Note from the publisher

Resources and connections during the COVID-19 pandemic

Educational institutions throughout the world are facing unprecedented challenges during the coronavirus pandemic. Because this issue of In Trust was almost complete before the full extent of the crisis was clear, we were not able to address it in a meaningful way or include information on how educators are responding.

The staff of the In Trust Center is working remotely to provide help to our member schools. At the beginning of March, we began curating lists of resources on the COVID-19 pandemic specifically for boards, administrators, and faculty of theological schools.

These lists, updated weekly, can be found on the In Trust Center blog.

We have also begun hosting online conversations for presidents, board chairs, and other leaders, providing opportunities for them to ask questions and share ideas on the pandemic.

To request help, to participate in a conversation with peers, or to learn how we continue to serve our member schools, contact us at

Findings from the first year of the Resource Grants initiative

The In Trust Center’s annual Resource Grant initiative provides member schools with funds to engage resources from outside their institutions to help address specific challenges or to take advantage of new opportunities. In Trust Center member schools may request up to $10,000 and must match the requested amount with their own funds.

In 2018, the first year of the initiative, we received 46 letters of inquiry and awarded a total of $317,237 to 35 schools. At the end of the first year, participants reported some of the things they did with the funding and what they experienced and learned. Some of the more informative findings follow.

Engaging a consultant

About half of the awarded funds were used by schools to hire external consultants. For some, finding consultants with the right expertise who also understood the realities and challenges of theological education was difficult. For many recipients, the journey was not linear, and they found themselves changing course midyear. Some schools had to adjust their definition of “success” as unexpected realities came to light.

New educational models

Two schools used the grant funds to pursue competency-based theological education (CBTE), and several used it to strengthen their online courses, equip classrooms with new technology, and educate faculty about changes in technology and course delivery.

Strengthening diversity, equity, and inclusion

One school used the funds to host a workshop for faculty and staff to discuss the importance of diversity and racial and gender identities. Another engaged a consultant to educate its board on diversity, equity, and inclusion. Some schools learned how to have difficult conversations about painful subjects, recognizing that real growth and development can sometimes occur in precisely these kinds of uncomfortable moments.

Addressing enrollment and recruitment

Twelve schools embarked on fundraising, marketing, or branding projects to raise the visibility of their schools, with a focus on attracting donors and prospective students. Some schools established brand identities, initiated advertising campaigns, launched new websites, or enhanced social media engagement.

To learn how to apply for an In Trust Center Resource Grant, and for other information on the initiative, click here or email

The Resource Grant initiative is supported by Lilly Endowment Inc.


Letter to the editor

The article titled “How to Make Big Transformational Changes,” which appeared in the New Year 2020 issue of In Trust, included the following statement in reference to Vancouver School of Theology (VST): “Since reducing its footprint — moving to a smaller building and eliminating the library and student housing — VST programs have increased, enrollment is up, and distance learning now represents a greater percentage of its course registrations.” However, we have not eliminated either our library or student housing. We downsized the physical collection and have significantly increased our electronic resources — journals and e-books in particular. This allows us to support the research and learning of our growing body of online and commuting students. And while we no longer have a residence of our own, our partner, St. Andrew’s Hall, does provide rooms for our students who need residential accommodation.

Richard Topping

Principal and Professor of Studies in the Reformed Tradition
Vancouver School of Theology

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