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Thursday, November 17, 2016

The Grant

   I recently announced that I was thrilled to be a recipient of a pastoral study grant from the Louisville Institute. My topic will be 'Welcoming the Stranger: A Study of How the Church Can Provide A Place of Belonging for the Immigrant.'
This verse shapes the project in important ways.
   Since leaving Immanuel International in January of 2015, I have wanted to find a framework around which I could write about our time with that amazing congregation. While I was in Europe, I also had the rich opportunity to speak a few retreats with other International churches which allowed me to broaden my contact with the deep impact that these International churches were having on the foreigners and immigrants that were moving into their cities. I began to develop a theology of welcoming the stranger to understand more deeply God's heart for the foreigner in scripture. The Old Testament is full of narratives that reflect this deep concern and I felt compelled to flesh out the connection between developing a hospitality based ministry in order to help the foreigners among us (which at time, included me) find a place of belonging. The church should be the ultimate place of belonging and time and again I have seen the International church achieve this beyond race, culture, socio-economic status and many other things that often divide the US church.
   Because the grant is singularly focused on how our research can benefit the US church, my goal will be to take the stories of those in International churches, combine it with the theological implications of welcoming the stranger in scripture and hopefully come up with a compelling challenge for the US church to be more welcoming to those different than they are, especially immigrants who are often met with hostility in the society around them.
   So in addition to the theological study that I will be able to pursue, the grant will provide funds for me to return to Europe and conduct a series of interviews with church members in several of the International churches with whom I have had a relationship. Of course, Immanuel International will be the showcase but I look forward to having conversations with folks in London, Paris, Brussels, Luxembourg, Zurich, Lucerne, and Berlin. The timeline is not yet set.
   Other aspects of the study will include visits to some churches and institutions that are already doing significant work in this area in the US. Trips to Chicago and Seattle are included in my budget so I look forward to those conversations as well.
   I will travel to Louisville, Kentucky the first weekend in February for preliminary meetings with the grant providers. All recipients are invited for a weekend of orientation and planning. And as of yet, I've only received notification via email. Apparently more documents are coming via post. So I have a lot of questions as well but am deeply honored and thrilled to have this opportunity during this sabbatical season from church ministry.
   Thanks to all who helped me put the proposal together, writing recommendations, supporting my efforts and affirming my gifts. I look forward to sharing more and more as the project begins to take shape. In the meantime, let's all remember to look for ways to create a greater sense of hospitality to those lacking a sense of belonging, keep an eye open for those folks who live feeling like they are on the outside looking in to a dominant culture who often behave in hostile ways towards the stranger in their midst.