The Episcopal Church has announced grants totaling $421,000 have been awarded to ten new ministry initiatives across the church. The funding will be going to start two new congregations, four ministries that are “hybrid” starts and three new “mission enterprise zones.” Two were discernment grants to assist dioceses in assessing the viability of potential new ministry efforts. As part of the funding, these communities will become part of the new ministry learning network. This network provides support and education to help the church be successful.
The grants were awarded at the most recent meeting of the Executive Council. Applications were reviewed by members of the Genesis Group prior to being considered by Council. The Genesis Group is the advisory group on church planting, which is part of the Church Planting and Missional Development office of the Church Center.
Appleton Episcopal Ministries (Atlanta $20,000)
Appleton Episcopal Ministries is a missional venture building community with those often overlooked by area churches. Their mission is to promote the health, safety, education, and well-being of children and families within the ten parishes of the Middle Georgia Convocation – located along the southern edge of the Diocese of Atlanta. Their (mostly lay) leadership is carefully stewarding the passion and commitment emerging from their monthly discussions and initiatives. One of their primary goals is to help small and large parishes benefit from each other’s resources and coordinate the impact of parish community ministries in a strategic manner across the convocation. This ministry offers tutoring programs as well as an arts enrichment project. They augment food pantries and feeding programs; they’ve started a diaper bank and a community garden as well as created a community garden and a Freedom School to improve literacy for 1-3 graders in Macon. This new school is the primary focus of their application for funding.
Grovetown Episcopal Mission (a partnership between the Diocese of Georgia and the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America – $100,000)
This federated Episcopal/Lutheran church plant serves a growing suburb that is not yet served by congregations in the surrounding area. This new mission will reach the singles and young families in the rapidly growing Grovetown area alongside Fort Gordon, near Augusta, Georgia. The demographic data show that this is an area ripe for a new Episcopal/Lutheran congregation. Clergy from area congregations are on the advisory council for this ministry. They have a planter chosen and assessed and they have already gathered a strong core team.
Justice, Healing and Reconciliation Center (Iowa $75,000)
In 2017, leadership from across the Episcopal Church announced their long-term commitment to racial healing, reconciliation, and justice. This Center for Justice, Healing and Reconciliation intends to equip the Diocese of Iowa and the Iowa City area to become Beloved Community and to “grow a community of reconcilers, justice-makers, and healers.” They are bringing living community and love in action to the four long-term components of this work as identified by the church-wide resource, “Becoming Beloved Community” by telling the truth about the Church and race, proclaiming the dream of Beloved Community, practicing the Way of Love, and repairing the breach in society and institutions. They are creating a space and resources for a new worshipping community that is both intercultural and interfaith. They are engaged in an extensive campaign of one to one conversations and have support from a broad variety of stake holders, including the Diocese and the University of Iowa.
South Sudanese Congregation (Virginia $20,000)
For almost two decades, people from South Sudan now relocated in the Washington DC area have been worshipping at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Alexandria, VA. The Congregation conducts services mostly in Dinka language to connect people closer to God by enabling their worship experience in their mother tongue. Recently, the Dinka Language Education Program was established to impart mother tongue and language proficiency by teaching literacy to both kids and adults in the Washington DC metropolitan area. This diocesan ministry is located in Alexandria VA. These missionaries have discerned that one of their primary outreaches is to teach the Dinka language to this community since learning about the Gospel in one’s native tongue is a powerful faith journey, and learning the Dinka language well will also help their community members learn English. This outreach initiative serves as mission and evangelism to the growing Sudanese immigrant community. Their ministry plan includes discipleship and faith formation as foundational to their efforts.
Table 229 (Minnesota $20,000)
Table 229 is a new church plant that was originally funded as a mission enterprise zone in this triennium. It has quickly grown into a Word and Sacrament community emerging in the Episcopal Church in Minnesota. This ministry approaches church in a creative new way, celebrating and growing in their faith through conversation, relationship, and dinner. As we all first envisioned Table 229, we imagined a Missional Enterprise Zone, launching from an established Episcopal church in the area. Though this church is enthusiastically supportive, this missional project has unfolded in such a way that it simply makes more sense, in terms of time, energy, and focus, for Table 229 to become more of a new church start with its own identity, out in the community.
Bethesda Episcopal Church (Central Florida $100,000)
“Bethesda” is a new Episcopal church plant in the fast-growing Lake Nona community of southeast Orlando. Bethesda means “house of mercy,” and that is a good description of what they intend to be to their community. We are called to be a church where all people encounter God’s healing power in the pages of Holy Scripture, in the person of Jesus Christ, in the presence of the Holy Spirit, and in the people who gather together in His name. There is strong support from the diocese and they and the planter are doing significant fundraising for this ministry. They identify the Lake Nona area as “bursting with young, single professionals and families with young children. It is an ethnically diverse community, with a distinctive international feel.”
Evangelizing with the Lencas (Honduras $5000)
The peoples of Azacualpa, El Pelon and Catahulaca, are indigenous communities of the Lenca Tribe – the largest indigenous Mesoamerican group in Honduras. When converted to Christianity, they have usually been part of the Roman Catholic tradition. Many of them have not found expression for their faith in that tradition and are in search of a spiritual community that would embrace them as children of God. The diocesan leadership team in Honduras is working on planting a new church that serves these communities.
Teens of Santa Cruz County (El Camino Real $20,000)
Episcopal congregations in Santa Cruz County are teaming together to provide a robust youth program for youth in junior high and high school. Seeking a critical mass of young people, they intend to create a spiritual community, not only for the youth of their parishes, but also for the thousands of youth in Santa Cruz County currently without faith homes who are searching for deeper connection and meaning. National and diocesan grants will provide a start-up salary for a part-time coordinator to organize volunteers and plan/lead program activities. Plans for this new ministry eventually include a worshipping community. Their first offering will be a monthly fun night and biweekly faith formation program, and will be supported by volunteers and clergy from area parishes. The leaders plan to expand the offerings to include a weekly youth group, periodic events/creative worship and retreats, outreach and service projects, and mission trips. Executive Council is excited about supporting this innovative initiative to reach out and form a fresh expression of church that engages youth who have no faith community. They believe that, if this remains the core focus, this is a great opportunity for the Church to learn from a model reaching out to high school age youth through evangelism and community development.
Church at Crossroads (Michigan $25,000)
This new mission enterprise zone embodies the Jesus Movement in this Detroit neighborhood. This new ministry offers ministry with those marginalized by their race, their socio-economic status, their education, as well as by other unjust structures of the wider society. This ministry is housed by the social service agency, Crossroads of Michigan where more than 800 people come each week for various social services and meals. Instead of the church waiting for people to come inside, this Church is building relationships right where families and children who exist at the poverty level spend much of their time. The leaders of this new ministry are convicted that people of the neighborhood are to become this church’s leaders in all the orders of ministry; lay and ordained. This ministry intends to be a part of blessing those they serve with access to ownership of local property and full participation in businesses rooted in this same neighborhood. This Church at Crossroads is also helping to heal the Church from its own impoverishment of prevailing homogeneity by building relationships and partnering with existing congregations for shared fellowship, worship and ministry.
Kairos West Community Center (Western NC $5000)
Kairos West Community Center received a Mission Enterprise Zone grant in the last triennium. Over the last four years of ministry in West Asheville, they have discerned the need to develop a worshipping community dedicated to racial and economic reconciliation. They are also discerning the need for a Peoples Art Collective for black and brown bodied people. The Mission Enterprise Zone originally funded has blossomed into a remarkable ministry known to many as 12 Baskets Café. This ministry feeds 75 – 100 people daily by rescuing food that area restaurants would otherwise throw away. Volunteers serve this food elegantly and with great flourish, regularly blessing guests with prayers and a listening ear, when requested. The leadership is now discerning how to make the move from this expression of ministry into a full-fledged public worshipping community, in partnership with leaders from other denominations.
St. John’s Episcopal Church (Ohio $31,000)
The Diocese of Ohio is repurposing St John’s as an inclusive hub for community, spirituality, and the arts, a place to take part in creativity and cultural discourse-a kind of “urban Chautauqua” on Cleveland’s near west side. Since 2014, the Diocese has triaged and repaired the buildings and, with community partners, begun developing a program that brings this diverse neighborhood together for drama, music, visual arts, and conversation events that focus on liberation and human development. It is now time for them to develop a contemporary worshiping community as well. This application was funded as an MEZ for $23,000 in our first round of recommendations, last year.