Institutes & Initiatives

Launched in 2014, Union’s VISION program supports and encourages a diverse group of faith leaders at mid-career to think out loud together and explore new directions in ministry.

For the duration of this two-year program, VISION participants partner with respected civic leaders, distinguished Union faculty, and experienced mentors who share a commitment to the goal of creating healthy communities and houses of worship.

Why envision new directions in ministry?

Research finds that wise faith leadership develops over time – and that support for learning across the arc of ministry is integral for developing and sustaining the work of faith leaders.1

As an inaugural cohort member of the VISION program, and a Mentor for the current cohort, I have become acutely aware of the need for faith leaders to mentor and be mentored; VISION invites collaboration from diverse faith traditions and endeavors to continually re-imagine the work and relationship between community and ministry. - Rev. Audrey Williamson, VISION Mentor

The Program

The VISION cohort meets three times each semester for an all day seminar at Union Theological Seminary. At each seminar, participants engage in challenging conversations that build trust and create new opportunities for learning and relationship. VISION participants also attend a three-day retreat each July.

Over the last four years, VISION participants have worked to create new ministries that address the beauty and complexity of faithful commitment, and the civic challenges and particular needs of the congregations and communities they serve.  This is faith filled work and practice – these new ministries take many forms and often develop in collaboration with local community and faith leaders from different traditions.

VISION has been made possible thanks to generous support from Lilly Endowment Inc.

Hear more from VISION cohort members.

What have we learned so far?

Thinking Out Loud Together is Key to Strengthening Leadership
As the capacity for and practice of leadership grows with experience gained, that growth demands new forms of support and contexts for reflection.  Collaboration is key to growth.

The Mentor Relationship is Key to Learning
Over the course of the program, experienced mentors meet with participants during monthly seminars and annual retreats.  They also visit participants’ places of worship.  The mentor relationship expands the participants’ network of faith and civic leaders, and helps participants to envision what is possible for their own congregations and communities.

VISION has exposed me to new urban ministries, civic leaders, and new partnerships. These have expanded my pastoral imagination and built my confidence as a pastor. - Pastor Arden Strasser, VISION Cohort 2

Christian A.B. Scharen and Eileen R. Campbell-Reed, “Learning Pastoral Imagination: A Five-Year Report on How New Ministers Learn in Practice,” Auburn Studies (2016):20.