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Florida Conference clergy center receives grants

Florida Conference clergy center receives grants

e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service

Florida Conference clergy center receives grants

By John Michael De Marco | Feb. 11, 2009 {0972}

The Florida Conference Center for Clergy Excellence has received a series of grants that will further its efforts to call and equip emerging leaders for ongoing ministry in the Florida Conference.

The largest grant totals $20,000 and was given by the Center for Courage and Renewal to support a program called “Courage to Lead,” a series of five seasonal retreats for 25 Florida Conference clergy.

The Center for Courage and Renewal contacted Florida Conference leaders about the program and grant in the spring of 2007, according to the Rev. David Dodge, executive director of the Center for Clergy Excellence. The retreats will be led by Janice Virtue, executive director of LE@DD (Leadership Education at Duke Divinity), Duke University and John Fenner, program director for the Center for Courage and Renewal’s “Courage to Lead for Clergy and Congregational Leaders.” The sessions will be designed to help clergy and leaders move beyond the “what” and “how” questions of leadership to the “who” questions, according to Dodge.

Each retreat program consists of a cohort of 25 clergy leaders who gather for five quarterly retreats — each three days long — over a period of one year. Along with times of solitude, participants will gather in large and small group settings to share their inner journeys via personal storytelling, poetry and teaching tales from various wisdom traditions.

Clergy selected to participate will represent the diversity of the conference, Dodge said.

Because of a grant from the Lilly Endowment to the Center for Courage and Renewal, the Florida Conference will be one of only 17 similar offers to clergy throughout the United States, Dodge said. The program venue is the Cerveny Conference Center, a retreat facility of the North Florida Diocese of the Episcopal Church in Live Oak, Fla.

Space is limited to 25 participants, and the application deadline is May 1. The program is open to elders, deacons, associate members and licensed local pastors who have completed the Course of Study, a 20-course curriculum required of all licensed local pastors.

The clergy center received a second grant totaling $6,000 from the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry of The United Methodist Church for “SCREAM: Get Ready for the Ride,” a ministry discernment event for young adults ages 18-25. That event takes place Feb. 20-22, with 102 participants registered. Representatives from the general board and four seminaries will be present and partnering with the conference at the event.

The clergy center has also been invited to participate in the Royce and Jane Reynolds Program in Church Leadership, a joint project between Duke Divinity School and the Center for Creative Leadership. Four Florida pastors will be selected to participate in the four-part program, which begins in August and focuses on developing pastoral leadership skills. The Florida clergy will join 24 others from the North Carolina, Western North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia conferences.

The only cost to participants is traveling expenses to the program location, Dodge says, and the Florida Conference Cabinet will be nominating Florida’s participants.

“I think these opportunities can have a long-lasting effect on any clergy person who participates and takes it seriously,” Dodge said. “We all need an opportunity to be quiet enough to hear what our soul, to hear what our God, is saying to us.”

The participant fee for the “Courage to Lead” program is $125 per retreat, for a total of $625 payable over two years. Grants from the Center for Courage and Renewal, the Florida Conference Cabinet and the Ministerial Education Fund cover more than two-thirds of the full cost of the series of five retreats. Applications for the program are available at and should be sent to Dodge’s attention at The Center for Clergy Excellence, P.O. Box 3767, Lakeland, FL 33802.

More information is available by contacting the Center for Clergy Excellence at 800-282-8011, extension 134.

News media contact: Tita Parham, 800-282-8011,, Orlando

*Parham is managing editor of e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.
**De Marco is a commissioned minister of the Florida Conference and a freelance writer, speaker and consultant based in Nashville, Tenn.