City Mission receives a Lilly Endowment Inc. Grant

We’ve received a grant of $774,251 from Lilly Endowment Inc. to help establish The Urban Pastoral Ministry Program (UPMP) and support the development, growth, and empowerment of Christian pastors in urban ministry.

UPMP is 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.”