Written by Anthony Moujaes
After an extensive collaboration with key leaders across the United Church of Christ to examine how faith communities are formed and planted, the denomination is ready to begin funding ministries that align with its vision of creating a just world for all.
As a result, UCC Local Church Ministries is realigning the New Spiritual Communities and ReNewing Churches Grant to reach more diverse congregations and a variety of ministries. A task force of local church, conference and national leaders revamped the application process, which is now open through Sept. 1, to reach new spiritual communities and renewing congregations in the UCC with grants.
"The wisdom and work that they have done will impact the future of the United Church of Christ in tangible ways," said the Rev. Chris Davies, who coordinates the UCC Congregational Assessment, Support and Advancement ministry.
Davies explained that grants will be awarded based on how applicants embody the UCC's vision of a just world, incorporating the values of love, community, justice, creativity, and spirituality and faith, into their ministries. The intent is that about 50 percent of funds will be allocated toward faith communities that are historically marginalized — specifically communities of color or faith communities led by people of color.
"The money is available to both new spiritual communities as well as reNewing churches seeking to 'do a new thing,'" Davies said. "The application process is smoother, and will enable us to evaluate applicants with more efficiency and effectiveness, in alignment with the values that we have mentioned."
Local Church Ministries, which administers the grants, expects to set aside $350,000 to assist new and renewing churches in 2018. The funds are awarded each year. Congregations and new faith communities can apply for grants at two different funding levels: up to $20,000 unmatched, or up to $30,000 in which LCM will match other revenue streams.
The Rev. Vertie Powers, associate conference minister for the Illinois Conference and part of the task force that overhauled the grant process, said, "In this new way we will be supporting the vision, energy, imagination, diversity, and inclusiveness of new and renewing communities of faith as they plan, live out, and face the future with faith, hope, joy and love. In this way, we honor our ancestors and foreparents who gave so we could continue the legacy."
For more information and the updated application, visit the UCC website. Awardees will be notified by the end of October for grants to be distributed beginning January 2018.