FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Estate Gift from Dorothy Marple and Lilly Grant to Extend Life of Project Connect
The Eastern Cluster of Lutheran Seminaries (ECLS), a partnership involving the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg (LTSG), The Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia (LTSP), and Lenoir/Rhyne University’s Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary (LTSS), received recent notification of two generous gifts, which provide $750,000 in expanded resources for the Cluster and seminaries’ missions.
In late 2012 the Cluster was notified by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America’s (ELCA) Foundation that the late Dr. Dorothy Marple of Philadelphia had included a “legacy gift” as part of her estate planning. The income-generating Marple Living Memorial Endowment Fund will provide annual funding for work by the Cluster and member schools “for use in providing course offering(s) in ecumenism.” Marple, an assistant to the presiding bishop in the former Lutheran Church in America, played a key role in the formation of the ELCA, and served on its task force that charted a course for theological education as the new denomination began its life more than two decades ago.
Cluster Executive Director, the Rev. Michael Cooper-White, who also serves as President at Gettysburg, where Marple was a past governing board member, stated: “To say ‘Dr. Dorothy Marple’ and ‘ecumenical’ in the same sentence is like saying ‘bread and butter’. In her soft-spoken, gentle manner, Dr. Marple was a driving force in American Lutheranism for decades. We of the Eastern Cluster are so honored that she chose us and our schools to carry on her legacy. Her gift will enable all future generations of ministers to expand their vision of the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church, the Church to which our beloved sister Dorothy gave her life.”
In a second recent notification, the Eastern Cluster received word from the Indianapolis-based Lilly Endowment Inc. that the ECLS proposal for a third phase of Project Connect would receive Endowment funding in the amount of $375,000. Project Connect is a vocational discernment and leadership development project began by the Cluster seven years ago. Focused on college and university students, the shared endeavor has encouraged several thousand young persons to consider their Christian vocational callings, including public ministry opportunities. As full-time project director Donald Johnson moves to a new position at the Philadelphia seminary, the work of Project Connect will be spearheaded by the three schools’ Admissions offices. The Lilly Endowment grant will enable the Cluster schools to continue vocational discernment events, maintain contact with over 1,000 prospective students, and facilitate ongoing work with congregations and ELCA eastern synods committed to raising up the next generation of pastors and other church workers.
As the team leader who coordinated the Endowment proposal, Gettysburg’s Director of Admissions and Coordinator of Spiritual Formation, the Rev. Virginia Price, said: “This grant will enable us to continue the transformation of our communal life as we more deeply embed the vocational question of ‘how is God calling me to serve today?’” Price continued, “The benefits of creating spaces for deep intentional discernment around the question of vocation, whether though immersion in congregational life or large service oriented gatherings, are many layered. Young adults, current rostered leaders, congregations, indeed the church as a whole are renewed through such opportunities of exploration of our essential identity as children of God.”