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April | 1001 Worshiping Communities

Seeds of growth

Presbyterian Mission Agency’s grant program brings new life in new places.

By Tim McCallister

Iona community pic

The new Iona Conversations immigrant and multicultural community gathers at a café in Washington, DC, to discuss the future of Christianity at a book event with author Diana Butler Bass.

Whether planted in the soil or scattered by the Spirit, seeds are powerful. So when the 220th General Assembly (2012) declared a churchwide commitment to ignite a movement that would result in the creation of 1,001 new worshiping communities in 10 years, our ministry team went to work to revamp seed grants we had been offering to new church developments.
From the beginning, the philosophy of the Presbyterian Mission Agency’s office of Evangelism and Church Growth has been to create grants that would reflect the permission-giving spirit inherent in this grassroots movement. Initially, we wanted to convey unrestrained grace and generosity—what we see in the sower in Jesus’ parable who lavishly (some might say foolishly) scattered seed on all kinds of soil (Mark 4:3–9).

Word House community picThe WordHouse is a Christian community of young adults in Sacramento, California, who gather for worship in homes and for Theology Pub nights in various public spaces. Here, mobile phones provide images of light during a time of listening to people’s hurts and pains, joy and happiness.

We wanted to send a very clear signal that we were willing to risk—to take chances—as we gathered proposals from communities that rarely were represented in our more established congregations. We wanted to see, listen for, and trust God’s Spirit at work among us and to be surprised by new life that might spring up.
So we named our initial grant for new worshiping communities a Seed Grant. We were inspired by Jesus’ parable of the mustard seed. Though it starts out as a tiny seed, it has the potential to grow into a magnificent tree.

We’re thrilled that new life is emerging as the seeds of the gospel take form: in prisons in southeastern Massachusetts; in our nation’s capital, where new immigrants from around the world are welcomed; among young adults who purposely worship—do theology—in public spaces; and on college campuses, in the form of outreach to African Americans.

Seeds scattered

  • 52 Seed Grants: $7,500 each, totaling $390,000
  • 7 Investment Grants (to communities living into 1001 definition): $17,500 each, totaling $122,500
  • 13 Health Insurance Grants: $1,500 each to leaders without health-care coverage (for up to three years), totaling $19,500
  • Total grants: $532,000
  • For information on 1001 grant guidelines: onethousandone.org
  • For information on additional Mission Program Grants: pcusa.org/missionprogramgrants
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