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Ft. Thomas Pastor Awarded Grant for Renewal Program

Highland United Methodist Church in Fort Thomas received a grant of $43,000 so that its minister, Rev. John W. Bowling, can participate in the 2020 National Clergy Renewal Program.

Highland is one of 140 congregations across the country chosen to participate in the competitive grant program funded by Lilly Endowment Inc. and administered by Christian Theological Seminary in Indianapolis.

Ministers whose congregations are awarded the grants use their time away from the demands of daily ministry to engage in reflection and renewal. The approach respects the “Sabbath time” concept, offering ministers a carefully considered respite that may include travel, study, rest, prayer and immersive arts and cultural experiences.

Through the National Clergy Renewal Program, congregations apply for grants of up to $50,000 to support renewal programs for their pastors.

The program allows congregations to partner with their ministers in developing experiences that address their unique renewal needs and aspirations. Recognizing that ministers’ families are subject to the stress and demands placed on pastoral leaders, the program encourages pastors to involve their families in renewal activities.

Congregational needs during the minister’s renewal experience also are considered.

Up to $15,000 of the grant may be used to support interim pastoral leadership during the pastor’s retreat, as well as renewal activities within the congregation. Since the National Clergy Renewal Program’s inception, more than 3,000 congregations have participated in the program, including the 140 congregations receiving grants in 2020.

Rev. Bowling, who graduated Candler School of Theology (Emory University), in 1991 and ordained an Elder in the United Methodist Church in 1993 has been pastoring since 1987. He has been the minister of Highland Methodist since June of 2012. The grant will allow him, his wife and two children to enjoy two weeks in Europe this summer and then Rev. Bowling will spend four weeks exploring and hiking in historic old Western towns in five states and conclude his sabbatical in Big Sur, California, where he intends to do some writing.

“Pastors play an important role in nourishing the spiritual lives of individuals and in guiding the work of the Christian congregations they serve,” said Christopher L. Coble, Lilly Endowment’s vice president for religion. “Through these grants, we seek to honor pastors for their extraordinary service and enable them to engage in a brief period of rest and renewal. We have learned that such experiences invigorate the leadership of pastors and bring new vitality to their congregations as well.”

The Rev. Dr. Robert Saler, research fellow and director of the Lilly Endowment Clergy Renewal Programs, noted that the National Clergy Renewal Program integrates key attributes of healthy congregations, including a mutual respect for the renewal needs of both ministers and the congregations they serve.

“The program provides an opportunity for congregations to express appreciation for their ministers’ service and leadership,” Saler said. “At a time when leaders are often praised for their pace of innovation and productivity, the National Clergy Renewal Program pays homage to the timeless wisdom embedded in the practice of reflection and renewal.”  

-Staff report

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