Lilly Awards $1 Million Grant to NPTS for Initiative

CHICAGO, IL (February 6, 2018) – A new $1 million grant from Lilly Endowment Inc. will enable North Park Theological Seminary to establish the Thriving in Ministry: Spiritually, Vocationally, and Prophetically Initiative.

Michelle Clifton-Soderstrom

The initiative 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 role models and mentors and guide them through key leadership challenges in congregational ministry.

Through cohort and mentoring relationships, the Thriving in Ministry Initiative will focus on three major areas – forming and developing women in senior leadership positions, including areas of church planting; continuing education programs for spiritual directors; restorative justice and the Seminary in Prison project, which brings together students, pastors, and men who are incarcerated at Illinois’s Stateville Correctional Center to learn together in a unique environment.

“Many pastors are seeking role models and wise colleagues who can guide them through professional transitions and challenges encountered in particular ministry contexts,” said Christopher L. Coble, Lilly Endowment’s vice president for religion. “Our hope is that this grant to North Park will support a new wave of efforts that help clergy thrive and lead their congregations more effectively.”

“The Lilly Grant will continue to open doors for the seminary’s partnerships with Stateville Correctional Center, the ECC’s Love Mercy Do Justice (LMDJ) mission priority, and other leaders doing this work in our pastoral community,” said Michelle Clifton-Soderstrom, the NPTS theology and ethics professor who has co-led courses at the prison.

“The seminary is in conversation with LMDJ regarding utilizing funds for hosting conventicles and developing a more robust educational program at Stateville,” Clifton-Soderstrom added.

Beyond the work at Stateville, the grant money will fund pastoral cohorts who can offer peer resourcing and support for those, including youth pastors, who want to engage the criminal justice system in more prophetic ways.

The Covenant Companion’s award-winning article “Letters from Stateville” highlights the program and includes reflections by men who participate in the program.

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Stan Friedman is the news and online editor for the Covenant Companion and is grateful for the opportunity to serve in a job that combines his newspaper and pastoral ministry experience. He has been to 15 Bruce Springsteen concerts in four cities and listened to “Thunder Road” an average of at least once a day for 41 years.

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