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PSR Receives $1.25M Grant from Lilly Endowment Inc. to Meet Congregations’ Needs for a Changing Church

Pacific School of Religion (PSR) is thrilled to announce that we’ve received a grant of $1.25 million from Lilly Endowment Inc. to fund an education and community-building program that uses project-based learning to help congregations adapt to changing social and cultural contexts and to reimagine the church in ways that deepen faith.   

The Congregational Renewal Cohorts program is being funded through Lilly Endowment’s Thriving Congregations Initiative. The aim of the initiative to encourage the flourishing of congregations by helping them deepen their relationships with God, enhance their connections with each other, and contribute to the vitality of their communities and the world.  

The program builds on PSR’s history of successful programming for clergy and lay leaders and longstanding relationships with congregations and denominational partners throughout the Western U.S. and Hawaii.   

Many congregations grapple with systemic challenges, including racism, climate change, and housing and income inequality, while also lacking the financial resources to support a full-time pastor. PSR is uniquely able to equip their leaders (lay and ordained) with the tools needed to address these issues through intersectional Christian scholarship and a diverse community of faculty and learners.  

Through the Congregational Renewal Cohorts program, up to 50 congregational cohorts will participate in a year-long journey of leadership formation, strategic planning, and practical implementation. These leaders will take adapted versions of PSR graduate courses, Design Thinking for Social Change and Igniting Vibrant Ventures, along with courses from PSR‘s Theological Education for Leadership (TEL) program.  

Through this program, the cohorts will gain an understanding of their congregation’s specific needs, identify a project that will advance their ministry, and be given the tools to translate their vision into reality. As part of the program, leaders will launch or sustain these initiatives and share the resulting insights and successes with PSR, their cohort, and their denomination, strengthening and expanding the impact of their work.   

“We are so thankful to Lilly Endowment Inc. for its trust and investment in PSR’s ability to convene partners and drive leadership formation to transform congregations. This grant will enable us to bring resources and learnings to congregations developed while building the distributed learning and community platform funded by Lilly Endowment’s generous $5M grant given to us through its Pathways for Tomorrow Initiative last year. Both grants will help us equip a diverse new generation of Christian leaders with the tools they need to transform their communities,” said President David Vasquez-Levy. 

PSR is one of 105 organizations that has received grants through a competitive round of the Thriving Congregations Initiative. Reflecting a wide variety of Christian traditions, the organizations represent mainline Protestant, evangelical, Catholic, Orthodox, peace church, and Pentecostal faith communities.   

“Congregations play an essential role in deepening the faith of individuals and contributing to the vitality of communities,” said Christopher L. Coble, Lilly Endowment’s vice president for religion. “We hope that these programs will nurture the vibrancy and spark the creativity of congregations, helping them imagine new ways to share God’s love in their communities and across the globe.”  

Lilly Endowment Inc. is a private foundation created in 1937 by J.K. Lilly Sr. and his sons Eli and J.K. Jr. through gifts of stock in their pharmaceutical business, Eli Lilly and Company. While those gifts remain the financial bedrock of the Endowment, it is a separate entity from the company, with a distinct governing board, staff, and location. A principal aim of the Endowment’s religion grantmaking is to deepen and enrich the lives of Christians in the United States, primarily by seeking out and supporting efforts that enhance the vitality of congregations and strengthen the pastoral and lay leadership of Christian communities.

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