The Episcopal Diocese of Washington has received a 5-year grant of $1,000,000 from Lilly Endowment Inc. to help establish Tending Our Soil: Thriving in Our Time and Place.
The program is funded through Lilly Endowment’s Thriving Congregations Initiative. The aim of the national initiative is to strengthen Christian congregations so they can help people deepen their relationships with God, build strong relationships with each other and contribute to the flourishing of local communities and the world.
Lilly Endowment is making nearly $93 million in grants through the initiative. The grants will support organizations as they work directly with congregations and help them gain clarity about their values and missions, explore and understand better the communities in which they serve, and draw upon their theological traditions as they adapt ministries to meet changing needs.
The grant will launch the Diocese of Washington’s initiative, Tending our Soil: Thriving in Our Time and Place as part of the diocese’s 5- year commitment to “be a Diocese that draws on the gifts of all God’s people to serve Christ together and live Jesus’ Way of Love” with three strategic goals of revitalization, spiritual formation, and racial justice and equity.
This initiative will gather up to 36 congregations over five years in peer-to-peer learning cohorts guided by trained coaches. Over a three year process, congregations will clarify mission and vision, and experiment with innovative ways to “engage in a changing world with an enduring faith in Jesus Christ so that more people may know God’s love.” This program will help the diocese strengthen its culture of learning, creativity, and partnership, and establish a School for Christian Faith and Leadership. The Rev. Jenifer Gamber will direct the initiative.
“We are honored to be a recipient of a Lilly Endowment Thriving Congregations grant. This funding will provide us the opportunity to take our next faithful steps toward building vital congregations that thrive in their own unique contexts as well as create, test, and refine a scalable plan that can be shared across the Church,” said the Rt. Rev. Mariann Edgar Budde, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington.
Officially established in May 1895, the diocese comprises 38,000 people in 87 congregations across the District of Columbia and four counties in Maryland. The foundation of the life and ministry of the diocese is centered in those congregations, its Episcopal schools, service ministries, and most importantly, in the lives of its members.
The Episcopal Diocese of Washington is one of 92 organizations taking part in the initiative. They represent and serve churches in a broad spectrum of Christian traditions, including Anabaptist, Baptist, Episcopal, evangelical, Lutheran, Methodist, Mennonite, Pentecostal, Presbyterian, Reformed, Restoration, Roman Catholic and Orthodox, as well as congregations that describe themselves as nondenominational. Several organizations serve congregations in Black, Hispanic and Asian-American traditions.
“In the midst of a rapidly changing world, Christian congregations are grappling with how they can best carry forward their ministries,” said Christopher Coble, Lilly Endowment’s vice president for religion. “These grants will help congregations assess their ministries and draw on practices in their theological traditions to address new challenges and better nurture the spiritual vitality of the people they serve.”
Lilly Endowment launched the Thriving Congregations Initiative in 2019 as part of its commitment to support efforts that enhance the vitality of Christian congregations.