By the Rev. Steve Brackett, Assistant to the Bishop

In my blog post last month (May 6, 2021) I wrote about Candidacy in the Northeastern Iowa Synod.  Candidacy is the process that accompanies and supports seminarians who are working toward ordination as a pastor or deacon.  We have worked hard in our synod to increase the number of students we have in seminary in an attempt to address the shortage of rostered minsters that we are currently experiencing, and which will only get worse as more ELCA pastors approach retirement age.

One of the things that has been an incredible help in making seminary possible for many of our current candidates is our synod scholarship program. 

The 2004 Northeastern Iowa Synod Assembly established our synod’s Fund for Leaders Endowment as a way to help seminary students from our synod cover the high costs of education and to encourage new people to enter the ministry. One of the provisions in the founding of the endowment was that the fund would need to reach $150,000 before proceeds would be used to fund scholarships.  When I came to the synod staff in 2015, the fund balance still had not reached half that amount.

We recognized that the time had come to prioritize raising funds to increase the balance of our Fund for Leaders Endowment so that we could begin giving out scholarships.  Our fundraising campaign had two tiers.  Donors could designate funds to increase the corpus of our endowment, or they could designate funds for immediate use.  An agreement with the ELCA Fund for Leaders, which manages our synod scholarship endowment, allowed us to delay gifts from our endowed fund for five years to more quickly build the balance of the fund.  Thanks to the generosity of our congregations and generous individual donors, monies given for immediate use allowed us to provide scholarships to our seminarians for the first time during the 2016-2017 academic year.

For the past five years none of our seminarians have had to take out a loan to cover the cost of tuition.  We have given $381,443 in scholarships during that time.

In 2015, our synod endowed scholarship fund was renamed the H. George Anderson Fund for Leaders in honor of Rev. H. George Anderson, who served as ELCA Presiding Bishop from 1995 – 2001 and was instrumental in establishing the ELCA Endowment Fund for Leaders.  Generous donations over the past six years have raised the balance of endowed fund to almost $750,000!  This month we awarded the very first scholarships given from the proceeds of our endowed scholarship fund.  A total of $45,100 in scholarships were awarded for the 2021-2022 academic year!  We will continue to provide scholarships in the fall from immediate use donations.  It is our hope that these two scholarship programs will cover all tuition related expenses for all of our seminarians for years to come.  Thank you to all who have donated to our scholarships.  If you would like to donate to either of the scholarship programs, please call the synod office at 319-352-1414.

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About The Rev. Dr. Joelle Colville-Hanson

The Rev. Dr. Joelle Colville-Hanson has been Director for Evangelical Mission, ELCA for the Northeastern Iowa Synod since late 2013. Part of her job description is to help leaders and congregations use social media and other digital means for outreach and mission. She writes and edits this blog as well as runs the social media accounts for the synod.