Christ Church Denver receives $1.1m Lilly Thriving Congregations grant

Christ Church Denver
Posted Dec 19, 2023

Christ Church Denver has received a $1.1 million grant from Lilly Endowment Inc. to help establish a project titled “The Narthex: Developing Digital Capacity for the Analog Church.”

The project is being funded through Lilly Endowment’s Thriving Congregations Initiative. The aim of the initiative is to encourage the flourishing of congregations by helping them deepen their relationships with God, enhance their connections with each other, and contribute to the vitality of their communities and the world.

“The Narthex” seeks to expand Christ Church Denver’s pandemic-accelerated trajectory of online ministry, alongside other digital-striving sacramental, liturgical, mainline churches seeking to adapt and innovate.

Beginning with a pilot group of six affiliated congregations, then broadening out to a larger peer-mentoring network, the project includes four key components: first, a digital ministry assessment of online offerings and growth opportunities; second, subgrants for technological improvements and digital engagement; third, creation and curation of online content for evangelism, catechesis, and discipleship; fourth, training and capacity building to disseminate resources and best practices.

The project, directed by The Rev. Joseph Wolyniak, is titled “the Narthex” after the in-between space in traditional parish architecture––a place of encounter between worship and the world.

“We are thrilled to receive this generous funding from Lilly Endowment and are beyond excited to embark on this work,” noted Fr. Terry McGugan, rector of Christ Church Denver. “We are a church that blends the ancient and modern: with ceremonial worship encompassing traditional and modern elements, in-person and online Christian formation offerings, and increasingly integrated technology. We are eager to develop our digital capacity and convene peer-learning cohorts with like minded mainline congregations: to share knowledge, wisdom, insights, and prudent practices.”

The Rt. Rev. Kym Lucas, the eleventh bishop of The Episcopal Church in Colorado, added: “We need parishes to be incubators of innovation amid the myriad social and cultural changes we are currently navigating. Leadership comes in many forms, but I firmly believe new initiatives are most effective when they originate at the grassroots level. I am delighted not just for Christ Church Denver, but the wider diocese, denomination, and beyond.”

“This vital support from Lilly Endowment will accelerate our broader pivot toward online engagement,” added Mike Orr, Canon for Communications & Evangelism and founder of Caffeinated Church, a multi-diocese communications collaborative that will host the peer-mentoring networks, expert-led workshops, as well as tools and best practices on their resource hub. “This is a gift to all of us working to reach people where they are, engaging the issues and questions that matter most to them with the good news we have to bear.”

Christ Church Denver is one of 105 organizations that has received grants through a competitive round of the Thriving Congregations Initiative. Reflecting a wide variety of Christian traditions, the organizations represent mainline Protestant, evangelical, Catholic, Orthodox, peace church, and Pentecostal faith communities.

“Congregations play an essential role in deepening the faith of individuals and contributing to the vitality of communities,” said Christopher L. Coble, Lilly Endowment’s vice president for religion. “We hope that these programs will nurture the vibrancy and spark the creativity of congregations, helping them imagine new ways to share God’s love in their communities and across the globe.”

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.