Christ the King Lutheran Church in Bloomington

One of the Select U.S. Congregations to Receive

Lilly Endowment 2023 Clergy Renewal Program Grants

            Christ the King Lutheran Church in Bloomington has received a grant of $59,000 to enable its minister, Rev. Rory Philstrom, to participate in the 2023 National Clergy Renewal Program. Christ the King is one of 177 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, prayer and immersive arts and cultural experiences.

Through the National Clergy Renewal Program, congregations apply for grants of up to $60,000 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 address 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. A portion of the grant monies may be used to support interim pastoral support during the pastor’s sabbatical, as well as renewal activities within the congregation. Since the National Clergy Renewal Program’s inception, more than 3,527 congregations have participated in the program, including the 177 congregations receiving grants in 2023.

            Rev. Philstrom’s renewal time will be taken over the three months of summer 2024 and will be structured by the stages of Joseph Cambell’s “Hero’s Journey.” Each key stage will be marked by extended time with his key relationships, including friends, wife, children, parents, and siblings.  It will also include silent retreats, travel by Amtrak, and wilderness experiences in the American West.

During the same time period, Christ the King for their own congregational renewal adventures, one for each month of the leave. These will include The Adventure of Joy, The Adventure of Relationships, and The Adventure of the Spirit. These adventures will be marked by special guest speakers and exciting activities for the congregation and the community.

            “Pastors play an important role in nourishing the spiritual lives of individuals and in guiding the work of the Christian congregations they serve,” said 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.”

Dr. Robert Saler, 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.”

Note to congregations: Please remember, when you talk or write about this program, that the correct name for the funding organization is Lilly Endowment Inc. or, on second reference, the Endowment.