Posted by William Nunnelley on 2008-02-01

Samford University has received a $1 million continuation grant from Lilly Endowment Inc. of Indianapolis, Ind., for its Resource Center for Pastoral Excellence (RCPE). This multi-faceted project offers various programs that foster pastoral excellence among ministers with differing social, racial, religious and educational backgrounds.

Beginning with an initial grant of $2 million from the Endowment several years ago, the RCPE has influenced the lives and ministries of more than 300 clergy, according to Michael K. Wilson, RCPE program director.

Now, with its programs in place and with growing additional support from Samford and other sources, the RCPE goal is to train and support an additional 600 pastors over the next five years.

RCPE partners include the Samaritan Counseling Center of Birmingham, First Priority of Alabama and the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions.

"With our program alumni and our organizational partners, we will continue to create new structures for pastoral development and disseminate both theoretical insight and practical wisdom," said Penny Marler, RCPE grant and research coordinator.

The RCPE offers several basic programs.

A Sabbath Opportunities and Resources (SOAR) program provides pastors with restorative emotional, spiritual, physical and intellectual experiences in an academic environment. In addition to sabbaticals and study leaves, SOAR features quarterly Days Apart for Birmingham area women pastors and area judicatory leaders, lectures, seminars and targeted conferences.

Pastoral Sustenance Networks (PSNs) work with bivocational ministers, especially in rural areas, at state and regional levels.

Project Timothy facilitates mentor relationships between college-aged ministerial candidates and experienced pastors. "This enriches the capacity of congregations as mentoring environments," said Wilson.

Twelve for Twelve (TFT) is a 12-month, interdenominational peer learning program for local clergy in which pairs of experienced pastors work together to learn from each other.

Research activities are also part of the program, systematically gathering, analyzing and publishing data on pastoral leadership.

For more information on the RCPE, visit the Center website.

Samford is a leading Christian university offering undergraduate programs grounded in the liberal arts with an array of nationally recognized graduate and professional schools. Founded in 1841, Samford is the 87th-oldest institution of higher learning in the United States. The Wall Street Journal ranks Samford 1st nationally for student engagement and U.S. News & World Report ranks Samford 66th in the nation for best undergraduate teaching and 104th nationally for best value. Samford enrolls 5,683 students from 47 states and 19 countries in its 10 academic schools: arts, arts and sciences, business, divinity, education, health professions, law, nursing, pharmacy and public health. Samford fields 17 athletic teams that compete in the tradition-rich Southern Conference, and ranks 6th nationally for its Graduation Success Rate among all NCAA Division I schools.