As part of the United Church of Christ's commitment to live into the call of being a multi-racial, multi-cultural church, the denomination plans to reevaluate how it selects recipients for New and Renewing church grants — in hopes of spreading some of those funds to a more diverse cross-section of the UCC's congregations.
The Rev. Chris Davies, who coordinates the UCC Congregational Assessment, Support and Advancement ministry, explained that the church is taking this step to look at different ways of how new ministries are formed or planted, particularly within communities of color.
"As the United Church of Christ is being intentional to examine everything that we do in conversation with our values, deep listening from communities of faith that their ministries were being overlooked as a result of their difference struck a chord in response," Davies said. "It is our responsibility to be intentional about how we lean into radical difference and the diversity of the kin-dom of God, in whatever forms those may be."
UCC Local Church Ministries, which administers the grants, expects to set aside $350,000 to assist new and renewing churches in 2018. The grants are awarded twice each year and support new and recently-formed congregations and ministries within the UCC.
"The impact, we hope, is that we'll see equity in the ethos from which decisions are made, and have communities of color defining their own metrics for growth," Davies said. "Further, we hope that this will invite a wider array of ministries and experimental communities involved."
Davies expects that the 2017 application cycle will incorporate changes after a task force is brought together to assess what adjustments to the grant process are needed.
"Over the next year, the UCC will be convening key leaders to pull together new metrics of assessment for our grant program, sensitive to the emerging needs of the changing church," she said. "We are hoping that the 2017 application pool, for the 2018 awarded grants, will include a more intentionally diverse cross-section of God's beloved church, and ways of being church."