Innovative and Entrepreneurial Ministry at Earlham School of Religion 

"I am confident in this, that the one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion." - Philippians 1:6

We have increasingly felt it is critical to address the significant barrier to financial wellbeing in ministry that the ongoing erosion of traditional institutional support has meant for post-seminary careers. Emerging out of our own research as well as feedback we received from our students and graduates, Our Innovative and Entrepreneurial Ministry programming is our attempt to answer this need – providing training, peer support, and financial means within a Quaker seminary context to those who seek to answer calls to ministry that are not housed within existing institutions. But we need your help to keep these programs going. We hope you are willing to take the time to read this brief overview of our important work.

ESR's Entrepreneurial Ministry Certificate

In July of 2017, Earlham School of Religion launched a trial certificate program in Entrepreneurial Ministry with financial support from The Lilly Endowment. Twelve participants (8 seminary graduates and 4 current students) comprised this initial cohort. After the initial 6 months, students who produced a ministry canvas, budget, and identified next steps were eligible for a $5,000 grant to support the ministry launch (and a second grant of $3,500 six months later). Participants who complete this program receive a Certificate in Entrepreneurial Ministry. For those who are active students, these courses also earn credit toward the Master of Divinity degree. For the trial program, no tuition was charged for students not seeking academic credit, and travel and lodging expenses were covered. Eight of the 12 completed the program this August and presented their projects at ESR’s annual Leadership Conference:

The greatest impact for this grant period has been with the entrepreneurial cohort. They are moving forward with ministries which are well-suited to their gifts and interests but not necessarily supported by institutional structures. Finding courage to step out into ministry has been a huge component, as has been the value of a community of support, which these individuals say had been lacking for them. Below are brief bios of our first Entrepreneurial Ministry Certificate students and descriptions of their projects. We think you will be inspired by what you read, but first here is a short video highlighting their projects: 

Abbey Pratt-Harrington

Since graduating from two Quaker Colleges, Wilmington for her bachelor's and ESR for her Master of Divinity, Abbey has kept active in the Quaker world. She's recently finished a four-year stint at Earlham College working with both the Quaker Fellows, and Bonner programs. She has now moved into the creation of her ministry Divine Journey, a spiritual direction and tarot practice. When not working, she volunteers with various organizations, reads, and bakes.

Adriana Cabrera-Velásquez

Adriana Cabrera-Velásquez is a Colombian Quaker, Earlham School of Religion M.Div., Literary Studies BA, translator, interpreter, and peace & justice worker. Her experience includes work in Quaker education and international accompaniment organizations such as Olney Friends School, Beacon Hill Friends House, and Christian Peacemaker Teams. After many years of work abroad, Adriana settled at home in Paipa, Colombia, to focus her efforts locally. Currently she participates in ESR´s Entrepreneurial Ministry Certificate Program; her project, El Costurero Ciclo Café, is a bicycle coffee shop where women-farmed coffee and cycling become avenues for women empowerment, health, and a wholesome community life.

Andy Henry

Andy lives in a small town called Mt. Gilead, Ohio, and works at a local public library. He is a member of the Friends of Jesus Fellowship and a recent graduate of Earlham School of Religion. In his free time, Andy enjoys reading, writing, coffee shops, backyard gardening, and tending to his dancing chickens. His ministry interests are focused on the renewal of rural churches and communities. Learn more about his work, thought, and ministry resources at

Jaimie Mudd

Jeanne-Marie owns Watershed Ways providing spiritual nurture, life and business coaching. She also offers services for organization design, community development, coalition building and strategic planning in the nonprofit and public sector. Over these past ten years she has led Circle of Trust, Friends Couple Enrichment and other retreats for faith communities. She has been leading workshops on Communal Discernment with Friends Meetings. Now in her 27th year as a Convinced Friend, and a member of Pima Friends Meeting in Tucson, Arizona, she brings a disciplined Christian practice to 21st century faith communities and has a deep wellspring of faith, tradition and creativity that informs her life and work.

Julia Soriano

In her workshops, presentations and writing, Julia shares her own story of overcoming grief and blinding uncertainty when she had to stop working full-time due to a serious medical condition. Her story includes starting a small business selling cookie dough, going to ESR for her third master’s degree and earning the Mullen Ministry of Writing Fellowship while there.  Her company, Sharp Turn Institute, gives others a course for creating a strategy to address their own unique trials. While devoted to creating tools to flourish, the ultimate goal is to help people find paths to active, meaningful lives.

Oscar Malande

Oscar Lugusa Malande has served among Friends in Vihiga Yearly Meeting in Kenya both as a pastor and chaplain for twelve years. He taught and served as registrar and assistant academic dean at Friends Theological College, Kaimosi for three years. He is a recent graduate in Master of Arts from Earlham School of Religion and currently teaches at FTC. He is married to Zipporah Adema Mileha and they are blessed with four children. Oscar is using agriculture as a model for bi-vocational ministry and community transformation.

Summer Cushman

Summer is a Quaker minister, visual artist, viniyoga teacher, and yoga therapist. She teaches meditative yoga classes, works with people one-on-one, and teaches a yearlong immersion course based in the ancient texts of yoga both online and in-person. She publishes the Yoga Church Sunday Sermons—a free weekly sermon delivered to your inbox. Summer will begin offering an annual Yoga Church retreat in 2019. In all her work, Summer is teaching the science of transformation with the ultimate goal of helping people identify the habits that lead to their suffering and—through the mechanism of awareness—learn to transform them.

Theoneste Sentabire

Theoneste Sentabire is from Rwanda, Africa. Currently, he is completing his Masters of Divinity in Leadership at Earlham School of Religion where he graduated with an MA in Peace Studies two years ago. He also holds a Bachelor of Theology from Friends Theological College, Kenya. Peacemaking is his primary concern. Thus, he have been privileged to be part of the Entrepreneurial Certificate pilot program at ESR this year and received the support necessary to start his own ministry called Blessed Family Ministry (BFM) which promotes a culture of peace making in his village back home.

This entrepreneurial ministry project is generating interest and enthusiasm from alumni/ae. The effort resonates with their experience and many of the questions with which they wrestle. It also resonates with current and prospective students whose calls encourage them to offer ministry and service in unconventional forms and places.

ESR's Innovation Awards

A good example of this is the impact the Entrepreneurial Ministry Certificate had as we developed and implemented our recent Innovation Grant from The Association of Theological Schools. This grant activity is encouraging an innovative spirit within the student body and – equally important – among faculty members as they consider how experiential integration best occurs within the educational programs. In particular, as the faculty engages in a curriculum review, they are encouraging one another to think about cross-disciplinary course offerings and greater experiential engagement with the local community in ways that could reimagine the M.Div. core curriculum.

For current students, this has meant the opportunity to take initial steps this summer toward the kind of full ministry launches our Entrepreneurial Ministry Certificate students have undertaken. These students also presented at our recent Leadership Conference. While these are distinct grant programs at present, my hope is that they can come together under a single umbrella – preparing ESR students for new ministry realities and opportunities, supporting individuals’ efforts to let their lives speak as they put their faith into action. Your gift can help make this happen!

An important distinction between the Certificate and our Innovation Awards, however, was the opportunity the latter provides for greater depth of connection to ESR’s institutional and educational culture. Because the Certificate was designed as a pilot, it was targeted primarily toward M.Div. graduates and relied heavily on outside instructors. The Innovation Grant serves the complementary purpose of capacity building among the current faculty and student body such that a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship is cultivated and the way prepared for a more sustainable and integrated entrepreneurial focus at ESR.

Three ESR professors – Michael Birkel, Ben Brazil, and Jim Higginbotham – are either developing new courses or modifying existing courses to incorporate elements relevant to entrepreneurial ministry.

- Jim’s project is the launch of a new course on community organizing. His course proposal was approved by the Faculty in March. This will run as a blended online/residential class in the spring semester of 2019.
- Michael’s project is a modification of his “New Frontiers in Spirituality” course to include elements on finding spirituality in unexpected places – from Nones to Harry Potter. This ran as a 2-week Intensive class in January 2019.
- Ben’s project involves a new course focused on local community engagement. This will likely run in fall of 2019.

All three professors are also serving as mentors to students who received Innovation Grants.

In late fall, ESR awarded seven students $2,500 Innovation Awards for their entrepreneurial ministry project proposals. These include:

Windy Cooler, who will test the need for and interest in a Quaker Family Life Ministry among unprogrammed Friends;
Tom Decker, who plans to explore the potential role cooperatives might serve in peacemaking;
Nikki Holland, who will assess the need for a healthy families ministry in Merida, Mexico;
Kaia Jackson, who plans to explore building community through expressive arts, storytelling and/or performance in Richmond, Indiana;
Dan Mudd, who will develop workshops/retreats that will provide three ways of opening to the Divine: prayer, meditation, and dream translation;
Chet Roberts, who will launch an interfaith prayer event – #PrayInLove – in Dayton, Ohio; and
Joel Tishken, who will develop a packet of materials to help Unitarian Universalist congregations bridge divisions between theists and non-theists.

The Future of Entrepreneurial Ministry at ESR

In the spring of 2018, ESR’s faculty approved the continuation of the Entrepreneurial Ministry Certificate, but without the financial support to sustain the program it will not continue. In the spring of 2019, ESR approached the Earlham Board of Trustees with a proposal for a supplemental endowment draw in part to help us re-launch the Entrepreneurial Ministry Certificate in the fall of 2019. That request was approved, and this cohort is currently in session. Our next cohort will launch in Fall 2021. Our goal remains to make this a permanent feature of ESR’s offerings. Similarly, our Innovation Awards program has concluded, and while its impact will continue, ESR is not in a position to offer future awards without your support.

Our hope is to endow support of this kind of creative and innovative ministry so that generations of students can benefit from the structure and tools we are uniquely positioned to provide. We have already begun to this work, but are only at the earliest stages of being able to provide ongoing coursework, grant funding, and institutional support to launch new ministries of which we cannot begin to conceive. That is the critical piece only ESR’s students can provide – the ability to answer a call, envision it in practical terms, and bring it fully into being.

For more information or to discuss your interest in supporting Cross Cultural Ministry at ESR contact Tom Decker at 800-432-1377.