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Hood gets $1 million grant to start new institute

Hood Theological Seminary

Hood Theological Seminary has received a grant of $1 million to help establish the Institute for Early Career Clergy Development.

The grant is part of Lilly Endowment’s Thriving in Ministry, an initiative that supports religious organizations across the nation as they create or strengthen programs that help pastors build relationships with experienced clergy who can be mentors and guide them through leadership challenges in congregational ministry.

Lilly Endowment is making nearly $70 million in grants through Thriving in Ministry.

The Institute for Early Career Clergy Development will provide consultation, education, mentoring and partnership for clergy in their second through seventh years of ministry.

It will be a vehicle to foster community, exchange information and collaborate on missions in North Carolina and the surrounding area. Foremost, the institute will be a place of ministerial support for clergy of all denominations in the early part of their career, a place where they can consult with pastors who are in a similar place in their careers and in a similar ministry setting, and a place where they can continue their pursuit of theological education.

The institute will primarily operate three programs:

• Continuing education programs and workshops: Tthe institute will provide opportunities for early-career clergy to participate in programs and workshops on campus as well through Hood’s online platform. Workshops, seminars, lectures and conferences will be taught by Hood faculty and guest speakers involved in church ministries regionally and nationwide.

Examples of continuing education might be participation in a preaching institute or in dismantling racism training. Particular focus will be given to continuing education for ministry in rural settings.

• The Rural Pastors Program: Rural pastors often experience burnout at a higher rate. To correct this, the institute will connect pastors in rural settings who have another characteristic in common.

The program will host a retreat each spring designed to connect women in rural ministry, those who are serving cross-racial or cross-cultural settings, those who are bivocational and those who are serving more than one congregation.

Through these secondary connections, rural ministers will be able to focus on an aspect of their ministry besides being rural. This will provide a support platform, specifically for women whose ministerial authority tends to be questioned in some rural settings.

• The Junior and Senior Clergy Cohort Program: The institute will partner junior and senior clergy. The cohorts will be asked to meet on their own accord three times a year in addition to a fall retreat. This cohort will allow clergy in their early years of ministry to learn from senior pastors in terms of time management, self-care, expectations, mission and evangelism.

Ashley B. Dreff, director of United Methodist Studies and assistant professor of history of Christianity at Hood Theological Seminary, will be the director of ministerial formation of the Institute for Early Career Clergy Development.

“My goal for the institute is twofold,” Dreff said. “First and foremost, we want to create a multidenominational cohort of early career clergy who can support each other and be a sounding board for each other while they seek to find the best ways to minister with their contexts. Second, as a seminary, we also want to remind early career clergy that true ministerial and theological education is a lifelong process.”

Hood Theological Seminary President Vergel Lattimore said the school is committed to excellence in ministry throughout the life cycle of leadership.

“It is the vision of the Institute for Early Career Clergy Development to identify vital competencies and resources for dynamic self-understanding and for rich sustained professional growth based on integrity, trust and genuine collaboration,” Lattimore said.

Hood Theological Seminary is one of 78 organizations in 29 states taking part in the initiative. The organizations reflect diverse Christian traditions: mainline and evangelical Protestant, Roman Catholic and Orthodox.

Hood Theological Seminary, at 1810 Lutheran Synod Drive, is a graduate and professional school sponsored by the AME Zion Church and approved by the University Senate of the United Methodist Church.

Thriving in Ministry is part of Lilly Endowment’s grant-making to strengthen pastoral leadership in Christian congregations in the United States, a priority at Lilly for nearly 25 years.

“Leading a congregation today is multifaceted 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 Hood Theological Seminary’s Institute for Early Career Clergy Development, will help pastors develop these kinds of relationships, especially when they are in the midst of significant professional transitions.”




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