View of Lake Susan from behind park bench.

Montreat Receives Thriving Congregation Grant by Lilly Foundation

Posted on

Montreat Conference Center has received a grant of $995,500 from Lilly Endowment Inc. to help develop new initiatives to support local congregations.

The program, “Reforming Identity and Agency: Vital Practices for 21st Century Congregations,” is funded through Lilly Endowment’s Thriving Congregations Initiative.

The aim of the national initiative is to strengthen Christian congregations so they can help people deepen their relationships with God, build strong relationships with each other, and contribute to the flourishing of local communities and the world. Lilly Endowment is making nearly $93 million in grants through the initiative. The grants will support organizations as they work directly with congregations and help them gain clarity about their values and missions, explore and understand better the communities in which they serve, and draw upon their theological traditions as they adapt ministries to meet changing needs.

“Over the last five years, strengthening congregations has become an increasing focal point of our work,” says Richard DuBose, conference center president. “With Lilly Endowment’s help, we’ve imagined a broader program and that gives more local congregations and communities the opportunity to participate. This project is deeply aligned with our mission, and we were thrilled to learn of Lilly Endowment’s support.”

Montreat’s program will engage 45 Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) congregations in a two-year cooperative curriculum to develop a shared theological vision of what faithfulness means in their individual contexts. Congregations will be encouraged to examine and align their core values, convictions, and commitments in an effort to grow their relationship to God, to each other, and to the communities they serve. The program was developed with representatives from the Black Mountain School of Community and Theology.

Montreat Conference Center is one of 92 organizations taking part in the initiative. They represent and serve churches in a broad spectrum of Christian traditions, including Anabaptist, Baptist, Episcopal, evangelical, Lutheran, Methodist, Mennonite, Pentecostal, Presbyterian, Reformed, Restoration, Roman Catholic and Orthodox, as well as congregations that describe themselves as nondenominational. Several organizations serve congregations in Black, Hispanic and Asian-American traditions. “In the midst of a rapidly changing world, Christian congregations are grappling with how they can best carry forward their ministries,” said Christopher Coble, Lilly Endowment’s vice president for religion. “These grants will help congregations assess their ministries and draw on practices in their theological traditions to address new challenges and better nurture the spiritual vitality of the people they serve.” Lilly Endowment launched the Thriving Congregations Initiative in 2019 as part of its commitment to support efforts that enhance the vitality of Christian congregations.

About Lilly Endowment Inc.

Lilly Endowment Inc. is an Indianapolis-based private philanthropic foundation created in 1937 by J.K. Lilly Sr. and sons Eli and J.K. Jr. through gifts of stock in their pharmaceutical business, Eli Lilly & Company. Although the gifts of stock remain a financial bedrock of the Endowment, it is a separate entity from the company, with a distinct governing board, staff and location. In keeping with the founders’ wishes, the Endowment exists to support the causes of religion, education and community development. The Endowment funds significant programs throughout the United States, especially in the field of religion. However, it maintains a special commitment to its hometown, Indianapolis and home state, Indiana. The principal aim of the Endowment’s grantmaking in religion is to deepen and enrich the lives of Christians in the United States, primarily by seeking out and supporting efforts that enhance the vitality of congregations and strengthen their pastoral and lay leadership. Find out more at

About Montreat Conference Center

Montreat Conference Center is a private, non-profit, national conference center with roots in the PC(USA).The conference center often is referred to simply as “Montreat” by the more than 30,000 guests, conferees, and cottagers who visit each year. While affiliated with the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), the conference center also readily welcomes groups and individuals outside the Presbyterian church to experience Montreat. Nestled in the mountains of Western North Carolina, Montreat has served as a place of spiritual retreat for over 120 years. Each year the conference center hosts dozens of programmed events, hundreds of retreats and conferences, and hosts thousands who seek renewal and rest. We welcome visitors of all races, faiths, and orientation. All are welcome here. Find out more at