The Chicago Commons Project

December 20, 2013

The Divinity School has received a $475,000 grant from Lilly Endowment Inc to establish “The Chicago Commons Project,” a program of leadership development and enrichment for Chicago-area pastors.  The Divinity School is one of several organizations across the country to receive grants as part of the Endowment’s Early Career Pastoral Development Initiative aimed at developing leadership programs for pastors in the early stages of their careers.

The Chicago Commons Project seeks to expand the capacity and extend the reach of promising young clergy, cultivating resilience, stamina and wisdom for the challenging work of religious leadership. The program will identify talented area clergy at a pivotal early stage in their careers, gathering them into ecumenically, theologically and racially diverse cohorts that will engage in significant conversations with influential civic leaders from across the spectrum of public life and the arts.  

The Chicago Commons Project is a natural extension of the University of Chicago Divinity School’s long-standing commitment to educate and equip thoughtful, creative and courageous religious leaders whose work enriches the common good. During a two-year period of intensive theological and civic reflection, program fellows will:

  • develop deep and nourishing relationships with clergy leaders in their age cohort that can inspire and sustain them as they move into future positions of leadership in their churches and communities;
  • cultivate a confidence in themselves, their traditions and in the contribution they make to public life that will energize their congregational leadership;
  • foster collegial relationships and practices across professions that will help build communities’ capacity
  • gain greater knowledge and insight about issues which pose significant challenges in Chicagoland and beyond;
  • expand their imaginations about the ways that religious communities and their leaders are called to serve their communities.

The principal investigator for the Chicago Commons Project is Rev. Cynthia Lindner, Director of Ministry Studies and Clinical Professor for Preaching and Pastoral Care at the Divinity School.  Rev. Lindner was the PI for the Divinity School’s recent “Border Crossings” project, also funded by the Endowment, which fostered collaborations in classrooms and congregations between faculty, clergy practitioners, PhD students and MDiv students. In addition to her work with MDiv students, Rev. Lindner maintains a clinical practice at the Center for Religion and Psychotherapy of Chicago where she facilitates clergy workshops and peer education groups, and is researching clergy narratives and ministerial multiplicity for an upcoming book on pastoral identity and practice.