Pastor at Bethel Church recieves Lilly Endowment Award

Wednesday, November 2, 2011 | 5:29 p.m. CDT; updated 9:15 p.m. CDT, Wednesday, November 2, 2011

COLUMBIA — Bethel Church pastor Bonnie Cassida is one of three Missouri clergy members to receive a Lilly Endowment award this year, which she'll use to rediscover her religion.

The award allows Cassida to take an all expenses-paid, three-month sabbatical to Ireland next summer.

Cassida chose to use some of the $44,480 she was awarded to study in Galway, Ireland. There, she will research church longevity, studying how to honor history and stay contemporary.

Cassida said she plans to research successful churches in Ireland with hopes of applying her findings to Bethel — already 156 years old.

Cassida said Bethel's age is one of the special things about the church and also one of its challenges.

"We have this great history, but a lot of times we still see ourselves in the past," she said.

Cassida said she will also use her time to work on a memoir and finalize a children's curriculum package for the church.

Cassida's two younger children will join her. The family will also spend time in London where her husband will work as a summer professor for Columbia College. 

During her absence, Bethel Church will use some of the award's funds to hire a interim pastor. The church is currently in the process of creating the job description for potential applicants, Cassida said.

Meanwhile, she said she looks forward to her trip and the knowledge her church community will gain during her absence.

"It gives them a chance to work without me and rediscover their gifts," Cassida said. "The grant keeps my sabbatical from being a financial burden on the church."

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