Lilly Grant – Thriving in Ministry


In 2018, the Saint Paul Area Synod was awarded a grant through the Lilly Endowment’s Thriving in Ministry Initiative. Our program is called “From the Center Outward” and through it we are thrilled to be using $375,000 over five years to support our roster in a variety of ways at no cost to leaders. We encourage you to read the executive summary of the grant. Overall, the grant will fund three cohorts for rostered ministers in the synod: one for leaders of color, one for leaders with the interest in and capacity for executive leadership, and one for leaders in their 4th to 10th year of public ministry (or, their “second act”).


Together, these cohorts aim to expand the mentoring capacity of our synod, and we hope that this support will reverberate beyond the participants to their peers, their ministry sites and the synod more broadly. All of the cohorts will be formed around a set of convictions about what allows a pastor or deacon to thrive in ministry:


  • Deep reflection on one’s life and world
  • Practice of lifelong, careful study of scripture
  • Ability to work gracefully with lay leaders
  • Disciplined curiosity about context, community and self
  • Relationships with mentors to encourage and reinforce those habits


Beyond merely thriving in their work, framing vocation from the center outward helps leaders reconnect with their human capacity for joy, curiosity, and the long tradition of spiritually and communally rooted leadership of the church.


Grant Activity

2019 was a year of planning and preparation for all of the grant activity. And, like so many aspects of our lives, well-laid plans had to shift because of the realities of the global pandemic in 2020. We are grateful that the Lilly Endowment is encouraging us to reimagine our grant for a changed world.


Our grant supports two iterations of the Second Act Cohort. The first round launched in February, 2020. One year in, the cohort has spent time in text study, developed and implemented various projects engaging Scripture in their contexts, reflected deeply with the help of fully-funded spiritual direction, and connected during online cohort meetings and social times. In its second year, they will devote their learning, discussion, energy, and funding to projects engaging their curiosity and work with lay leaders. A crossover retreat slated for January of 2022 will mark the transition to the second cycle of this cohort. Applications for Round Two are now open!


The Kubernesis Seminar is focused on leaders on our roster who have the interest and aptitude for senior leadership positions. The guiding metaphor for this cohort is the biblical concept of kubernesis, a Greek word for the gift of administrative leadership that is related to "steering a ship." Cohort members are paired with mentors from the local nonprofit sector, with whom they meet on a regular basis. The cohort meets quarterly for text study, facilitated conversation, idea-sharing and relationship building. The cohort kicked off in August of 2020, and will continue their work through August of 2022, when the cohort will draw to a close with a capstone sailing trip in the Apostle Islands of Lake Superior.


Leaders of Color Cohort - This cohort is open to all leaders of color in the Saint Paul Area Synod. There is a learning track, where the cohort gathers for facilitated conversation with local and national leaders of color to reflect on the particular joys and challenges of their ministry, and a gathering track where the cohort gathers informally to deepen relationships with peers from around the synod. The cohort will run for the duration of our Lilly grant, ending with a capstone retreat in 2023.



Timeline of grant activity:

  • June-July 2019: Application period for Second Act, Round One and Kubernesis Seminar
  • Fall 2019: Applicants will be notified of results
  • January 2020: Launch of Second Act Cohort (Round One) and Leaders of Color Cohort
  • August 2020: Launch of the Kubernesis Seminar
  • June-July 2021: Application period for Second Act (Round Two)
  • Fall 2021: Applicants for Second Act (Round Two) notified
  • December 2021: Second Act (Round One) ends
  • January 2022: Second Act (Round Two) launches
  • August 2022: Kubernesis Seminar ends
  • June 2023: Leaders of Color cohort ends
  • Fall/Winter 2023: Second Act (Round Two) ends





Second Act Cohort - Round Two (2022-2023):

The Rev. Steve Biedermann – Zion, Cottage Grove
The Rev. Lindsey Bina – Shepherd of the Valley, Apple Valley
Deacon Nina Joygaard – Faith, Forest Lake
The Rev. Caroline Harthun-Wooldridge – Faith, St. Paul
The Rev. Tanner Howard – All Saints, Cottage Grove
The Rev. Kim Kyllo – St. John’s, Lakeville
The Rev. Brice Bloxham – Shepherd of the Hills, Shoreview
The Rev. Mollie Dvorak – St. Mark’s, Circle Pines
The Rev. Wendy Steger – All Saints, Eagan
The Rev. Kelli Weiss – Mt. Calvary, Eagan


Second Act Cohort - Round One (2020-2021):

The Rev. Rusty Brace - Holy Cross, Oakdale
The Rev. Jen Collins - Grace, Apple Valley
The Rev. Dana Nelson - Galilee, Roseville
The Rev. Brandon Newton - Easter, Eagan
The Rev. Jill Rode - St. Anthony Park, St. Paul
The Rev. Amanda Simons - Gustavus Adolphus, St. Paul
The Rev. Rebecca Sullivan - Lakeview, Maplewood
The Rev. Joel Vander Wal - Incarnation, Shoreview
The Rev. Peter Weston Miller - Trinity, Stillwater

Kubernesis Seminar:

The Rev. Elizabeth Damico-Carper - Memorial, Afton
The Rev. Ali Ferin - St. Michael's, Roseville
The Rev. Kirsten Fryer - Bethlehem, St. Paul
The Rev. Jeanne Hartfield - Incarnation, Shoreview
The Rev. John Hierlinger - Gustavus Adolphus, St. Paul
The Rev. Keith Long - St. Luke's, Cottage Grove
The Rev. Tim Maybee - Amazing Grace, Inver Grove Heights
The Rev. Joy McDonald Coltvet - Christ on Capitol Hill, St. Paul


Contact Leslie Ortiz, Lilly Grant Program Director