Salem Mennonite Church in Elida has received a grant of $50,000 to enable its pastor, Paula Snyder Belousek, to participate in the 2015 National Clergy Renewal Program. Salem Mennonite is one of 144 congregations across the country selected to participate in this competitive grant program, which is funded by Lilly Endowment Inc. and administered by Christian Theological Seminary in Indianapolis, Ind.  Established by the Endowment in 2000, the program’s grants allow Christian congregations to support their pastors with the gift of extended time away from their ministerial duties and responsibilities.

Through the National Clergy Renewal Program, congregations apply for grants of up to $50,000 to support renewal programs for their pastors. Recognizing that ministers’ families are subject to the stress and the demands placed on pastoral leaders, the program encourages pastors to involve their families in renewal activities.  Congregational needs during the minister’s renewal experience are also considered.  Up to $15,000 of the grant may be used to support interim pastoral leadership during the pastor’s retreat, as well as renewal activities within the congregation.

Salem Mennonite’s renewal plans are organized around the theme “Celebrating Our Stories,” to coincide with the church’s 175th anniversary in 2016.  As a congregation, Salem will celebrate both stories from its past as well as celebrating the larger Christian story.  This will involve using grant funds to invite special speakers on the topics of Mennonite history, stories of the early church, and Anabaptist connections in the United Kingdom as well modern day martyrs of the church.

Additionally, an interim pastor will be hired to cover Pastor Paula’s four-month sabbatical that will begin in May 2016. During that time Pastor Paula and her family will explore the stories of the early church with a tour through Turkey, followed by a month in Scotland that will include visiting with members of the Anabaptist community, taking workshops at the Scottish Storytelling Centre and spending a week with the Iona Community. Additional time will include opportunities in both Ontario and Michigan for reflection, reading, journaling and prayer as well as attending the Festival Gathering of the Network of Biblical Storytellers International in Washington, DC.