MIPC pastor receives $43k grant

MIPC Pastor Paul Barrett sits with his wife, Devon Singh-Barrett, and their newly adopted daughter, Mayah Elizabeth.  - Contributed photo
MIPC Pastor Paul Barrett sits with his wife, Devon Singh-Barrett, and their newly adopted daughter, Mayah Elizabeth.
— image credit: Contributed photo

Paul Barrett, associate pastor for adult discipleship and outreach at the Mercer Island Presbyterian Church, has earned a $42,790 grant from the Indianapolis-based Lilly Endowment’s National Clergy Renewal Program.

The money will allow Barrett to pursue local and international mission projects; from working with Seattle’s Multifaith Works and the Lifelong Aids Alliance to traveling to Tembisa, South Africa, and volunteering with the Child Academy, a school that provides shelter and education for orphaned students, many of whom lost their parents to AIDS.

Barrett, who openly talks about his own experience living with HIV, applied for the Lilly Endowment grant with a deep desire to reach out to others in the local and international HIV/AIDS community.

“The theme of my proposal was: ‘Remember, reflect, rest and respond.’ It basically frames my experience of being an HIV-positive pastor who, 10 years ago, walked into this calling openly with this diagnosis,” Barrett said. “With the business of pastoral life, you don’t have time to think about, well, what now?”

Indeed, the purpose of the Lilly Endowment grants are to “support an extended period of intentional reflection and renewal.” Pastors from 149 churches across the United States earned grant money, the amount depending on their individual proposal needs. The program rewards select pastors for their hard work, allowing them to travel the world and “see sights they’ve only dreamed about, to learn new languages, take up a new hobby or relearn an old one, and use this time to reengage themselves in their calling.”

Barrett’s colleagues at the MIPC helped him apply for the grant and support him whole-heartedly.

“These grants are difficult to receive. The fact that Paul was awarded this national grant is a real recognition of his giftedness and leadership in ministry,” said MIPC co-senior pastor Dale Sewall.

Barrett does not yet have a definitive timeline for when he will spend his grant money, although he hopes to visit South Africa in the fall of 2011. The grant, according to Lilly Endowment’s stipulations, must be used by December 2011.

Barrett will use some of the grant money to thank the friends and family who have supported him through his life. While in South Africa, he hopes not only to learn about the correlation between racism, poverty and the HIV/AIDS epidemic, but to share the exotic beauty of the country with those closest to him.

Barrett and his wife, Devon Singh-Barrett, just adopted a baby girl, Mayah Elizabeth, earlier this month.

“The grant proposed was an amount [with which] I could say thank you to my family. So while I’m in Africa, we’re going to go on safari,” the pastor said.

Another portion of the money will go back toward the MIPC and its extended community. Barrett is already brainstorming ways to utilize the funds and has several ideas.

“My grant approval will also be used for congregational and community enrichment. It’s a gift to the whole community,” he said.

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