PATHWAYS Theological Education, Inc. exists to offer a range of stimulating, accessible, and affordable online progressive Christian resources for church leaders, faith explorers, pastors, and those discerning various vocations and callings within and outside the church community.


PATHWAYS responds to the educational needs of an evolving world by continually striving to create innovative, online progressive theological learning and discovery that promote justice, peace and mutual understanding.

Listen to a few of our PATHWAYS participants talk about their experiences with our program.




Graduate schools and programs in theology play an important role in the preparation of pastoral leaders for the United Church of Christ.  PATHWAYS is a vital part of The Non-Seminary Theological Education Consortium, previously called The Regional Theological Education Consortium. The consortium is a hub for multiple models of theological education.  As a key member in the consortium, PATHWAYS helps to connect UCC conference and association-based programs that work together in the formation of Members in Discernment toward authorized ministry, as well as a commitment to lay theological education. PATHWAYS is a multiple paths to ministry program that is available regardless of region or location.  We work together with seminaries and other theological education program to help prepare the future church.

Our History: For years, the Southeast Conference faced a serious dilemma in regard to helping churches find pastors. A large number of them, due mainly to small memberships, desired an educated ministry that they could not afford. As time went on and seminary costs grew exponentially, the problem became even more pronounced, since payback of student loans required the young minister to clear an income well above sustenance level.

Enter a retired missionary to Africa who came to the Southeast intent on putting his experience at theological education by extension in the field to work. The Rev. Dr. Richard Sales, now deceased, inaugurated the Theology Among the People (TAP) program in 1999, and it spread to almost all the Conference's territory eventually. This was a series of weekly courses with a small cohort of individuals studying and discussing basic and advanced topics of the faith, at first intended primarily for personal enrichment or development of Christian educators.

TAP became so successful that it was decided to expand the program into actually training ministers, through a phase-in of staggering tracks. The Conference decided to split the new entity off from TAP and give it a new name: PATHWAYS. It would have standards and protocol akin to higher education. As such, it gained the approval of two of the active associations' Church and Ministry committees in the early 2010s.

March 2015 witnessed the first cohort graduate from PATHWAYS' first-year track at a ceremony at Church of the Savior (UCC) in Knoxville, Tennessee. Four of the seven students represented the hosting church, while three others came from congregations in Georgia, Iowa, and Mississippi. Today, an increasing number of members in discernment and their supervising committees throughout the entire UCC call upon PATHWAYS as a lower-cost option that does not disrupt family life and careers, as a full, three-year seminary Master of Divinity program would. It is also one of the few such programs that openly holds to the tenets of Progressive Christianity

SNEUCC Partners with PATHWAYS Theological Education for PROJECT PROCLAIM funded by a Lilly Foundation Grant


Conference Receives $1.25 Million Compelling Preaching Grant

The Southern New England Conference of the United Church of Christ (SNEUCC) has received a grant of $1.25 million from Lilly Endowment Inc. to help establish a Compelling Preaching program in partnership with the Hartford Stage Company and PATHWAYS Theological Education, Inc.

The program is being funded through Lilly Endowment’s Compelling Preaching Initiative. The aim of the initiative is to foster and support preaching that inspires, encourages and guides people to come to know and love God and to live out their Christian faith more fully.

The SNEUCC initiative will have two tracks: one designed to help lay leaders and those aspiring to refine their preaching at any level to learn how to engage in compelling preaching, and the other designed for current preachers who want to learn new and innovative methods of proclamation, including digital content and preaching beyond the pulpit.

“I see this being a particular place of hope for congregations that are smaller, as they anticipate equipping their laity to preach; and a place of hope for preachers -- lay or ordained -- who want to experiment with proclamation outside of the pulpit,” said Rev. Dr. Chris Davies, Executive Minister for Programs and Initiatives, who spearheaded the grant application effort.

“When I think about who and how Christianity is called to be, not just now but 10-, 20- , 30-years from now... it is in creative proclamation! I want to help that message be relevant not only in how we want to do it today, but for future generations,” she said.

Rev. Darrell Goodwin, Executive Conference Minister points out that the Southern New England Conference was formed to “help our region experience the love and justice of Jesus.”

“This is tangibly done by proclaiming the gospel in a life-giving and transformative way. I am so proud of our staff who were able to catch the vision of a thriving conference and work toward implementing it in this tangible way. I am moved by the willingness of our covenant partners to truly ‘Grow With Us’. The compelling preaching grant will be one of the many ways we boldly share the Good News for our time.”

The Conference has formed partnerships for each track of the initiative.

For laity and others new to preaching or wanting to hone their preaching skills, the traditional track will include instruction on preaching, theology, and hermeneutics. The course will be run with the help of PATHWAYS, and will also include resources from the Massachusetts Bible Society, which became a part of SNEUCC this year.

“We envision our partnership with SNEUCC to encompass many of the courses we already provide,” said Rev. Dr. Ruth Shaver, Academic Dean of PATHWAYS. “We foresee the development of new courses in partnership with leaders of the SNEUCC project; we will provide assistance in the writing and facilitating of these courses and then share the copyright and the ability to offer these new courses with SNEUCC beyond the end of the project.

“This is the most exciting prospect to me: that these courses will continue to provide training for compelling preaching long past the end of the project,” she said.

For the innovative track, the Conference is partnering with Hartford Stage, one of New England’s premier regional theaters.

“Theaters and faith organizations have more in common than might appear at first blush,” said Cynthia Rider, Managing Director at Hartford Stage. “We are both committed to inspiring and challenging our audiences and congregations using the power of compelling language and storytelling. The presence and delivery of an actor, the aesthetic of a director, and the imagery of a playwright are all skills needed by a preacher. In partnering together for the compelling preaching proposal, Hartford Stage is excited to offer the skills of theater artists that could be impactful for UCC's preachers.”

Those taking part in the innovative track can also learn about producing content for Tik Tok and other social media channels from key social media leaders, and they will be coached in storytelling in the style of “The Moth.”

The second year of the program will include a preaching camp, and the culmination of the initiative will be a Revival held in partnership with Hartford Stage.  Recorded content produced as part of the initiative will also be used on the FindHopeNow.org website that the Conference is currently developing.

In the end, the Conference projects that the initiative will support at least 350 current and aspiring preachers and 20,000 listeners. And, Davies believes the program could reach 500,000 people outside of the pulpit who may be hearing the United Church of Christ’s progressive Christian witness for the first time.

Davies will serve as the program director for the Compelling Preaching Initiative and will be assisted through the infrastructures developed by the Rev. Heather Ramsey-Mabrouk, the director of the SNEUCC’s Center for Transformational Leadership.

“I am so excited to lead this program,” Davies said. “My doctoral work is in queering proclamation. I feel so thrilled that this is alignment with who and how I am called to be in the world alongside the Southern New England Conference.”

“That we may collectively strengthen our proclamation is really a dream,” she said. “I know that with the brilliance of our staff, and the hunger that is already present in our communities and congregations, that we are well situated to equip current and aspiring preachers.”

Davies said procuring the grant was a team effort. She credited Rev. David Figliuzzi, SNEUCC’s former Director of Philanthropy, for bringing together his colleagues to discern what the Conference’s initiative could look like. He worked together with Davies, Ramsey-Mabrouk, and Rev. Liz Garrigan-Byerly, Executive Minister for Area Ministry, to shape a proposal that would include partnerships that the Conference had already been working to forge.

Anyone who may be interested in taking part in the program is invited to send an email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to be added to the mailing list for updates.

SNEUCC is one of 81 organizations receiving grants through this competitive round of Lilly Endowment’s Compelling Preaching Initiative. Reflecting the diversity of Christianity in the United States, the organizations are affiliated with mainline Protestant, evangelical, Catholic, Orthodox, Anabaptist and Pentecostal faith communities. Many of the organizations are rooted in the Black Church and in Hispanic and Asian American Christian traditions.

“Throughout history, preachers often have needed to adapt their preaching practices to engage new generations of hearers more effectively,” said Christopher L. Coble, Lilly Endowment’s vice president for religion. “We are pleased that the organizations receiving grants in this initiative will help pastors and others in ministry engage in the kinds of preaching needed today to ensure that the gospel message is heard and accessible for all audiences.”

Lilly Endowment launched the Compelling Preaching Initiative in 2022 because of its interest in supporting projects that help to nurture the religious lives of individuals and families and foster the growth and vitality of Christian congregations in the United States.  

About Lilly Endowment Inc.
Lilly Endowment Inc. is a private foundation created in 1937 by J.K. Lilly Sr. and his sons Eli and J.K. Jr. through gifts of stock in their pharmaceutical business, Eli Lilly and Company. While those gifts remain the financial bedrock of the Endowment, it is a separate entity from the company, with a distinct governing board, staff and location. In keeping with the founders’ wishes, the Endowment supports the causes of community development, education and religion and maintains a special commitment to its hometown, Indianapolis, and home state, Indiana. A principal aim of the Endowment’s religion grantmaking is to deepen and enrich the lives of Christians in the United States, primarily by seeking out and supporting efforts that enhance the vitality of congregations and strengthen the pastoral and lay leadership of Christian communities. The Endowment also seeks to improve public understanding of diverse religious traditions by supporting fair and accurate portrayals of the role religion plays in the United States and across the globe.


PATHWAYS believes that quality theological education should be available to any who want it. That’s why we provide a cost-effective online theological program accessible to all. 4-week Explorer courses are only $124, 6-week courses just $350, 9-week courses Supervised Ministry courses are $470, and our 12-week UCC History and Polity course is only $625.


Because classes are not bound by geography and have a flexible weekly schedule, PATHWAYS courses are able to fit into the rest of your busy life. Courses typically involve weekly readings and discussion in a facilitated online forum, offering practical, open-minded education and a learner-centered environment where participants can bring their own questions and insights.


Our courses have between 4 and 15 participants. This allows for deep and productive discussions in the online forum. We know that a small class size allows the participants to develop learning relationships with each other and for facilitators to push participants to a more indepth learning experience.


PATHWAYS Theological Education, Inc.,
P.O. Box 897
Tucker, GA 30085

Partner with PATHWAYS


PATHWAYS Theological Education, Inc. is a nonprofit provider of theological education that is academically rigorous and affordable.   A PATHWAYS education in Ministry Preparation can be completed on-line in three years at a fraction of the price of a seminary education.   Our program is aligned with the requirements for ordination of most mainline Protestant denominations and seeks to work with ordaining bodies to make sure that participants are meeting their goals.   Now is the time to make an inquiry for the future of theological education.  Reach out today to Partner with PATHWAYS Theological Education, Inc.

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PATHWAYS is an innovator in cost-effective, progressive Christian education. We work alongside denominations, regional partners and individuals to make our programs accessible to all regardless of their ability to pay. This commitment to funding begins with each of our supporters. No matter how large or how small the donation, it all goes towards making theological education affordable to everyone who desires to learn.

There is no time like the present to contribute financially to PATHWAYS’ work and mission by making your tax-deductible gift – Today!