Chautauqua Institution’s Department of Religion will seek out pastors this fall for a leadership program committed to bringing their work beyond their congregations.
The Chautauqua Clergy Leadership Program, or CCLP, is an initiative funded by a $500,000 Lilly Endowment grant dedicated to identifying a cohort of 15 clergy who have served in ministry for about 10 to 12 years and who function both as leaders and moral voices for their congregations and communities. The Department of Religion will select the clergy in the fall, and the first class will begin in April, said Maureen Rovegno, associate director of the department.
The chosen clergy will commit to a two-year program that includes six leadership sessions — one session each in the spring, summer during the Institution’s season, and fall each year. The spring and fall sessions will last a few days, and in the summers, the clergy will stay at the Institution for a week.
The Rev. Robert Franklin, director of the Department of Religion, said each of the sessions will take place on the grounds, which means clergy can utilize the intellectual resources of Chautauqua.
“These are the skill sets that Chautauqua can offer in so many different ways,” Rovegno said. “We bring a different voice and a different context, different from the seminary experience that they’ve already had.”
Derek Austin, the program’s director, will serve as a sort of coordinator and “Dean of Faculty,” identifying people to come speak to the clergy, including Chautauqua Institution pastors and speakers.
The initiative’s impetus is to help expand the leadership capacities and skills of pastors when they are at an early, critical stage in their careers, said Ronni Kloth, the Lilly Endowment’s communications director. After about five to 10 years, pastors have often begun to hit their stride and take on larger responsibilities.
“In a lot of other professions, there is more formal leadership development training and coaching for staff members as they develop,” Kloth said. “That doesn’t necessarily exist with pastors who are actively working in their churches.”
The Institution received the grant through the Lilly Endowment’s Early Career Pastoral Leadership Development Program. The majority of grants go to colleges and theological schools, Kloth said.
The application process is by nomination only, and the Department of Religion began the search by seeking out recommendations from seminary presidents, seminary alumni directors, Chautauqua pastors and leaders at the Institution’s denominational houses, Franklin said. Austin has received more than a dozen applications.
Franklin and Rovegno said they hoped the program would empower the clergy to become public theologians and pastors. Sometimes, they said, clergy need to be empowered to express a public presence, and to be given necessary tools, skills and connections to reach beyond their congregations.
“Some of it is the need for talented clergy who are serving in their congregations to feel supported and to be encouraged to remain in the public square, offering ethical analysis and theological visions of hope and activism, utilizing the unique role of the pastor as a convenor of the community’s leaders,” Franklin said. “Someone has to step up in the public square to do that.”
The Lilly Endowment grant supports five years of the program, or two complete clergy classes and the first year of a third; the onus will be on the Institution to continue to support the program, Franklin said.
The CCLP will serve as a parallel to the New Clergy Program, an existing conference geared toward interfaith clergy who have been in ministry for no more than seven years, which will continue. Whereas the New Clergy Program is open to clergy from any of the Abrahamic faiths, the CCLP will only include Christian pastors.
“This will encourage program participants to be interfaith in their work, but it will focus on pastors within the Christian tradition,” Rovegno said.
Franklin said the Department of Religion will seek out clergy who have achieved a level of stability within their congregations, and who now have the capacity to start serving in a larger role. He hopes to find thoughtful people who are conversant with other disciplines and who understand how religion can engage fields such as social sciences, business, medicine and law.
Austin said he thought the combination of Chautauqua Institution’s educational and religious approach with the ability to solicit input from world leaders and experts is what the Lilly Endowment found unique about the Institution.
“I’ve been attending Chautauqua for six years in several different capacities, and I’m still learning about the value of Chautauqua in the national scale,” he said. “I continue to be amazed at the breadth and depth of what Chautauqua offers, and I think a development program for the leadership of the clergy is just a continuation of that vision.”
Carson Quirós contributed reporting to this story.