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Sarasota Thursday, Jul. 28, 2011 5 years ago

Reverend follows his heart for trip

by: Rachel S. O'Hara Staff Photographer

When the Rev. Michael Mansperger, of Presbyterian Church of the Covenant, heard about the Lilly Endowment’s National Clergy Renewal Program, he was amazed to discover that all he had to do was answer the following question: What will make your heart sing?

With the question in front of him, he began to ruminate on what would truly make his heart sing. He spent hours searching the Internet for places he had always dreamed of visiting and doing things he enjoys doing, such as hiking.

“I was ordained in 1978, and I have never been away from work for more than three weeks — nevermind for three months,” he said. “I’ve never been on a sabbatical ever. I never even really thought about it.”

The Lilly Endowment’s National Clergy Renewal Program is now its 11th year; it awards 150 churches up to $50,000 each to be used for not only the clergyman’s sabbatical, but also provides funds for the parish to purchase things it may need.

Mansperger’s essay was allowed to be up to 10-pageslong, and he filled the entire 10 pages. He wrote about the history of the church, the congregation and the projects that the parish is involved in, including Project C.U.R.E. and the Clothes Closet. Finally, he wrote about what would truly make his heart sing.

Mansperger took this task seriously and wrote out exactly what he would want to do if he were given the chance to take leave from the church. Not only did he want to travel and see the world, he wanted to study Ephesians and have a better understanding of himself.

“We are just one of 150 churches that were selected for this program,” said Mansperger. “I looked up online and found that there are approximately 300,00 churches in the U.S., and you have to figure a couple thousand applied for this program. It’s pretty cool that a small parish like ours got chosen.”

Not only was the Presbyterian Church of the Covenant one of the parishes chosen, but it also received almost the maximum amount of money — $49,400. Approximately $30,000 will go toward Mansperger’s sabbatical. The rest of the money will be put toward books and reference materials, expenses needed for filling the pulpit each Sunday for three months, money to send eight missionaries to Nashville, Tenn., and a brand-new Garland six burner, double-oven cooking center for the parish’s kitchen.

During the sabbatical, Mansperger and his wife, Linda, will be hiking through the Highlands and islands of Scotland, visiting friends in Germany and continuing on to Geneva to hike through the Swiss, French and Italian Alps. Following the hiking, they will spend a few days in Rome and then take a Mediterranean cruise, during which they will visit places rich in religious history. After a week of downtime, the pastor will continue on his own to Santa Cruz, Calif., to spend time visiting family and friends and even playing a few rounds of gold at Pebble Beach. He will also spend a few days at the library at the San Francisco Theological Seminary, where he will continue to study Ephesians in detail before coming home to Sarasota.

“Who would dream that they could pay you to reflect, renew and refresh?” he said. “Only in the most sophisticated and elite institutions would that be covered, but not in the life of a small congregation.”

Contact Rachel O’Hara at


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