The Thriving Congregations Initiative provides us the opportunity to leverage Montreat’s historic convening power to assist us in building our new identity as a place that trains local congregations to address their most urgent challenges. We will engage 45 Presbyterian Church (USA) congregations in a two-year cooperative inquiry curriculum that maintains our cohort model and aims to deepen their knowledge of their Reformed tradition, fortify their identity, strengthen relational connections in their community, and build collective agency to empower their mission. Grounding skills of community organizing and qualitative leadership in key practices of the Reformed tradition (listening, gathering, discerning, witness/service, and continuing reformation), our initiative accompanies congregations through a communal, active learning process to develop a shared theological vision of who God is and what faithfulness means in this particular context so as to determine its own core values, convictions, and commitments. The process will guide three cohorts of 15 congregations through a five-module process comprising semi-annual plenary workshops held at Montreat Conference Center, affinity group learning communities coached monthly via Zoom, individual congregational mentoring, ministry seed grants, and site visits by program faculty in order to facilitate skill-building and accountability. To date, we have developed curricula for our current Congregational Vitality programs using both staff and outside experts; in this initiative, we look forward to partnering with the Black Mountain School of Theology & Community, whose faculty of theological educators and church consultants will provide the pedagogical and research expertise we need to support this initiative.
The Presbytery of Cincinnati, PC(USA), seeks to provide focused strategic discernment, program design and structure, and targeted leadership coaching to pastors and key lay leaders of Presbyterian congregations in the Greater Cincinnati area (including churches in Northern Kentucky and Southeast Indiana). The primary goal will be to create a set of tools to foster connections, resources and strong leadership capabilities, enabling our churches to identify and adapt to current local and cultural trends and driving them to thrive and grow. The program will reflect key Reformed traditions while also developing and maximizing individual congregational and contextual distinctives. This initiative will be housed under a newly-formed “Presbytery of Cincinnati Center for Learning.” As one aspect of sustainability, the Cincinnati Presbytery will share its learnings broadly as a case study, potentially with materials and best practices, to other Presbyteries and Synods that form the PC(USA).
In the spirit of the relationship between Stillman College and the Christian Church, this program proposes a five-year plan for 15 traditional African American congregations in central Alabama. These churches will represent three denominations: the Presbyterian Church U.S.A, the African Methodist Episcopal Church, and the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church. This plan will take each congregation collectively and individually through the three phases of recognizing their changing social and cultural context, clarifying their values and mission, and cultivating appropriate Christian practices for the sake of transformation and vitality. These churches represent a unique witness here in the Deep South. They have combined educational achievement and sacrificial service for decades, for the greater good of their congregants and their communities. Yet, the new realities of this cultural moment present complicated challenges and require creative adaptation. To facilitate the necessary assessment and adaptability, the College's plan will be executed in consultation with the Center of Lifelong Learning at Columbia Theological Seminary and the Office of Vital Congregations for the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). We believe this work is critical for our Christian witness in central Alabama.