ALMA — Beginning in summer 2024, Alma College will host a series of conferences designed to identify, train, and support emergent preachers, in partnership with the Synod of the Covenant Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), and two other organizations.

The regional body serving Presbyterian Churches throughout Michigan and Ohio, the Synod of the Covenant, partnering with Alma College, Johnson C. Smith Seminary, and the Presbytery of Cincinnati, has received a grant of $1.25 million from Lilly Endowment Inc. to help establish the Cultivating the Gift of Preaching initiative.

The initiative will benefit all 11 of the Synod’s presbyteries and many of its 650 churches in serving preachers who have not yet experienced rigorous homiletical or theological training, said Synod Executive Charles “Chip” Hardwick, a 1988 graduate of Alma College.

“Faithful elders and other leaders preach faithfully, Sunday after Sunday, in so many of our churches. Cultivating the Gift of Preaching will answer their longing for more training, including monthly cohort groups, annual conferences, and spiritual practices,” Hardwick said. “Our partnership with Alma College, Johnson C. Smith Theological Seminary, and the Presbytery of Cincinnati will be the foundation of what we pray the Spirit will use to transform the Synod.”

Founded by Presbyterians in 1886, current Alma College President Jeff Abernathy said the college’s partnership on the effort aligns with its mission to improve the community around it and its longstanding relationship with the Presbyterian Church. More details will follow regarding the conferences, which will take place annually at Alma for five years.

“We are grateful to Lilly Endowment Inc. for supporting this worthwhile initiative and congratulate the Synod of the Covenant on receiving this grant,” Abernathy said. “Through the Cultivating the Gift of Preaching initiative, students from across a variety of disciplines will have opportunities to benefit local communities through faith and spirituality.”

Read the official press release from Lilly Endowment Inc.