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The Seattle School Receives $1,250,000 Grant from Lilly Endowment

The Seattle School of Theology & Psychology has received a grant of $1,250,000 from Lilly Endowment Inc. to help continue efforts to equip leaders by gathering lay and ordained, active and aspiring preachers in the western region of the United States to develop their preaching skills and support one another in the art and spiritual practice of crafting sermons. 

The Center for Transforming Engagement will lead the effort, which will include components on preaching as a means to gather diverse individuals into a community of belonging. At the end of the project, participating preachers will have greater practices and skills for creating transformational preaching events.

The new project is being funded through Lilly Endowment’s Compelling Preaching Initiative. The aim of the initiative is to foster and support preaching that inspires, encourages and guides people to come to know and love God and to live out their Christian faith more fully.

The Seattle School of Theology & Psychology trains people to become competent in the study of text, soul, and culture in order to serve God and neighbor through transforming relationships. The Center for Transforming Engagement extends this mission with an emphasis on equipping leaders to gather communities of belonging that are comprised of diverse individuals. Preachers who are transformed by text, soul, and culture invite a new imagination of engagement and transform their congregations into places of belonging; transformed congregations, in turn, transform the world.

As preaching is increasingly fraught in polarized, fragmented contexts, this project will advance the aims of the initiative by addressing the pain points and frustrations of preaching in the current era. Additionally, funding will allow us to identify and interview exemplars of compelling and innovative Christian proclamations in the continental Pacific Northwest and similar post-Christendom regions, and share their insights and best practices through writings and a podcast series.

“We worked closely with regional leaders of mainline denominations on this proposal,” shares Kate Rae Davis, the Executive Director of the Center for Transforming Engagement. “We agree that preaching needs a broader imagination, beyond a talk given from a pulpit. We understand compelling preaching as leading a transformational experience that invites people to imaginatively re-construe the world in which God is alive and actively joining their efforts. Preaching, in that sense, could take any number of formats, and a sermon becomes not a script by a crafted moment that shifts our understanding of self, God, and the world.”

  1. Derek McNeil, President & Provost of The Seattle School, is enthusiastic about the project. “The mission of The Seattle School centers on training people in the study of text, soul, and culture. This program will train active and aspiring preachers in those intersections. We hope it attracts additional denominational partners to better equip preachers, diversify their pulpits, create a more sustainable pastorate, and inspire and encourage congregants in ministry.”

The Seattle School of Theology & Psychology is one of 81 organizations receiving grants through this competitive round of the Compelling Preaching Initiative. Reflecting the diversity of Christianity in the United States, the organizations are affiliated with mainline Protestant, evangelical, Catholic, Orthodox, Anabaptist and Pentecostal faith communities. Many of the organizations are rooted in the Black Church and in Hispanic and Asian American Christian traditions.

“Throughout history, preachers often have needed to adapt their preaching practices to engage new generations of hearers more effectively,” said Christopher L. Coble, Lilly Endowment’s vice president for religion. “We are pleased that the organizations receiving grants in this initiative will help pastors and others in ministry engage in the kinds of preaching needed today to ensure that the gospel message is heard and accessible for all audiences.”

Lilly Endowment launched the Compelling Preaching Initiative in 2022 because of its interest in supporting projects that help to nurture the religious lives of individuals and families and foster the growth and vitality of Christian congregations in the United States.  

About Lilly Endowment Inc.

Lilly Endowment Inc. is a private foundation created in 1937 by J.K. Lilly Sr. and his sons Eli and J.K. Jr. through gifts of stock in their pharmaceutical business, Eli Lilly and Company. While those gifts remain the financial bedrock of the Endowment, it 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 and maintains a special commitment to its hometown, Indianapolis, and home state, Indiana. A principal aim of the Endowment’s religion grantmaking is to deepen and enrich the lives of Christians in the United States, primarily by seeking out and supporting efforts that enhance the vitality of congregations and strengthen the pastoral and lay leadership of Christian communities. The Endowment also seeks to improve public understanding of diverse religious traditions by supporting fair and accurate portrayals of the role religion plays in the United States and across the globe.