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Grace pastor Jorge Acevedo awarded Lilly grant

Grace pastor Jorge Acevedo awarded Lilly grant

Jorge Acevedo
Rev. Jorge Acevedo

CAPE CORAL – As lead pastor of a four-site UMC campus with a passion for missions and service to the Florida Conference and General Church, Rev. Jorge Acevedo does plenty of globe-trotting in the course of business.

Thanks to a grant from the Indianapolis-based Lilly Endowment Inc., though, the pastor will be scheduling some journeys for himself as part of the organization’s National Clergy Renewal Program.

He plans to use the nearly $46,000 grant for a four-month renewal leave that will include trips to Europe and the Holy Land.

“I’ve been here [at Grace] 17 years, and I’ve never taken a sabbatical,” Acevedo said. “The idea is for you to do something you would not have normally done.”

The grant was awarded to Grace Church, which applied for the funds on behalf of its pastor. Grace was one of 147 Christian congregations in the U.S. to receive a grant, and one of four in Florida, a Lilly spokeswoman said. Grace is the only Florida Conference church to receive a Lilly grant this year.

The purpose of the grant, according to the Lilly organization, is “to strengthen Christian congregations by providing opportunities for pastors to step away briefly from the persistent obligations of daily parish life and to engage in a period of renewal and reflection.”

Lilly provides the funding because it sees ministry as important not only to parishioners but to the community and society at large, according to the grant guidelines.

Acevedo, 52, said hundreds of churches apply each year, and the application process is lengthy and competitive.

He said he built his renewal leave proposal around the Bible book of Jeremiah and its discussion of renewal being good for the soul.

“I really want to take these four months to recalibrate, body, mind and soul,” he said. 

Cheryl and Jorge Acevedo
Cheryl and Jorge Acevedo

The sabbatical will start with two weeks of pastoral counseling in the mountains of Colorado in the spring. Then he and his wife, Cheryl, will fly to Rome and take a two-week cruise in the Mediterranean, followed by retracing some of Saint Paul’s steps through Italy and Turkey.

Then the couple will head to Tel Aviv for 10 days in the Holy Land, followed by a month in Great Britain that will include visiting sites of Wesleyan significance.

“We’ll come home around the end of July,” Acevedo said, noting that the Lilly organization encourages pastors to include their marriages in renewal plans. He said he planned the trip to allow his wife, a schoolteacher, to accompany him for as much of the journey as possible during her summer break.

He also plans to write a book, his second in recent years. He said he is in discussions with Abingdon Press about the topic and could not say what it will be.

Abingdon is scheduled to release a book by Acevedo called “Vital: Churches Changing Communities in the World” in January.

Acevedo, a native of Puerto Rico, received his master of divinity degree from Asbury Theological Seminary. He was ordained as a deacon in the Florida Conference in 1986 and became an elder in 1990. In 2001, he received the Denman Evangelism Award from the Florida Conference for pastoral excellence in evangelism, and in 2009, he received the Distinguished Evangelist Award from The Foundation for Evangelism based in Lake Junaluska, N.C.

He has been a delegate to General Conference and the Southeastern Jurisdictional Conference, where he most recently served as lead clergy delegate on the Episcopal Committee that helped select Bishop Ken Carter to lead the Florida Conference.

Acevedo and his wife celebrate their 31st wedding anniversary this month. They have two sons and two grandchildren.

Clergy from Trinity Episcopal Church in Appalachicola and San Jose Episcopal and St. John’s Presbyterian churches in Jacksonville are the other Florida beneficiaries of Lilly grants this year. Churches in 38 states and the District of Columbia were eligible.