By Rob Gariss, Managing Director for Leadership Development
The network of grantees, partners, and fellows that this initiative has gathered in the last two years shares a passion to empower people of faith to live out the gospel in practical ways that serve communities, heal divides, and bring justice to those pushed to the margins of our society. This initiative supports faith leaders, congregations, and other groups to faithfully discern their role in their community and how to most effectively act on that calling. In their different ways, the Leadership Development grantees empower faith leaders to act on their mission through a variety of skills, including change management, conflict transformation, social entrepreneurship, community organizing, and stewardship of their financial and real estate assets to advance their work. This type of deep, outward-facing, Spirit-and data-driven discernment informs the work of Trinity’s partners, including the FaithX work that Trinity supports: the Vitality Improvement Program for Small Congregations.
In 2019, Trinity Church Wall Street launched a new initiative to develop leaders for the Church. The goal of the Leadership Development initiative is to expand educational opportunities for people of faith, lay and ordained, to develop the mindsets and practical skills they need to serve their congregations and communities while firmly grounded in their faith. Since that time, the initiative has made grants to a wide range of organizations including seminaries, dioceses, and faith-aligned non-profits to help create new projects. And just this fall, the Leadership Development initiative launched the Trinity Leadership Fellows program, bringing together dynamic and high-potential faith leaders for a two-year journey of community building and skill development to empower their efforts to serve their communities faithfully and effectively.
Although the projects are enormously varied, a few themes stand out: Many projects recognize that a changing Church will draw energy from a wide range of lay leaders and seek to prepare non-ordained leaders for a greater role in the Church and their communities. Among those projects is an effort in the Diocese of Los Angeles to draw on the deep well of cultural and spiritual talents of lay people, expanding the capacity of the church to provide pastoral care in one of the most diverse dioceses in the country. Another partner, the Diocese of Atlanta, is the anchor of a region-wide effort in the U.S. Southeast to develop and share resources to faithfully and effectively train lay people who are stepping into leadership roles. In addition, the IONA Collaborative at the Seminary of the Southwest is, with Trinity’s support, expanding its long-established resources for “continuing education” style formation of clergy to a new audience of lay leaders around the country.
Another cluster of grantees and partners is rapidly expanding Spanish language ministry and leadership development resources for Latino/a/x leaders in The Episcopal Church, addressing an area of dynamism and growth in the denomination. The resources are being designed to be both linguistically and culturally appropriate to the expanding Latino/a/x congregations around the country and will prepare the Church to welcome new members and adapt to changing neighborhoods.
Entrepreneurial perspectives and skills inform a number of other projects, among them the Glean Network, which is digitizing its well-established faith leaders training program for an online audience, offered in conjunction with the Columbia Business School. Ashoka, a long-established and successful network of social entrepreneurs, has launched a new network and training program for faith changemakers and is now rolling that out from the initial offering in English (primarily for North American audiences) into versions offered in Spanish and Portuguese and versions tailored specifically for Indonesia and the Philippines. And last but not least, Princeton Theological Seminary is undertaking an effort with the ambitious goal of integrating entrepreneurial mindsets and skills into the traditional seminary degree curriculum across a wide array of seminaries.
In addition to the grant-supported work at other institutions around the world, Trinity has also launched the Trinity Leadership Fellows program. The first cohort of 28 fellows, from the United States, the United Kingdom, and South Africa, came together in New York City for a week in September 2022. During their time together they gathered to discern how their faith, values, passions, gifts, and needs shape their work as leaders. They also toured the Nehemiah Neighborhood Development in Brooklyn to meet community organizers who successfully lobbied to build affordable housing, transforming the community. In the next 11 months, they will meet weekly online to complete other courses, ranging from adaptive leadership to conflict transformation to change management, while also deepening their ties to each other so they may support each other in their growing ministries. During their second year, they will work with their mentors to implement a new program or work on a self-development goal. The hope of the program is to create a network of peers dedicated to serving their congregations and communities in ways that are grounded in faith and effective in addressing urgent needs, and healing division while deepening their faith. Each year a new cohort of Fellows will be brought on board. And as a way to serve the global community, all the content of the Fellows’ courses will be freely available to any person who is inspired to lead, serve, and heal the world around them.
Faith leaders who are mission-driven and gospel-centered can better tap into the dynamism of a changing society and church if they have the practical skills and mindsets for the task. The hope of Trinity’s Leadership Development initiative is to equip and develop faith leaders who can guide and inspire communities into thriving, loving, just, and caring wholeness. We are glad to count FaithX as one of our partners in this faith-filled effort.