Brattleboro Reformer

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Westminster West >> The Congregational Church of Westminster West has received a grant of $48,800 to enable its Minister, Rev. Susie Webster-Toleno, to participate in the 2015 National Clergy Renewal Program.

The Congregational Church of Westminster West 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. 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.

Ministers whose congregation are awarded the grants use their time away from the demands of daily ministry to engage in reflection and renewal. The approach respects the "Sabbath time" concept, offering ministers a carefully considered respite that may include travel, study, rest, immersive arts and cultural experiences, and prayer.

Through the National Clergy Renewal Program, congregations apply for grants of up to $50,000 to support renewal programs for their pastors. Collaborative in nature and implementation, the program allows congregations to partner with their ministers in developing an experience that addresses their unique renewal needs and aspirations. Congregational needs during the minister's renewal experience also are 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.

Members of the Congregational Church of Westminster West truly value Webster-Toleno's unique brand of spiritual leadership that fosters inclusiveness and the deepening of our faith. The congregation wanted to support her with this Sabbath renewal that will allow her to learn more about the intersections of contemplative spiritual practices with rural New England parish leadership needs as well as nurturing time with her family and with God. During her three month sabbatical, Webster-Toleno will participate in a variety of meditative practices from different spiritual traditions throughout the U.S., read, travel to Europe with her family to visit ancestral villages, and participate in the spiritual practices of the Taize and Iona communities.


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