On Sept. 10, 2001, UCC-related Eden Theological Seminary in St. Louis publicly launched its "Called to Lead" capital campaign, the largest in the more than 150-year history of the seminary. The next day, the first group of campaign volunteers gathered in Indianapolis for an orientation session. When the meeting ended, they heard the news: a plane had hit the World Trade Center in New York City.
What now? Should they continue? Would anyone respond? Volunteers and supporters gave the same response: now, more than ever, we need our church to be healthy and strong.
"There is in this day an extraordinary need for a healthy and vital church to give guidance, comfort and support to a troubled world," says the Rev. David M. Greenhaw, Eden's president. "Ironically, at just this time, the church faces great challenges of declining membership and clergy shortages."
With a goal of $21,250,000, "Called to Lead" was five times larger than any prior campaign. Even before the events of September 11, some wondered whether the goal was attainable. But when the campaign went public, pledges and gifts totaling $18,068,00 had been received.
Now, with four more months to go in the campaign, despite terrorism, recession, falling markets and national unease, Eden's supporters have contributed or pledged more than $23 million.
"As heartening to me as the awesome financial support Eden is receiving is the discovery of how much hope people have for the future," says the Rev. James O. Gilliom, retired UCC pastor, Eden graduate (1953) and co-chair of "Called to Lead."
"Called to Lead" is providing funding in four major areas:
Scholarship support so church leaders can graduate without crippling debt.
Campus renovation to the 78-year-old Eden campus.
Faculty development to attract and support outstanding scholars.
Innovative programs to address the needs of the whole church.
The campaign has taken place around the country, with approximately 260 trained volunteers making some 1600 personal visits. Visits will continue through 2002.