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Renewing the Spirit

Thanks to a $47,030 grant to her church, Providence Christian Church Pastor Carol Devine was able to take a sabbatical from her duties via a trip to Italy.

The grant came courtesy of Lilly Endowment, Inc., and was administered by Christian Theological Seminary in Indianapolis, Ind. Devine’s trip was part of the National Clergy Renewal Program, which was created to allow Christian congregations to support their pastors by allowing them an extended break from their regular ministerial duties and responsibilities.

For the pastors, that 12-week sabbatical must be used to “engage in reflection and renewal,” according to a release on the program. According to Devine and the Rev. Beth Garod Logsdon from The Wilmore Presbyterian Church, who is now planning her own break and trip courtesy of her congregation receiving the grant, the program helps to restore the spirit.

Devine said that the application process for the grant was lengthy and the competition high, but the experience at the end was rewarding for both herself and her congregation — who applied on her behalf.

To receive the grant, pastors must have a focus for their break. For Devine, that focus was Food and Faith. Not only was her trip based on that theme, but the congregation took part as well courtesy of the stand-in pastor that the program provided.

“As part of it, Providence had a full-time pastor while I was gone that came in and did a sermon series on food and faith,” Devine said. “An expert speaker came in and talked to the church and did an educational thing on food and faith.”

Devine said that her congregation took part in a cooking class, which everyone enjoyed, and studied the subject in her absence. For her part, she traveled to Italy to study the subject at the birth place of the Slow Food movement.

“The Slow Food movement is a push-back to fast food,” Devine said. “It is about how food is not just about feeding our bodies, but feeding our spirit. For a lot of people, it is connected to their faith.” The movement has currently spread worldwide.

Plus, Devine said, she has “always dreamed of going to Italy.”

So courtesy of the National Clergy Renewal Program, that dream was realized on June 1. Joining her for parts of the trip were her husband, her three children and a niece.

Pastor Beth Garod-Logsdon of the Wilmore Presbyterian Church, who will begin her sabbatical on April 30 of next year, chose Expressions of Faith as her focus.

Like Providence, her congregation will have a pastor fill in for her and provide teachings on that subject while she goes through her own studies.

“It will be looking at God, as our Creator, who created us to be creative,” she explained. “So I will be doing some stained glass classes, glass-blowing classes, painting classes, and writing classes to re-engage the creative side of me that sort of gets shoved away through all of the church work and tasks that we do as pastors. This is not an academic sabbatical, it is truly a renewal sabbatical. Not just for the pastor to be renewed, but for the congregation to be renewed as well.”

For instance, Devine said that while she is on a regular vacation, she is still in contact with her church. However, during her sabbatical through the program, she was not contacted, as the substitute pastor took care of the duties.

“It was nice to know that they were taken care of,” she said. “But by the last two weeks, I was really missing my congregation and ready to go back.”

Rev. Garod-Logsdon said that her trip will be traveling with her husband and children to Ireland, where they will stay for twelve days. Like Rev. Devine, the program is offering the opportunity to go to a place she has always wanted to visit courtesy of a congregation that wants to give back for the roles that their pastors play.

“It is the congregation that applies,” Devine said. “We couldn’t apply by ourselves. We just dream. I knew I would enjoy it [the trip and stay in Italy], but it was really rich.”