Shepherd of the Pines Lutheran Church in Payson has received a grant of $44,270 to enable its pastor, Rev. Todd Arnold, and his family to participate in the 2006 National Clergy Renewal Program, funded by the Indianapolis-based Lilly Endowment, Inc.
Shepherd of the Pines is one of 123 congregations across the country that will support their ministers in the program, allowing pastors to step back from their busy lives and renew their spirits for the benefit of their ongoing ministries.
Now in its seventh year, the endowment provides time for ministers to take a break from their daily obligations and gain the fresh perspective and renewed energy that a carefully considered "sabbatical time," including travel, study, rest and prayer, can provide.
Pastor Arnold, his wife, Kathy, and their children, Emily, Nathan and Tim, will travel to the United Kingdom for three months, beginning this spring. Pastor Arnold will study the life and works of Christian apologist, C.S. Lewis, at Cambridge and Oxford universities and will spend time at the Lutheran seminary in Cambridge, Westfield House, mentoring pastoral students during his sabbatical.
The Arnold family will also be studying English history, botany, and join a British author "literature tour" as part of their ongoing home-school education.
Shepherd of the Pines will be served by Pastor Larry Bell of Illinois during the Arnold's sabbatical.
Bell brings a wealth of experience in outreach and service ministry to the Payson congregation.
This year's Lilly Clergy Renewal grant recipients represent 19 different denominations and 37 states, plus the District of Columbia.
"We have heard wonderful stories from the pastors who have already experienced these sabbaticals," said Craig Dykstra, Lilly Endowment senior vice president of religion. "Their time away has freed them up to pursue personal interests and needs in ways that has given them new energy for the ministry, and their congregations have discovered that they didn't fall apart without their minister around. Indeed, they, too, experienced refreshment and a newfound sense of their own strengths."
The Endowment's larger goal is to bolster the good work American pastors and congregations accomplish, day in and day out.
"In our religion grant making, we hope to strengthen the efforts of today's excellent pastors, because it is no secret that pastors who have reconnected themselves to their passions that led them to the ministry in the first place are more likely to lead healthy and vibrant congregations," Dykstra said.