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Press Release

June 22, 2000
For Immediate Release

Henry Luce Foundation Awards Major Grant to Episcopal Initiative

By Stephanie Cheney

Memphis - The Henry Luce Foundation, in its latest round of grant allocations, has awarded $200,000 over a three-year period to "Fresh Start," a collaborative effort of the Episcopal Church, through the Offices for Ministry Development and Church Deployment, and Cornerstone, a ministry of The Episcopal Church Foundation.

"Fresh Start" is a diocesan-led program for clergy in new cures and for lay leaders in the congregations where they serve. It seeks to strengthen the relationships among Episcopal clergy, congregations, and dioceses during the critical periods of transition in clergy leadership of congregations.

Shifts in congregational leadership can be a problem and an opportunity for clergy and the communities they serve. According to The Rev. James G. Wilson, Director of the Church Deployment Office and a partner in the project, "Statistics indicate that the turnover for all Episcopal clergy averages slightly over six years. This means that over 1200 congregations will experience calling new clergy leadership each year."

The loss of a rector is often viewed by many congregational leaders as a crisis - a critical and precipitous time in the leadership and life of the community. Another partner in the project, William S. Craddock, Jr., Director of Cornerstone and a former senior warden of his parish's vestry, offered a metaphor to describe this transitional period. "It is as if the new rector is a young, strong plant that has been grown with care and expertise in a nursery until such time as it can flourish independently. On its way to a garden, it is suddenly thrown onto someone's porch with a note reading 'Good luck and grow,' and no other instructions for its care."

The "Fresh Start" program has been under development for the past two years to address this leadership crisis and a host of other issues surrounding new relationships among clergy and congregations. With seed money from the National Church and The Episcopal Church Foundation, a diverse group of lay and clergy volunteers from across the country has been meeting on a regular basis to review the 25 curriculum modules written for the program, develop training conferences for diocesan facilitators, and implement marketing strategies for introducing the program to the Church at large.

The grant from the Luce Foundation will be used primarily to fund the facilitator training conferences over the next three years, to implement a comprehensive evaluation process designed to measure the effectiveness of the program in dioceses where it is in use, and to develop additional programmatic materials on a continuing basis.

For more information on "Fresh Start," contact The Rev. Dr. Melford E. Holland, Jr., Coordinator for Ministry Development, Episcopal Church Center, at 800-334-7626.