The session is excited to announce that Hillwood Presbyterian Church is a recipient of a grant in the 2020 National Clergy Renewal Program!  You may remember the Hospitality Experiment that we have planned as a part of HPC’s next steps in ministry renewal.  Due to CoVid-19, we currently are working on an adjusted timeframe to undertake the Hospitality Experiment.  We look forward to a time in the future when we all safely can participate in our plans to learn from travel to varying communities of faith.  Read more below about the grant received and plans for using it in our ministry renewal efforts.

With questions about the grant and plans ahead for our Hospitality Experiment, contact HPC’s Clerk of Session Cynthia Palmer or Personnel Moderator Sheila Sferrella.
 -Hillwood Presbyterian Church has received a grant of $50,000 to enable its minister, The Rev. Dr. Jule M. Nyhuis, to participate in the 2020 National Clergy Renewal Program.  Hillwood Presbyterian Church is one of 140 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 $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 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.  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 3,000 congregations have participated in the program, including the 140 congregations receiving grants in 2020.

Hillwood Presbyterian Church sought this grant for clergy and congregational renewal to be able to carry out a plan for a Hospitality Experiment that will give HPC and Pastor Jule a focused season to learn experientially the best about hospitality.  The experiment will include components that mirror one another’s experience.  Pastor Jule will travel to receive hospitality alone and with her family.  Likewise, the church will go once a month in small groups to intentionally chosen faith communities to see firsthand how others gather, what matters to them, how they receive newcomers, and what hospitality best practices entail.  Three other times, the church will go individually to places of their preference so they might know what it feels like to walk alone into a new spiritual community with the hope of being hospitably received.  Pastor Jule will go to be in spaces known for authentic hospitality and places revered by those pushed outside by the tradition.  HPC will be encouraged to do likewise during their outings.  In preparation, we together will study the book The Welcoming Congregation:  Roots and Fruits of Christian Hospitality by Henry G. Brinton.  We also will work with an organizational development consultant who will guide our discovery by assisting in having similar questions before us for our travels, checking in on our learning, and leading a summary of discoveries in order to plot actionable steps for us to enact in the future.  

By receiving the gift of hospitality in this experiment, we will see how and where others gather, how they invite others – or not, and how they provide for the spiritual needs of the wider community – or not. We all will practice connecting with strangers and will have opportunities for deepening shared experiences with those we already know. As group outings to other faith communities will be intentional times to be received by the kinds of people we want to learn how to welcome (those of different races, ages, life stages, sexual orientations, and spiritual understandings), the church will have a chance to see what matters to others. Our hope is that we all will be opened to fresh thinking and renewed excitement so we will be ready to take the next steps in congregational and community renewal.

“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, Lilly 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. Dr. 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.



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