In fall 2018, the Diocese of North Carolina shared the news it had received a nearly $1 million Lilly Endowment grant to help establish Reimagining Curacies, a program designed to form newly ordained clergy into community-conscious leaders dedicated to the values of Becoming Beloved Community through authentic community and racial reconciliation. It was part of Lilly Endowment Inc.’s Thriving in Ministry, an initiative to support a variety of religious organizations across the nation as they create or strengthen programs to help pastors build relationships with experienced clergy who can serve as mentors and guide them through key leadership challenges in congregational ministry.
Over the ensuing 12 months, a great deal of work has occurred to put in place the first stage of the project: the participating congregations. These congregations, St. Titus’, Durham; Chapel of the Cross, Chapel Hill; and St. John’s, Wake Forest, are now in place and ready to proceed with the next phase.
The Diocese is one of 78 organizations located in 29 states taking part in the nearly $70 million Thriving in Ministry initiative. The organizations reflect diverse Christian traditions: mainline and evangelical Protestant, Roman Catholic and Orthodox. Thriving in Ministry is part of Lilly Endowment’s grant-making to strengthen pastoral leadership in Christian congregations in the United States, a grant-making priority at Lilly Endowment for nearly 25 years.
Reimagining Curacies focuses on developing clergy into transformative leaders during their initial placements in congregations after they graduate from seminary. While traditional curacies place new priests in one congregation for two or three years, this new model will assign cohorts of three priests to three vibrant congregations near each other for three years, with each priest serving one year in each congregation. These placements are geographically proximate to one another but differ in size, liturgical preference, racial and ethnic composition, community context and specialized ministries. North Carolina’s rich mixture of urban, suburban and rural communities in close proximity to each other provide a unique opportunity for priests to experience the range of challenges and gifts the state’s communities have to offer.
These new priests will also benefit from spiritual direction, mentoring, coaching and leadership development experiences with their peers and colleagues. It is the Diocese’s hope that supervising and mentoring clergy will continue to develop their own sense of vocational identity for the future church and experience the gift of real relationship with peers and partners in ministry. At the same time, the congregations involved in this initiative will develop a broader sense of their own gifts, as well as their own missional identity.