together.”

“Pastors play an important role in nourishing the spiritual lives of individuals and in guiding the work of the Christian congregations they serve,” said Dr. Christopher L. Coble, the Endowment’s vice president for religion. “Through these grants we seek to honor pastors for their extraordinary service and enable them to engage in a brief period of rest and renewal. We have learned that such experiences invigorate the leadership of pastors and bring new vitality to their congregations as well.”

The Rev. Rev. Robert Saler, research fellow and director of the Lilly Endowment Clergy Renewal Programs, noted that the National Clergy Renewal Program integrates key attributes of healthy congregations, including a mutual respect for the renewal needs of both ministers and the congregations they serve.

“The program provides an opportunity for congregations to express appreciation for their ministers’ service and leadership,” Saler said. “At a time when leaders are often praised for their pace of innovation and productivity, the National Clergy Renewal Program pays homage to the timeless wisdom embedded in the practice of reflection and renewal.”

Christian Theological Seminary in Indianapolis directs the Lilly Endowment Clergy Renewal Program for Indiana Congregations and a second program for congregations across the United States through its Center for Pastoral Excellence.