Millsaps College has received a grant of $1 million to establish a new, ecumenical program to support clergywomen as part of the Center for Ministry based at the College.
The program is part of Lilly Endowment Inc.’s Thriving in Ministry, an initiative that supports a variety of religious organizations across the nation as they create or strengthen programs that help pastors build relationships with experienced clergy who can serve as mentors and guide them through key leadership challenges in congregational ministry.
The Endowment is making nearly $70 million in grants through the Thriving in Ministry initiative.
The Rev. Paige Swaim-Presley, director of the Center for Ministry, said the new program is for southern clergywomen who serve in their first solo pastor or senior pastor role and associate ministers who feel called to solo or senior pastor leadership in the future.
“Clergywomen face many challenges that are particular to their dual status as pastoral leaders and women,” Swaim-Presley said, “and this program will connect them with mentors to educate them and their congregations about practices that strengthen their ministries and prepare them for healthy, effective long-term leadership.” Program development should get under way in January, with the first peer groups beginning their work together in fall 2019.
“I believe that this work will be transformative not only for the clergywomen themselves, but also for their families, their congregations, their future ministries, and the ongoing mission of the Center for Ministry at Millsaps College,” she said. “The new program embodies the Center for Ministry’s mission of ‘developing Christian leaders through lifelong learning,’ and builds on its record of cultivating clergy excellence through continuing education, peer groups, and spiritual formation.”
The Rev. Dr. Joey Shelton, chaplain and director of church relations at Millsaps, said the program would equip clergywomen to navigate their unique opportunities and challenges.
“In our geographic region there are significant numbers of congregations, within and beyond Methodism, resistant to receiving female clergy leadership,” he said. “The Lilly Endowment recognizes the enormous long-term benefits this grant presents. The Center for Ministry is a one-of-a-kind entity in its relationship with Millsaps College and the Mississippi Conference of The United Methodist Church. As such, the Center is well suited to bring together a large ecumenical audience of diverse clergywomen who will join God’s transformation of the church and the world. This is energizing news!”
Dr. Robert W. Pearigen, president of Millsaps College, said the College is grateful to the Lilly Endowment for its grant that will fund this new program.
“The Center for Ministry plays an integral part in the College’s relationship with the Mississippi Conference of The United Methodist Church, and I look forward to seeing this relationship grow even stronger through the important work that will happen because of this grant,” he said.
The Center for Ministry is one of 78 organizations located in 29 states that is taking part in the initiative. The organizations reflect diverse Christian traditions: mainline and evangelical Protestant, Roman Catholic, and Orthodox.
Thriving in Ministry is part of Lilly Endowment’s grantmaking to strengthen pastoral leadership in Christian congregations in the United States. This has been a grantmaking priority at Lilly Endowment for nearly 25 years.
“Leading a congregation today is multi-faceted and exceptionally demanding,” said Christopher L. Coble, Lilly Endowment’s vice president for religion. “When pastors have opportunities to build meaningful relationships with experienced colleagues, they are able to negotiate the challenges of ministry and their leadership thrives. These promising programs, including Millsaps College and the Center for Ministry, will help pastors develop these kinds of relationships, especially when they are in the midst of significant professional transitions.”
The Center for Ministry is a central component of church relations at Millsaps College and is a joint venture of the College and the Mississippi Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church. Center for Ministry programs include Journey Partners, developed for clergy and laypersons of all denominations to provide training in spiritual direction within a rich Christian context. Completion of this study of classic and contemporary spiritual writings and experiential learning may fulfill the Major Experience requirement for Millsaps students to graduate. Other programs offered by the Center include continuing education for United Methodist Clergy and the Mississippi Course of Study, an extension campus of the Course of Study at Emory University dedicated to the formation of part-time United Methodist pastors. The Center is in the process of developing a Youth Theological Academy at Millsaps College.
Lilly Endowment Inc. is an Indianapolis-based private philanthropic foundation created in 1937 by three members of the Lilly family — J.K. Lilly Sr. and sons Eli and J.K. Jr. — through gifts of stock in their pharmaceutical business, Eli Lilly & Company. While those gifts remain the financial bedrock of the Endowment, the Endowment is a separate entity from the company, with a distinct governing board, staff and location. In keeping with the founders’ wishes, the Endowment supports the causes of community development, education and religion. The Endowment maintains a special commitment to its hometown, Indianapolis, and its home state Indiana. Its grantmaking in religion focuses on supporting efforts to strengthen the leadership and vitality of Christian congregations throughout the country and to increase the public’s understanding of the role of religion in public life.