Written by Connie Larkman
The United Church of Christ, hoping to help entrepreneurs be the change in the world, is now taking applications for a groundbreaking program that will allow participants to build sustainable businesses that counter systemic poverty.
The Adese Fellowship, with an all-expenses paid 12-month curriculum of self-discovery, theological reflection and business development, will give participants the tools to create enterprises that help their communities, and renew the Church's mission to create a just world for all. Sponsored by the United Church of Christ Church Building & Loan Fund (CB&LF) and the office of Congregational Assessment, Support and Advancement (CASA), the ecumenical program welcomes participants from all traditions.
"The progressive church leads with an important critique of economic injustice, but the church has less to say about faithful economics and the vocation of entrepreneurs who strive to create justice in the marketplace. The Adese Fellowship takes as its starting point the call to critique and creativity," said Daniel Pryfogle, founder of communications firm Signal Hill, and a member of the Adese Fellowship faculty. "This UCC initiative seeks to renew the Church's mission in the marketplace through prophetic enterprise. We want to encourage a denomination-wide conversation about economics that breaks out of the old categories."
From the Amharic language, "adese" means renew. So Adese Fellows will reform and reinvigorate the church through their innovation. To ensure they can do that, fellowship participants will confer with leaders in church, academy and business to explore how the church can create social and economic value and how enterprise can create spiritual value. Along the way, fellows receive business coaching and expert counsel in the legal, financial and human resource aspects of launching and growing an enterprise.
"This program has the capacity to change the landscape of how Christ enters the world, and with whom," said the Rev. Chris Davies, coordinator of UCC Congregational Assessment, Support and Advancement (CASA). "We'll equip, encourage, and empower community leaders to innovate their own future, for the sake of the gospel."
The Adese Fellowship curriculum involves three retreats, the first slated for January 2018. Videoconferencing, site visits and small group work in between the gatherings will move participants through three stages – discern, design and disciple – to gain clarity about themselves and their venture, prototyping and testing their concept, and building a team. Fellows draw upon the experience of mentors and peers while identifying and maximizing the resources of their communities. At the program's end, fellows are eligible for seed funding. They will also also pitch their ventures to investors.
The on-line application process opened Friday, July 21, with all applications due by 5 p.m. EDT on September 8. 15-20 participants, laity and clergy with a passion to engage faith and enterprise, are expected to be chosen by October 1.
"CB&LF's primary approach to facilitating church transformation is to invest most of our consulting and training resources in clergy and lay people that lead traditional congregations and church-affiliated organizations," said the Rev. Patrick Duggan, executive director of the UCC Church Building & Loan Fund . "We created Adese to identify and equip emerging clergy and faith-driven leaders who embrace the paradigm shift that is underway in 21st century Christianity; leaders that are creating new models of advancing God's economy in ways that are very different from the traditional church. And, no we are not suggesting that 'new is better'. Adese embraces the idea that whatever ignites faith, eliminates poverty and redeems creation is what the mission of the church is all about."
While Adese is an initiative of the UCC, the program welcomes applications from any faith-driven entrepreneur who is committed to a just world for all.
"We hope to see applicants of all ages from across the U.S. and Canada, (as the United Church of Canada is a partner)," said Pryfogle. "We expect a diverse cohort in age and other ways, and we hope to invest significant time and resources in Millennials who through innovation and entrepreneurship are working out what it means to be the Church in this day."
"The gospel is alive, and we want to help leaders make an impact in the communities that Christ specifically calls us to be among through the Adese Fellowship," Davies said. "We'll focus on theology, community, and practice in order that those who are experimenting are doing so with each other and supported by that which has come before!"
For more information on the Adese Fellowship, an outline of the curriculum, and the faculty, please visit the website.