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Lilly Endowment Awards $500,000 Preaching Initiative Grant to Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary

December 14, 2014

Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary has been awarded a grant of $500,000 by the Lilly Endowment Inc. as a part of its Initiative to Strengthen the Quality of Preaching. This initiative seeks to improve the quality of preaching among working pastors and preaching instruction for seminary students. Garrett-Evangelical will build on the ongoing work of its Styberg Preaching Institute to improve pedagogy at the seminary, enhance the work of the institute for practicing preachers and develop teachers of preaching.

Called “A Partnership in Effective Proclamation,” this project will consist of three main elements: peer learning groups for active pastors under the direction of trained facilitators, preaching support for groups of students who are stepping into new roles as pastoral leaders, and the development of teachers of homiletics through a pre- or post-doctoral fellowship in teaching preaching. These three components share a distinct purpose, namely to improve the church’s ministry of proclamation offering transformative good news to hearers and thereby helping to fulfill its mission of making disciples of Jesus Christ.

“Since its inception, Garrett-Evangelical has been committed to preparing religious leaders who are compelling preachers. Through our curriculum, renowned faculty and practitioners, and the founding of the Styberg Preaching Institute, preaching ministry has remained at the heart of our mission,” said Lallene J. Rector, president of Garrett-Evangelical. “We are excited to receive this grant and grateful to Lilly Endowment for this opportunity to enhance and expand the excellent work in preaching already happening at the Seminary.”

Dr. Gennifer Brooks will direct this project, which seeks to begin as early as February 2015. Brooks currently serves as the Ernest and Bernice Styberg Professor of Preaching and Director of the Styberg Preaching Institute at Garrett-Evangelical and is the Dean of the Association of Chicago Theological Schools (ACTS) Doctor of Ministry in Preaching program. Collaborators in this work include Dr. Mark Fowler, who serves as the Murray H. Leiffer associate professor of congregational leadership, and Dr. Reginald Blount, assistant professor of formation, youth, and culture.

“Now more than ever, our churches and communities need effective preaching that delivers transformative good news,” Brooks said. “Through the Styberg Preaching Institute and now with support from the Lilly Endowment, we are uniquely positioned to help pastors in the field and seminary students to hone their preaching skills and make their sermons more effective in offering the gospel to a needy world.”

Founded in 2005, the Styberg Preaching Institute has established an intentional and persistent agenda of addressing the need for relevant, effective preaching in the church. Its motto, The Seminary and the Church: Partners in Proclamation, speaks to the mandate of the Seminary to equip pastors for transformative ministry and recognizes preaching as a critical aspect of that mission. Through programs and activities, the institute engages persons of diverse preaching traditions and cultures, with the aim of improving the preaching skills of established preachers as well as preachers in training at the Seminary.

Lilly Endowment Inc. is an Indianapolis-based private philanthropic foundation created in 1937 by three members of the Lilly family – J.K. Lilly Sr. and sons J.K. Jr. and Eli – through gifts of stock in their pharmaceutical business, Eli Lilly & Company. The Endowment exists to support the causes of religion, education and community development. Lilly Endowment’s religion grant-making is designed to deepen and enrich the religious lives of American Christians. It does this largely through initiatives to enhance and sustain the quality of ministry in American congregations and parishes. More information can be found at