Seminary Receives Competitive Grant from the Lilly Endowment

Seminary Receives Competitive Grant from the Lilly Endowment

Recently, St. Nersess Armenian Seminary has received a grant from the Lilly Endowment through its Compelling Preaching Initiative. The grant will enable the seminary to work with Armenian clergy throughout our Eastern and Western Dioceses to strengthen their preaching, and better inspire, encourage, and guide people to live their faith more fully.

The five-year, $1,241,005 grant will be used exclusively to fund this new and advanced preaching program, which will include online and in-person preaching workshops and retreats for clergy and lay ministers, as well the development of an archive of instructional videos and preaching resources drawn specifically from the Armenian tradition. The program begins in January 2024.

St. Nersess currently offers a student-only preaching course for seminarians who are preparing for ministry, generously funded by the Haig Dadourian Chair for Preaching Ministry. Seminarians take the course every semester of their first two years, before transitioning to the third-year preaching course at St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary. 

The Lilly Endowment grant will help establish preaching as a central component of spiritual life and practice for all Armenian clergy, making it a source of spiritual nourishment for them, for their congregations, and for others outside the parish-fold. We hope to achieve this by supporting preaching and preachers in three primary ways:

First, instilling confidence in preachers from disparate backgrounds by building a shared ground of culturally and linguistically sensitive preaching and communication skills, through quarterly, self-paced online webinars and interactive, synchronous online seminars.

Second, increasing cohesion and trust among the widely scattered and diverse clergy cohort through in-person, regional preaching workshops and larger, annual preaching retreats. 

Third, sinking the roots of contemporary Armenian preaching and preachers deeper into the soil of their native Armenian Christian tradition by providing an interactive, buildable library of ancient and medieval Armenian sermons and homiletic materials (many of which have never been published), with modern translations, structural and exegetical analysis, and notes for adapting these traditional treasures to modern preaching needs.

Dr. Roberta Ervine, professor, grant writer and architect of the program, shared, “It is our conviction that nourishing the faithful with integrative and inspiring preaching by multiple means in multiple settings is the best way to help the faithful make sense of the past, instill hope for the present, and lay the foundation for a future based on the life and life-giving teachings of Jesus Christ and our Armenian Christian tradition.” She was assisted by Robin Perlmutter, controller, and Donna Sirounian, marketing and fundraising director, in submitting a highly detailed and lengthy proposal, budget, and application last spring.

St. Nersess Seminary was one of 81 recipients to receive a grant through a competitive round of the Compelling Preaching Initiative. Reflecting the diversity of Christianity in the United States, the recipient organizations are affiliated with mainline Protestant, evangelical, Catholic, Orthodox, Anabaptist and Pentecostal faith communities. Many of the organizations are rooted in the Black Church and in Hispanic and Asian American Christian traditions.

“Throughout history, preachers often have needed to adapt their preaching practices to engage new generations of hearers more effectively,” said Christopher L. Coble, Lilly Endowment’s vice president for religion. “We are pleased that the organizations receiving grants in this initiative will help pastors and others in ministry engage in the kinds of preaching needed today to ensure that the gospel message is heard and accessible for all audiences.”

Lilly Endowment launched the Compelling Preaching Initiative in 2022 because of its interest in supporting projects that help to nurture the religious lives of individuals and families and foster the growth and vitality of Christian congregations in the United States. 

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.