Bridges to the Future
In 2022 the Episcopal Church Foundation (ECF) continued to distribute grants through its Lilly Endowment Initiative to address the economic challenges facing pastoral leaders. Over the past six years in prior phases ECF provided lay and clergy leaders with resources, tools, and other support across the “arc of ministry” to seminarians, newly ordained, diocesan, and pastoral leaders to help address the financial and leadership challenges of congregational ministry in the 21st century. This latest grant entitled “Bridges to the Future: Positioning Local Faith Communities for a Post-Pandemic Church” was designed specifically to support dioceses, local faith communities, and pastoral leaders that were negatively impacted by COVID-19 by providing immediate financial relief and catalyzing the development of ministry models for the future.
In this recent grant ECF focused on underrepresented and underserved communities, i.e., predominately Black, Latino/Hispanic, Indigenous, multicultural, and rural. The aim of the grant was to provide dioceses with resources to enable them to build a “bridge” to move from their current state of economic challenge and uncertainty to a more sustainable and effective ministry model.
The grant provided funds, resources, and networking opportunities to the following dioceses: The Diocese of Central Pennsylvania (rural ministry), the Diocese of Michigan (predominately Black congregations in Detroit), the Episcopal Church in Minnesota (Indigenous ministry), and the Diocese of the Rio Grande (Latino/Hispanic ministry in rural areas). All four dioceses are committed to developing innovative and transformational ministry models, and this link describes some of the projects they are working on Bridges to the Future: Addressing the Impacts of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Faith Communities. Dioceses have shared that “getting this funding has allowed us to approach this discernment with more spaciousness and creativity, allowing us to build something new without being forced to dismantle the current structure that’s in place.”
We are using interviews, surveys, and written reflections from the dioceses to examine the impact of the grant and in the July/August issue of ECF Vital Practices on “Reimaging Assets,” each diocese will share how they are developing their new contextual models in their dioceses.
Reducing the Burden of Seminary Debt
Since 2018, ECF through its Lilly Endowment Initiative has provided 35 seminarians and pastoral leaders $163,500 to help reduce seminary debt. As the program required a match, over $327,000 of seminary debt was relieved as recipients received matching gifts from their diocese, congregation, family, or friends.
In 2022, 8 seminarians and pastoral leaders received a total of $24,000 from ECF, relieving over $48,000 of seminary debt, including the matching grant component. Recipients shared that they are “deeply thankful and much relieved to receive these grant funds, which will significantly reduce my student loan debt.”