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Belhaven program will help rural Mississippi pastors

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A grant awarded to Belhaven University will help rural pastors in the state. 

The grant, worth nearly $1 million will help establish Belhaven’s Rural Mississippi Pastors Initiative (RMPI), part of Belhaven’s Institute for Care and Counsel.

The grant was awarded by the Lilly Endowment Inc.’s Thriving in Ministry initiative that supports a variety of religious organizations across the nation. The purpose of Belhaven’s RMPI is to connect, equip, and empower 80 rural pastors throughout the state—allowing them to thrive such that the people in their congregations and communities will increasingly flourish.

“Rural pastors not only shepherd and serve the people in their congregations, but they often play a central role in the close-knit communities where they serve,” said Belhaven Provost Dr. Bradford Smith. “We at the University are thrilled that the generosity of the Lilly Endowment will allow us to engage deeply with rural pastors over a four-year period so that they can connect with other rural pastors, find encouragement through summer retreats, receive mentoring and expert one-on-one consultation, and have the opportunity to take college and seminary level courses online.”

Belhaven University is one of 78 organizations located in 29 states that is taking part in the Thriving in Ministry initiative. The organizations reflect diverse Christian traditions: mainline and evangelical Protestant, Roman Catholic and Orthodox.

“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 Belhaven University’s Rural Mississippi Pastors Initiative, will help pastors develop these kinds of relationships, especially when they are in the midst of significant professional transitions.”

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.

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