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Divinity to run pastoral program

The Divinity School has received a $3.1 million grant from the Lilly Endowment, Inc., to coordinate a $57 million nationwide pastoral excellence program.

The program, called Sustaining Pastoral Excellence, aims to help improve the quality of pastoral work by funding programs and enabling communication among Christian-affiliated institutions.

"Busy pastors have become isolated from their own colleauges and their own impulses that led them into the Church in the first place, and rarely have a chance to talk among themselves," said Gretchen Wolfram, director of communications for the Lilly Endowment. "The program [is about] putting people in touch with each other who might be able to help with certain issues."

The Divinity School has worked frequently with the Lilly Endowment for years, and Wolfram said the school's Pulpit and Pew project - which conducts research on pastoral leadership - made it a natural choice to lead the program.

"The Pulpit and Pew project has already fostered a great deal of new and much-needed research on the current state of ministry across a broad spectrum of denominational and congregational contexts," said Craig Dykstra, vice president for religion at the Lilly Endowment. "At the same time, Duke has ably hosted a number of gatherings for pastors, scholars, researchers [and] seminary and church leaders to reflect upon how to improve the quality of ministry, as well as how to sustain excellent ministry where it is already taking place."

Associate Dean for Continuing Education Janice Virtue said the Divinity School will benefit from added research opportunities and access to a network of organizations seeking methods to improve the quality of their pastoral work.

"The institutions will gather once a year for collaboration, to share learning," Virtue said. "As coordinator of those conversations, we'll be able to learn the best practices that emerge out of these programs."

The SPE program, in its second year of existence, funds 47 organizations - including Triangle Pastoral Counseling of Raleigh, the sole North Carolina recipient - representing a multitude of Christian faith traditions.

United Methodist pastor Kevin Armstrong, Divinity '85, will serve as the primary coordinator of the program.


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