Diocese of the West receives significant grant from the Lilly Endowment to support deep parish renewal

January 1, 2024
Contact: Rev. Andrew Smith (thriving@dowoca.org)

The Diocese of the West of the Orthodox Church in America has received a $1,250,000 grant from Lilly Endowment Inc. to support and develop its new Thriving Parishes Project.

The project is being funded through Lilly Endowment’s Thriving Congregations Initiative. The aim of the initiative is to encourage the flourishing of congregations by helping them deepen their relationships with God, enhance their connections with each other, and contribute to the vitality of their communities and the world.

Through this grant, the Diocese of the West aims to boost developing missions, renew urban parishes, and empower already strong congregations to be even more accessible to everyone in their surrounding communities. This project encompasses a group of programs that will work directly with parishes to help them assess and adapt their ministries to their rapidly changing contexts. The core of the Thriving Parishes Project will entail deep renewal and creative work by the parishes and missions selected to take part. This work will, with God’s help, grow the impact of our 62 parishes in the neighborhoods they serve and, in a natural way, further strengthen the Diocese so that it can support even more local congregations and plant new ones. The whole Diocese will also benefit from more intentional efforts to raise up priestly vocations, new deacons, trained choir leaders, and effective youth ministers.

In reflecting on receiving this grant, Archbishop Benjamin of San Francisco and the West stated: “We are optimistic about the potential for our parishes to fulfill their callings despite and perhaps because of all the difficulties we face in our time. Each one of our parishes must see itself as an apostolic and missionary source of light and a beacon of God’s love available to everyone in a broken world.” Archpriest Kirill Sokolov, Chancellor of the Diocese, added: “We’re thrilled to have the space to experiment and try new ways to serve our neighbors as we grow in Christ. Thanks to this grant, we can build on existing smaller-scale initiatives more quickly and broadly over the next five years.”

The Diocese of the West of the Orthodox Church in America is one of 105 organizations that has received grants through a competitive round of the Thriving Congregations Initiative. Reflecting a wide variety of Christian traditions, the organizations represent mainline Protestant, evangelical, Catholic, Orthodox, peace church and Pentecostal faith communities. 

“Congregations play an essential role in deepening the faith of individuals and contributing to the vitality of communities,” said Christopher L. Coble, Lilly Endowment’s vice president for religion. “We hope that these programs will nurture the vibrancy and spark the creativity of congregations, helping them imagine new ways to share God’s love in their communities and across the globe.”


About Lilly Endowment Inc.
Lilly Endowment Inc. is a private foundation created in 1937 by J.K. Lilly Sr. and his sons Eli and J.K. Jr. through gifts of stock in their pharmaceutical business, Eli Lilly and Company. While those gifts remain the 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 supports the causes of community development, education and religion and maintains a special commitment to its hometown, Indianapolis, and home state, Indiana. A principal aim of the Endowment’s religion grantmaking 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 the pastoral and lay leadership of Christian communities. The Endowment also seeks to improve public understanding of diverse religious traditions by supporting fair and accurate portrayals of the role religion plays in the United States and across the globe.