The pastor of St. Paul's Lutheran Church in Maumee is planning to spend some time next year with the person for whom the church is named - St. Paul, the first century Apostle.
The Rev. Roger Miller has been awarded a $44,499 grant from the Lilly Endowment's 2004 Clergy Renewal Program to take a 10-week sabbatical that will include participation in a group tour that follows the route St. Paul took for his third missionary journey, circa 53 to 57 A.D.
Pastor Miller and his wife, Leslie, will begin their trek in June in Antioch of Syria and include stops in Turkey and Greece before winding up in Israel in August.
"Eight of the books in the New Testament were included in that one journey," Pastor Miller said, pointing out that among the cities St. Paul visited on his third and most extensive missionary journey were Corinth, Ephesus, Philippi, Galatia, Thessalonika, and Colossus - all subjects of letters included in the Bible.
After following St. Paul's journey, the Maumee pastor will travel to Ireland, where he will study how St. Patrick managed to convert a pagan island nation to Christianity in the 6th century, as explained by historian Thomas Cahill in his book How the Irish Saved Civilization.
Pastor Miller said he sees similarities in the way that the Gospel was spread by St. Paul, St. Patrick, and Nicky Gumbel, a modern-day British minister whose "Alpha Course" has become a popular Bible-based program in churches around the world.
"I thought I'd study on location the way St. Patrick took a pagan nation and turned it into a Christian nation in the 6th century, and how St. Paul did it in the 1st century, and now how Nicky Gumbel is doing it in the 21st century," Pastor Miller said.
The sabbatical will end with a genuine vacation in St. Augustine, Fla.
Pastor Miller said his proposal was aided by Elizabeth Emmert-Henzler, a member of the congregation with expertise in grant writing.
"She is in a perfect position for God to use her and her giftedness," Pastor Miller said.
He is excited that Mr. Cahill, the Irish historian, is scheduled to speak in Toledo next spring as part of the "Authors! Authors!" lecture series.
As part of his proposal, he requested 200 tickets to Mr. Cayhill's lecture so that members of his congregation can attend.
"This Lilly grant is not just for the pastor's sabbatical, it involves the congregation," Pastor Miller said. "So part of the grant includes $1,600 for tickets so our congregation can go hear Thomas Cahill. And we're hoping he'll also greet us personally while he's in town. I've read everything he's written and I just love everything about his book How the Irish Saved Civilization."
He will be traveling with a digital camera and a laptop computer and plans to write an online "blog," or Web log, during his journey.
Pastor Miller, 55, said he knew as early as age 11 that he wanted to go into the ministry. Born in Washington, D.C., he attended Trinity Lutheran Seminary in Columbus and was ordained in his home church in Arlington, Va., in 1974.
He has been at St. Paul's in Maumee since 1990, and has overseen a $2.6 million renovation that is scheduled for dedication on Dec. 5.
The renovation involved reorienting the sanctuary from facing south to facing west, adding 100 seats to accommodate about 500, adding 12,000 square feet and remodeling 12,000 square feet of office, classroom, and other space.
Until the renovation is complete, St. Paul's is accommodate about 500, adding 12,000 square feet and remodeling 12,000 square feet of office, classroom, and other space.
Until the renovation is complete, St. Paul's is holding Sunday services in the Maumee Theater on Conant Street at 8, 9:30, and 11 a.m., where about 630 people attend on average.
St. Paul's also has founded a "seeker sensitive" church in Monclova Township called 1035. That church meets on Sundays at 10:35 a.m. in the Monclova Elementary School.
The Indianapolis-based Lilly Endowment Inc., states in its guidelines that the Clergy Renewal Program is designed "to strengthen Christian congregations by providing opportunities for pastors to step away briefly from the persistent obligations of daily parish life and to engage in a period of renewal and reflection."
This year's 132 grant recipients represented 23 denominations in 37 states and the District of Columbia.
Past local grant recipients include the Rev. William H. Chidester of Sylvania United Church of Christ, the Rev. Dan Fothergill of Washington Congregational Church, and the Rev. Lenore Kure of Sandusky's First Congregational Church.
"As these effective pastors reflect on their lives, they know that the demands on their time and talents can become relentless," said Craig Dykstra, vice president for religion for the Lilly Endowment.
"The most heartening thing is that most congregations recognize this situation too. They know their pastor needs a break from the pressures of the ministerial life."
He said that pastors and their families "come back refreshed with renewed passion for their ministries."
After awarding grants of up to $45,000 to 600 congregations over the last five years, the Lilly Endowment announced last week that it will continue the program in 2005.
Applications and information are available online at www.lilly.org, or by calling 317-916-7302. The deadline for submitting applications is June 10, 2005, with recipients being announced next October.
The Lilly Endowment, Inc., a private philantrophic foundation, was founded in 1937 by three members of the Lilly family through gifts of stock in their pharmaceutical business, Eli Lilly and Company.
Contact David Yonke at: