Diocese of Vermont receives Lilly Endowment Inc. grant

Episcopal Diocese of Vermont
Posted Dec 14, 2023

The Episcopal Diocese of Vermont has received a $1.168 million grant from Lilly Endowment Inc. to help establish Communities for Spiritual Vitality, an initiative that will provide lay leaders in lay-led congregations with opportunities for spiritual growth. The initiative will include leaders in both the Episcopal Diocese of Vermont and the neighboring Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts.

The project is funded through Lilly Endowment’s Thriving Congregations Initiative. Its aim is to encourage congregations to flourish 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 Communities for Spiritual Vitality initiative will organize lay leaders from Vermont and Massachusetts into cohorts that will follow a two-year curriculum of in-person gatherings; clergy-led online formation groups; coaching and spiritual direction; resource development; and integration of these practices into parishes. The new program will be overseen by Bishop Shannon MacVean-Brown of Vermont and led by the Rev. adwoa Wilson, and will incorporate practices that have contributed to vitality at St. Michael’s Episcopal Church in Brattleboro, Vermont; the continued growth of the Green Mountain Online Abbey, an online congregation created by MacVean-Brown during the early days of the pandemic; and the development of congregational networks in the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts.

“We know that congregations flourish when their leaders are grounded in Christian spiritual practice,” MacVean-Brown said. “Especially in the post-pandemic landscape, we know that opportunities for spiritual growth in community can help our leaders face the future with courage and faith in God’s transformative love.”

The Diocese of Vermont is one of 105 organizations that has received grants though 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.