Hastings College receives $1.1 million grant to establish religious initiative

Hastings College has received a grant of $1,120,748 from Lilly Endowment Inc. to help establish ASPIRE, the Academy of Student Preachers Inspiring Religious Engagement.

The program is being funded through Lilly Endowment’s Compelling Preaching Initiative. The aim of the initiative is to foster and support preaching that inspires, encourages and guides people to come to know and love God and to live out their Christian faith more fully.

Implemented over a five-year period, ASPIRE is an intergenerational program focused on cultivating preaching that compels diverse audiences, especially young adults, by communicating Biblical teachings in ways that draw upon contemporary culture and digital platforms. Participants will contribute to a Digital Sermon Library available to current preachers, seminary and undergraduate Christian Ministry students, and even high school students who discern a call to ministry.

ASPIRE’s components include a Christian Ministry Program and scholarships for Hastings College students, a summer Compelling Preaching Conference for active pastors and seminary students and a residential summer program, Open Call, for high school students discerning a call to ministry.

The grant proposal was developed by project director Rev. Doodle Harris, college chaplain, and Judee Konen, associate vice president for the Hastings College Foundation.

“ASPIRE will draw upon our resources as a faith-based liberal arts college to assist aspiring and active preachers, especially Presbyterians, as they proclaim the Gospel in faith communities impacted by the pandemic, by declining membership among young adults, and by society’s reliance on digital technology,” Harris said. “Our primary goal is to help pastors bring new generations into the church through preaching that is relevant to young people’s lives and reflective of their culture and communication styles.”

Hastings College is one of 81 organizations receiving grants through this competitive round of the Compelling Preaching Initiative. Reflecting the diversity of Christianity in the United States, the 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.

Hastings College is a four-year residential college that focuses on student academic and extracurricular achievement. Discover more at hastings.edu.

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