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Mental Health Focus for Continuing Education

Jan. 06, 2022

This summer, Emmanuel College received a $56,486 CAD Pathways for Tomorrow grant from Lilly Endowment Inc. through its Pathways for Tomorrow Initiative. The three-phase initiative is helping theological schools in Canada and the U.S. strengthen and sustain their capacities to prepare and support pastoral leaders for Christian churches. 

Emmanuel College received a phase one planning grant through the Pathways initiative. The grant supported the college in developing “Pathways for Wellness: Hearts, Minds, and Spirits,” an assessment and planning process designed to help prepare and support congregational leaders to effectively share Christ’s patient, persistent, and compassionate love with those experiencing mental distress.

Under the leadership of Michelle Voss Roberts, project director and past principal, and Adam Hanley, Program Coordinator for Ministry Personnel Vitality for The United Church of Canada, the team conducted three targeted needs assessment surveys: with potential contributors to programming, with students and prospective students, and with United Church ministers and alumni. Graduate student Oliver Lim conducted focus groups with Doctor of Ministry students about the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on mental health for clergy and congregations.

The data collected from these surveys will inform a long-term initiative on mental health through Emmanuel College’s Centre for Religion and Its Contexts. Current and future continuing education programming will attend to three prongs of a wellness for ministry personnel and congregations: self-care, other-care, and community care.

  • Self-care: Emmanuel College will ensure opportunities to develop spiritual practices that support resilience in congregational leaders and sustain the work of mental health advocacy.
  • Other-care: Emmanuel College will prepare and support ministers to work with people and their families who have lived experience with mental distress.
  • Community care: Emmanuel College will contribute to a wider public conversation that raises awareness to end the stigma of mental illness and advocates for a just distribution of mental health services.

Already a strength of the multireligious Master of Pastoral Studies program, mental and spiritual wellbeing will become more central in how the College prepares Master of Divinity students and supports alumni working in congregations.

  • Fall 2021: Pilot programs included workshops on spiritual practice, communication in congregations, and self-care.
  • Winter 2022: Highlights include a small-group series exploring personal satisfaction and stress in ministry with Beth Anne Fisher and a workshop on managing conflict with Credence & Co.

These efforts have recently been highlighted in Broadview magazine. As the project unfolds, interested ministry personnel can look for updates and opportunities through the Centre for Religion and Its Contexts.

Lilly Endowment launched the Pathways for Tomorrow Initiative in January 2021 to help theological schools strengthen and sustain their capacities to prepare and support pastoral leaders for Christian churches – primarily ordained pastoral leaders and secondarily, congregational lay ministers. Lilly Endowment is making Pathways initiative grants to assist theological schools in the United States and Canada that are accredited by the Association of Theological Schools (ATS).

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