FTE, Lilly Endowment award grants to YDS students and alumni

Seven current Yale Divinity School students or recent graduates are among Fund for Theological Education fellows for 2009, while two YDS clergy alumni are participating in the 2010 National Clergy Renewal Program sponsored by the Lilly Endowment Inc.

The mission of FTE, founded in 1954, is to advocate for “excellence and diversity” in pastoral ministry and theological scholarship.  The Lilly program provides grants of up to $50,000 to support “an extended period of intentional reflection and renewal that ministers, working with their congregations, deign to suit their own needs and aspirations for pastoral renewal.”

The FTE initiative supports several different programs, four of which include current YDS students or recent alumni.

WeatherlyOtis Gaddis III and Alexander Peterson are in the FTE Congregational Fellows program, in which 40 entering M.Div. students receive awards of $2,000 to $5,000 to match tuition and expenses support from their home congregations.

Participating in the FTE Ministry Fellows program, which provides awards of $10,000 to support educational expenses and summer projects for 20 second-year students, are Hannah Peck and Shakira Sanchez-Collins. 

Jaime Waters ’08 M.A.R., a doctoral student in Near Eastern Studies and Hebrew Bible at Johns Hopkins University is part of FTE’s Doctoral Renewal Fellows program, which provides grants of up to $18,000 for 13 second-year African-American doctoral students.

Two recent graduates are in FTE’s North American Doctoral Fellows program, which provides stipends of up to $10,000 to 12 African-American, Asian-American, Native American or Hispanic students.  Participating from YDS are Alisha Jones ’07 M.Div. (University of Chicago, religion/ethnomusicology) and Sameer Yadav ’07 S.T.M. (Duke Divinity School, theology and ethics).

The Fund’s mission statement says, “Through our initiatives, we enable gifted young people throughout the Christian community to explore and respond to god’s calling in their lives.  We seek to be a creative, informed catalyst for educational and faith communities in developing their own capacities to nurture men and women for vocations in ministry and teaching.  We also aim to awaken the larger community to the contributions of pastoral leaders and educators who act with faith, imagination and courage to serve the common good.”

Peck is in her second year of the M.Div. program and spent time prior to enrollment in the NYC nonprofit world and as a costume designer in off-off Broadway shows.

“I have started the ordination process with the Methodist church but I am not sure if it will lead to parish ministry or something else,” said Peck.  “I am seriously looking into hospital chaplaincy, but I need to try it out before I can know if it will be a good fit or not.”

A leader of the Methodist Society at YDS, she works during the school year at La Casa Cultural, Yale’s student Latino center, working with undergraduates and alumni.

YadavAt Duke Divinity, Sameer Yadav’s research interests lie at the intersection of philosophical theology and Christian social ethics.  Said Yadav, “My dissertation research involves a critical retrieval and reformulation of Gregory of Nyssa’s perceptual model of revelation which draws upon contemporary work in the philosophy of mind to offer a contemporary theological empiricism according to which theological knowledge is fundamentally and irreducibly experiential or observational in character. 

The two alumni who are participating in the Lilly Endowment’s National Clergy Renewal Program in 2010 are John Weatherly ’81 M.Div. of St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Alexandria, VA, and Jeffrey P. Rider ’88 M.Div. of Green’s Farms Church (UCC), founded in 1711 and the oldest of the 149 congregations involved in the program.

“The workload and lifestyle of most pastors are difficult for many to understand,” said Craig Dykstra, the Endowment’s senior vice president for religion, in announcing the awardees.  “So many activities command a pastor’s time and attention – often urgent activities like leading worship, counseling, visiting the sick and grieving – that there is little time left for the pastor to attend to his or her own spiritual growth, reflection, and family life.

“The National Clergy Renewal Program fives pastors the gift of being able to live in Sabbath time, to honor that moment as God-given.  Many clergy renewal participants have reported to the Endowment that they found their vision for ministry enlarged when they returned and that their call and commitment were renewed.”

For Weatherly, who has been rector at St. Mark’s since 1997, the Lilly grant affords an opportunity to take an extended leave “to move between reflection, inspiration, action, and recovery.”  After 12 years at St. Mark’s interrupted by tours of duty with the Virginia Army National Guard in Bosnia and Iraq, Weatherly says he will spend his sabbatical time reflecting and writing and “enjoying two things that I have always wanted to do with more intentionality: learning to said, and to walk or bike through parts of New Hampshire, Ireland, and Scotland.”