The Presbytery of Philadelphia is pleased to announce we have been awarded a $1.25 million grant from Lilly Endowment Inc., through its Compelling Preaching Initiative. This ﬁve-year grant will enable our presbytery to invest intentionally in increased energies and resources as part of our Ministry and Leadership Incubator to strengthen and equip our congregations. We will launch a new two-track initiative, Expanding the Pulpit, which will equip and train lay preachers as well as strengthen and bolster clergy currently preaching on a regular basis in our congregations.
Smaller congregations across our region and nation are struggling with decreased membership numbers which often translates into decreased ﬁnancial resourcing. While this may be a cause for lament, we also see this as an opportunity to live into our theological conviction in the priesthood of all believers. As a presbytery, we recognize this challenge and see it as our responsibility to educate and equip lay leaders who can preach with integrity and conﬁdence. This Expanding the Pulpit initiative will not only strengthen preaching in our smaller congregations but it will create a pool of lay leaders, trained by practitioners, who can serve our smaller congregations across our presbytery when those pulpits do not have pastoral leadership.
Our second track speaks to the reality that after seminary, many pastors do not have the intentional time nor opportunity to strengthen and adapt their preaching skills as their surroundings and the world change. Preaching can often be relegated to what feels like a tedious weekly ritual that no longer reﬂects the heart of the preacher. Technology and contemporary cultural challenges invite preachers into a new context which can seem overwhelming and controversial. By creating a cohort of pastors equipped by known homileticians, we anticipate our participating clergy to ﬁnd inspiration and renewal as they strengthen their voice in the pulpit.
Our hope is that this program will strengthen the impact of the Gospel message as spoken from the pulpit throughout our churches and into our communities for the transformation of our world. In addition to this two-track, cohort-based initiative for lay preachers and clergy, there will be regular workshops and presentations open to the entire presbytery to enrich preaching from all of our pulpits.
The Presbytery of Philadelphia is one of 81 organizations receiving grants through the competitive round of Lilly Endowment’s Compelling Preaching Initiative. Reﬂecting the diversity of Christianity in the United States, the organizations are aﬃliated with mainline Protestant, evangelical, Catholic, Orthodox, Anabaptist and Pentecostal faith communities. Many of the organizations are rooted in the Black Church and in Hispanic and Asian American Christian traditions.
We are honored and grateful for the opportunity aﬀorded us as a presbytery to lean into this new day of preaching. We look forward to the immediate development of this initiative in 2024. Stay tuned for more details as they emerge. Our commitment continues to ﬁnd ways to support and strengthen the leaders serving our congregations and ministries throughout our presbytery.
Our Biblical Framing – Acts 2:1-8
“When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it ﬁlled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of ﬁre, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were ﬁlled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability. Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each. Amazed and astonished, they asked, ‘Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language?’”
About Lilly Endowment Inc.
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. In keeping with the founders’ wishes, the Endowment supports the causes of community development, education, and religion, and maintains a special commitment to its hometown, Indianapolis, and home state, Indiana. 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. The Endowment also seeks to improve public understanding of diverse religious traditions by supporting fair and accurate portrayals of the role religion plays in the United States and across the globe.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Presbyterian Outlook.