Architectural detail of window arches on Old South Church in Boston

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Old South Church And City Mission Launch Urban Pastoral Ministry Program With Large Grant

City Mission receives funding from Lilly Endowment Inc. to support the development, growth, and empowerment of Christian pastors in urban ministry.

City Mission has received a grant of $774,251 from Lilly Endowment Inc. to help establish The Urban Pastoral Ministry Program (UPMP), a program to prepare a cohort of four recent seminary graduates (residents) for urban ministry in a two-year immersion experience. It is part of Lilly Endowment Inc.’s Thriving in Ministry, an initiative that supports a variety of religious organizations across the nation as they create or strengthen programs that help pastors build relationships with experienced clergy who can serve as mentors and guide them through key leadership challenges in congregational ministry.


The UPMP goals are to support new pastors with mentoring by experienced pastors who are leaders in their communities and across Boston, assist individual pastors in developing a practice-centered theology of pastoral ministry in an urban setting, train the residents for engagement in the public square and for building congregational capacity for community engagement and advocacy, and expose residents to the study of the evolving relationship between church and its urban surroundings.


"Through this program, City Mission seeks to help prepare a new generation of Christian pastors to heed the call to serve our cities," said City Mission Executive Director Rev. June R. Cooper. "As Eleanor Scott Meyers states in her book, Envisioning the New City, 'The task of envisioning a new city through the ministry of city churches relies on a strategy of reconnecting with neighborhoods and people through networking and community organizing. New visions in our church for cities and for ministry in turn rely on new education programs for ministerial leadership.' City Mission is ready to bring this vision to life."


The UPMP curriculum will guide residents to a deeper understanding of the context, relationships, methodological questions, and theological framework of social justice work in urban ministry.


“The curriculum will introduce residents to methodologies of community organizing and partnership development for reducing poverty and promoting social change that makes City Mission an effective agent for transformation in the greater Boston area,” Cooper said.


Residents in the program will gain experience in urban ministry and the skills to develop and lead thriving urban congregations. They will serve as active ministerial staff, one at each church, at four well-established congregations in Boston: Bethel A.M.E. Church, Fourth Presbyterian Church in South Boston, First Baptist Church in Jamaica Plain, and Old South Church in Boston.


“Old South Church is thrilled to partner with City Mission for this cutting edge, practical, gritty, roll-up-our-sleeves, into-the-streets training for promising ministers,” said Senior Pastor and CEO: The Rev. Dr. Nancy Taylor. “We are honored to be shaping the next generation of urban pastors.”


Thriving in Ministry is part of Lilly Endowment’s grantmaking to strengthen pastoral leadership in Christian congregations in the United States. This has been a grantmaking priority at Lilly Endowment for nearly 25 years.


“Leading a congregation today is multi-faceted and exceptionally demanding,” said Christopher L. Coble, Lilly Endowment’s vice president for religion. “When pastors have opportunities to build meaningful relationships with experienced colleagues, they are able to negotiate the challenges of ministry and their leadership thrives. These promising programs, including City Mission's Urban Pastoral Ministry Program, will help pastors develop these kinds of relationships, especially when they are in the midst of significant professional transitions.”


About City Mission:

Founded in 1816 by Boston’s Old South Church and Park Street Church, City Mission today is an independent nonprofit organization focused on combating poverty and preventing family homelessness. It is the oldest social justice agency in New England.


Each year the organization touches the lives of thousands of people in greater Boston through its direct service programs, volunteer and service learning opportunities, and homelessness prevention advocacy. Grounded in what is now the United Church of Christ, City Mission continues to offer a way for ordinary people to put their faith into action through its programs that seek to transform the lives of individuals and communities through empowerment, education, and engagement.


About Lilly Endowment Inc:

Lilly Endowment Inc. is an Indianapolis-based private philanthropic foundation created in 1937 by three members of the Lilly family - J.K. Lilly Sr. and sons Eli and J.K. Jr. - through gifts of stock in their pharmaceutical business, Eli Lilly & Company. While those gifts remain the financial bedrock of the Endowment, the Endowment 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. The Endowment maintains a special commitment to its hometown, Indianapolis, and its home state Indiana. Its grantmaking in religion focuses on supporting efforts to strengthen the leadership and vitality of Christian congregations throughout the country and to increase the public’s understanding of the role of religion in public life.