The Rev. Elizabeth Henry of Jackson has been named program director of Thriving in Ministry, a new, ecumenical program offered by the Center for Ministry at Millsaps College that will support clergywomen across the South.
The College received a $1 million grant to establish the program, which is part of the 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.
Henry, who began work this month, said she looks forward to working with clergywomen across the South and to establishing programs that will help them develop healthy, sustainable ministries. Program development is under way, and the first peer groups are expected to begin work together in fall 2019.
“My work will involve developing peer groups, coordinating retreats for continuing education, creating a curriculum for churches to support healthy pastoral leadership, and training congregations to create cultures of support,” she said.
Henry, an ordained deacon in The United Methodist Church, will also serve as associate chaplain for Wesleyan Student Ministries at Millsaps.
Henry earned a bachelor’s degree in social work from Baylor University, a Master of Divinity from Duke Divinity School, and a Master of Social Work from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. She is a certified yoga instructor and taught classes at Galloway United Methodist Church in Jackson.
The Rev. Paige Swaim-Presley, director of the Center for Ministry, said she is pleased that Henry will lead Thriving in Ministry, which will specialize in programs for southern clergywomen serving in their first solo pastor or senior pastor role and associate ministers who feel called to solo or senior pastor leadership in the future.
Swaim-Presley noted that clergywomen face many challenges that are particular to their dual status as pastoral leaders and women, and this program will connect them with mentors to educate them and their congregations about practices that strengthen their ministries and prepare them for healthy, effective long-term leadership.
“I believe that this work will be transformative not only for the clergywomen themselves but also for their families, their congregations, their future ministries, and the ongoing mission of the Center for Ministry at Millsaps College,” Swaim-Presley said. “The new program embodies the Center for Ministry’s mission of ‘developing Christian leaders through lifelong learning,’ and builds on its record of cultivating clergy excellence through continuing education, peer groups, and spiritual formation.”
The Rev. Dr. Joey Shelton, chaplain and director of church relations at Millsaps, said the program will equip clergywomen to navigate their unique opportunities and challenges.
“In our geographic region there are significant numbers of congregations, within and beyond Methodism, resistant to receiving female clergy leadership,” he said. “The Lilly Endowment recognizes the enormous long-term benefits this grant presents. The Center for Ministry is a one-of-a-kind entity in its relationship with Millsaps College and the Mississippi Conference of The United Methodist Church. As such, the Center is well suited to bring together a large ecumenical audience of diverse clergywomen who will join God’s transformation of the church and the world.”
The Center for Ministry is one of 78 organizations located in 29 states taking part in the Thriving in Ministry initiative. The organizations reflect diverse Christian traditions: mainline and evangelical Protestant, Roman Catholic, and Orthodox.
Thriving in Ministry is part of the Lilly Endowment’s grant making to strengthen pastoral leadership in Christian congregations in the United States. This has been a grant making priority at Lilly Endowment for nearly 25 years.
The Center for Ministry is a central component of church relations at Millsaps College and is a joint venture of the College and the Mississippi Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church. Center for Ministry programs include Journey Partners, developed for clergy and laypersons of all denominations to provide training in spiritual direction within a rich Christian context. Completion of this study of classic and contemporary spiritual writings and experiential learning fulfills the Major Experience requirement for Millsaps students to graduate. Other programs offered by the Center include continuing education for United Methodist Clergy and the Mississippi Course of Study, an extension campus of the Course of Study at Emory University dedicated to the formation of part-time United Methodist pastors. The Center is in the process of developing a Youth Theological Academy at Millsaps College.
Lilly Endowment Inc. is an Indianapolis-based private philanthropic foundation created in 1937 by three members of the Lilly family—J.K. Lilly Sr. and sons Eli and J.K. Jr.—through gifts of stock in their pharmaceutical business, Eli Lilly — Company. While those gifts remain the financial bedrock of the Endowment, the Endowment 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. The Endowment maintains a special commitment to its hometown, Indianapolis, and its home state Indiana. Its grant making in religion focuses on supporting efforts to strengthen the leadership and vitality of Christian congregations throughout the country and to increase the public’s understanding of the role of religion in public life.