Written by Anthony Moujaes
The United Church of Christ is doubling its investment in the future this fall in new and renewing churches. UCC Local Church Ministries is funding 27 new, renewing and multiplying congregations with grants totaling $458,000 – which is twice the number of congregations and money invested by LCM in previous biannual funding cycles – to plant progressive faith communities in different corners of the country and support young churches early in their ministry.
"This is the largest group of applicants and recipients that we've ever had. Just for comparison, last spring we funded 14 congregations," said the Rev. Dave Schoen, UCC minister for church vitality. "What is striking is not only the number of funded congregations, but their quality and ministry expressing the core values of the UCC."
Schoen sees ways the diversity of the UCC is represented in the ministries that the church is supporting this fall. The group includes a large-membership congregation starting new off-site worship, rural congregations, Asian-American congregations, congregations from the transgender community, and African-American, European-American, and missional communities reaching out to veterans, artists, and victims of violence.
In the case of Peace Christian Church UCC, in Kansas City, Mo., the grant money received will help the Rev. Holly McKissick and the congregation's almost 300 members welcome younger generations.
"We're trying to reach younger people," McKissick said. "One of the things we'll do is yoga – our first event is in January at a studio – where we have meditation and prayer, setting an intention for the year for a healthy mind and body."
Peace Christian Church, which started two years ago, envisions the reach of it's ministry beyond the walls of a congregation – because the congregation doesn't own a building, doesn't expect to, and borrows worship space from partners. The church has numerous events on the calendar, including a play for LGBT awareness, a Valentine's Day dinner, running the Kansas City Marathon to stand with exploited migrant farm workers, and monthly potluck get togethers where members invite a friend – anything to get people out to be visible in the community.
"It helps get people in the door," McKissick said. "On one hand we have a good-looking website [that was designed] at a low cost, but we do a lot of fliers on cars and in church. You'd be amazed how many people will pick up a card.
"We're so pleased and so supported with the grant," McKissick said.
Funding for all 27 fall grant recipients was possible through multiple revenue sources. Schoen explained that half the funds ($220,000) are from the annual $500,000 that LCM budgeted for 2013, in addition to $34,000 from the Make a Difference Endowment established several years ago to raise money for church leadership grants. "The remainder of the grant funding, $203,923, comes from redirecting previous grant funds that were not distributed to congregations for various reasons, as well as already designating some of the 2014 budget allocated for such funding," Schoen said. "Such designation of next year's budget funds has been done in the past."
Each year, LCM contributes up to $500,000 in grants for 12- to 18-month periods for new, renewing and multiplying congregations. Applications are received on Aug. 1 and Feb. 1 each year from congregations seeking grants up to $20,000.
The new, renewing and multiplying congregations in this funding cycle are listed below:
Ktizo UCC, Phoenix
First Congregational of Bakersfield, Bakersfield, Calif.
Chinese Congregational UCC, Campbell, Calif.
(a)Spire UCC, Pasadena, Calif.
North Stamford YCC, Stamford, Conn.
Praxis UCC, Atlanta
Restoration Inclusive Ministries, Decatur, Ga.
UCC at the Lighthouse, Naples, Fla.
St. Andrew UCC, Sarasota, Fla.
Immanuel UCC, Carlyle, Ill.
St. John's UCC, Fairview, Ill.
Peace Christian Church UCC, Kansas City, Mo.
Shift UCC, Mendota Heights, Minn.
New Covenant UCC, Owing Mills, Md.
Bethany UCC, Claremont, N.C.
Good Samaritan UCC, Four Oaks, N.C.
Holly Springs UCC, Holly Springs, N.C.
Spirit of Peace UCC, Kingston, N.Y.
First Plymouth UCC, Lincoln, Neb.
Mary Magdalene Friends, Las Vegas
Advent UCC, Columbus, Ohio
New Song Community UCC, Columbus, Ohio
Embody UCC, University Heights, Ohio
Dille Parish UCC, Le Raysville, Penn.
St. Luke UCC, Philadelphia, Penn.
Hope United UCC, Georgetown, Texas
UCC Casper, Casper, Wyo.