Institutes & Initiatives

Institutes & Initiatives

Vision: Cultivating Prospective Pastoral Imagination

Join a conversation among leaders reaching from the cathedral to the storefront, from the West Side to Wall Street, from Queens to the Barrio as we create a vision for the future of pastoral leadership.

Do you ask –

Where is my ministry going?
How can I anticipate the future?
What can I do to respond to the growing and changing needs of my community?

Beginning in the Fall of 2014, Union Theological Seminary will launch a new program for early/mid-career pastors funded by the Lilly Endowment – Vision: Cultivating Prospective Pastoral Imagination.

We will provide the space for you to think out loud and to find new partners to dream with. We anticipate long conversations and the opportunity to exchange ideas with colleagues, mentors, and new connections committed to imagining contexts where your community can cultivate a vision for the future.  And we will help you find support for the work you do to imagine the future of your community.

What is prospective pastoral imagination?

To envision the future is to think eschatologically, or to cultivate prospective imagination. Jesus’ prospective preaching announced the future of the reign of God and he invited his followers to act as if that time were the present moment. In ministry today, one of the most important activities a pastor undertakes is cultivating a vision for the future for their community so that it can live faithfully in the present.

What are the goals of the Vision project?

The first goal of the program is to partner teachers and mentors with mid-career pastors at a crucial formational moment. The second goal is to create a cohort of congregational leaders that imagines new ways of doing ministry. The third goal is to provide support for implementing new initiatives.

What will be the focus of the Vision project?

The importance of a vision for communities of faith is to imagine a future that becomes a reality for congregations. The Vision program will focus on three areas of expressed interest and importance to congregations – new media, religious pluralism and the economic life of the church in contemporary culture.

How will the Vision project happen?

Imagining the future requires collaborative effort. Over the course of two years, collaboration will happen with the support of teachers and mentors from the church and civic sector that will share their experience and expertise with you. It will also happen through monthly programs, an annual retreat, and additional presentations throughout the city. The goal is to share your experience of teaching, learning, and imagining a vision in your congregation with the next generation of ecclesial prospectors.

Thinking ahead often generates unexpected opportunities, but it can also produce setbacks and failure. There are opportunities to learn from both. If you are in your 5th - 12th year of ministry and are within communiting distance of New York City, please complete our online application, when it goes live again. And please be in touch with any questions by emailing us at

Serene Jones,
President, Union Theological Seminary and Program Director, Vision: Cultivating Prospective Pastoral Imagination

Troy Messenger,
Director and Visiting Assistant Professor of Worship and Program Coordinator, Vision: Cultivating Prospective Pastoral Imagination

Jane Huber,
Lecturer, Union Theological Seminary and Program Manager, Vision:  Cultivating Prospective Pastoral Imagination

Questions? Email


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