Recently, ZPC and I received two packets in the mail with the following information:
“Zionsville Presbyterian Church has a received a grant of $49,935 to enable its minister, Scott Shelton, to participate in the 2015 Lilly Endowment Clergy Renewal Program for Indiana Congregations. Zionsville Presbyterian Church is one 26 congregations in Indiana selected to participate in this competitive program, which is funded by Lilly Endowment Inc. and administered by Christian Theological Seminary in Indianapolis. Established by the Endowment in 1999, the program’s grant allow congregations to support their pastors with the gift of extended time away from their ministerial duties and responsibilities.” You can imagine how excited we are to have received this grant – and to dream about using it in 2016!
What does it all mean? Studies have shown that many pastors experience burnout and some quit the ministry altogether. So the Lilly Endowment along with Christian Theological Seminary is proactively making a difference. Here’s what Christopher L. Coble, vice president for religion at the Endowment, says: “Lilly Endowment intends for this program to enable pastors to live for a while at a different pace and in a new environment, in Sabbath time and space. We can think of no better way to honor these hardworking, faithful men and women than to help them experience personal growth and spiritual renewal in ways that they themselves design and find meaningful. We regularly hear that these renewal experiences are transformative for pastors, their families and their congregations.”
For me and my family, this Sabbath time, or sabbatical, will take place May 15-September 15, 2016. My time away will combine some of my passions: the Bible, history, travel and my family. The two big highlights will be a trip to Israel and a trip to the American West. Claire and I and our four kids will travel to Israel for two weeks next June to tour biblical sites with a personal guide. We feel this is a once in a lifetime opportunity and comes at a perfect time as all 4 of our kids are in their teenage years, but not yet in college. Also, we’ll take an extended trip next July to the American West, exploring Lewis and Clark sites and National Parks, such as Glacier, Yellowstone and Grand Teton. I’ll also do a personal quick trip to Springfield, Illinois to study Abraham Lincoln’s life. Finally, Claire and I will schedule a getaway to Florida to rest before returning to ZPC. During this time, I will do some reading, writing and reflecting on all that I am seeing and learning. I plan to teach a class upon returning to ZPC called: “Christ in Community – Jesus in Israel and Indy.” We’ll explore what I have learned from Jesus, from Lincoln, and even Lewis and Clark, and how we can take that to new frontiers to serve Christ in our own communities right around us.
While the majority of the grant goes to support the pastor’s time away, some of the grant money goes to support the church in the pastor’s absence. Some of the grant is set aside to help Jerry with guest preachers or for someone to assist with pastoral duties. There is also money to help underwrite some of the cost of the All Church Retreat, planned again for late August 2016, at beautiful Abe Martin Lodge in Brown County.
It’s hard to describe how blessed Claire and I feel to be a recipient of the Clergy Renewal Program! What a gift it is to have an extended time away from the office; and just to do some things we could never do without the time away or this grant.
So I need to say a big thank you! Thanks to all the ZPC family and the ZPC Session for allowing me to take a sabbatical in the summer of 2016! Also, I am thankful to the Lilly Endowment Inc. and Christian Theological Seminary for awarding ZPC a grant to allow me to take these amazing trips in summer 2016. Until May 15, 2016, I look forward to seeing you around ZPC, and I will certainly look forward to returning to you in the fall of 2016 to share my experiences with you.