By Tiffany Vail
The Massachusetts Conference has received a $200,000 grant from the E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation that is enabling an increase in the amount of time that new Associate Conference Minister Ellie Richardson can devote to clergy leadership development.
Richardson was initially called to work one-third time on clergy development and one-third time on lay development, which was the maximum time that could be funded from the Conference’s operating budget. This grant allows the clergy piece to increase to half-time. The grant is for $50,000 for each of four years, covering 2013 through 2016.
"It’s so gratifying to receive this incredible vote of confidence from the E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation," said Conference Minister and President Jim Antal. "Over the past decade, we’ve taken a 380-year-old model of ministry as “lone ranger” and shifted it to a collegial model of support and sharing that simply makes for more vital and effective ministry. As a partner in this work, the Carpenter Foundation becomes a key player in shifting the culture of ministry not just in the Massachusetts Conference, but in the wider United Church of Christ."
Leadership development had formerly been handled by Associate Conference Minister Susan Dickerman, whose position had been funded almost fully (90%) by the Lilly Endowment. That funding ended on Dec. 31, 2012, after 10 years. Dickerman left the Conference staff at the end of 2012 after receiving a new grant from Lilly to spearhead the formation of the Pastoral Excellence Network, which will take the lessons of the Conference’s Pastoral Excellence Program across state and denominational boundaries.
Andy Gustafson, Associate Conference Minister for Stewardship and Financial Development, said the grant comes at an especially important time.
"This grant allows us to 'bridge' the period from the end of the Lilly Endowment grant until pledges from the five-year Sustaining Pastoral Excellence Endowment Campaign have been received, and income from the endowment becomes available to support this vital ministry," Gustafson said.
Gustafson said that approximately $1 million has been raised in gifts and pledges for the endowment fund.
Ann B. Day, President of the E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation, had this to say about the grant:
"Having been clergy in the Massachusetts Conference for many years, I know how valuable programs like Pastoral Excellence are to those just beginning ministry and those seeking to strengthen their vocation after many years of service. I am also familiar with the leadership skills of Susan Dickerman that have contributed to the "E" in the PEP. The Foundation is pleased to see such an active, Conference-wide effort to ensure the financial future of this decade-long program and to provide this 'bridge funding' while the campaign continues. We wish Ellie Richardson and all involved much success."
Richardson, who came on board January 2, praised the solid foundation for clergy development laid by Dickerman, the Leadership Development Commission and the Pastoral Excellence team.
"Their vision for supporting and strengthening clergy, churches and lay leadership has grown immeasurably over the past ten years" since the first Lilly grant was received, Richardson said.
"Moving forward we will continue to support and expand the Clergy Communities of Practice and the New Clergy Groups,” she said. "In addition to these well established Pastoral Excellence Programs, we will be in conversation with the new Clergy Leadership Program Council, the regional Conference staff, and local clergy as we look toward developing new programs and new means of being in communication with one another in this age of technology."
Richardson will also be working with the newly formed Conference Lay Leadership Program Council to continue existing programs, such as the Christian Education Communities of Practice and Super Saturdays, and to add new opportunities for lay leaders.