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Brush Valley Fusion of Faith Congregations receive Clergy Renewal Grant

REBERSBURG — The Brush Valley Fusion of Faith, comprised of the Rebersburg Charge, United Church of Christ and St. Peter’s Lutheran (ELCA) has received a grant of $19,000 to enable its minister, Rev. Juliana (Julie) Holm, to participate in the 2019 National Clergy Renewal Program.

The Brush Valley Fusion of Faith is one of 150 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 2,800 congregations have participated in the program, including the 150 congregations receiving grants in 2019.

Pastor Julie will embark on a pilgrimage to sites in Christian history, including walking the Jesus Trail from Nazareth to Capernaum in Galilee, visiting Jerusalem, Greece, and Malta New Testament sites.

She will also visit sites regarding the history of the church in Italy, Germany, Switzerland, England and the Netherlands. Her goal will be to engage with the physical context of the writings and teachings of the Christian faith from the time of Jesus to the present day.

She will cap her visit with a personal retreat on the Scottish Isle of Iona and a month of service with refugee.

Pastor Julie said, “Our churches have done a lot to look at the context of the scriptures, as well as our own context, using a variety of methods and writings. But we do not have the experience of actually being in the places written about, and where important development of the Christian Faith occurred. I want to turn our book understanding into a more experiential understanding, bringing in some experience of these holy places into our understanding of the holy story as we have received it. We are grateful for the Endowment helping to provide that opportunity.”

“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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