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2018 Walton Award winners announced

New worshiping community for skaters in Montana and fast-growing church in Georgia each receive $50,000

by Paul Seebeck | Presbyterian News Service

LOUISVILLE — Serious JuJu, a 1001 New Worshiping Community for youth and skaters in northwest Montana and Faith Presbyterian Church of the North Georgia Mountains have been named winners of the 2018 Sam and Helen R. Walton Awards.

Given for excellence in furthering Presbyterian mission as an NWC — or former new church development — descriptions of each recipients’ ministry is listed below:

Serious JuJu (Glacier Presbytery, Synod of the Rocky Mountains)

Serious JuJu new worshiping community gathering. (Photo provided)

Located in an urban warehouse, JuJu provides a free indoor skating park for kids in Kalispell, Montana. Every Friday night hungry children, youth and adults are fed, while experiencing shelter, sanctuary and community. Many of JuJu’s 50 to 75 skaters suffer from childhood trauma due to chronic hunger, poverty, neglect, physical and emotional abuse, housing insecurity, family addictions and incarcerations — all compounded by community isolation.

Serious JuJu’s mother congregation, First Presbyterian Church, which pays for half of JuJu pastor Miriam Mauritzen’s salary, is in the midst of renewal because of its relationship with JuJu. First Presbyterian elder and local attorney Tom Esch says, “I used to prosecute skateboarders, now I serve them. JuJu has made me and my church come alive.”

“Serious JuJu has really ministered to these youth,” adds Marsha Anson, General Presbyter of Glacier Presbytery. “In skateboarding, apparently if you are doing a trick on a ramp and it’s going well that’s ‘good JuJu.’ And if you fall, that’s ‘bad JuJu.’ But Jesus is ‘Serious JuJu!’”

Serious JuJu will use their Walton Award to pay for their rent or purchase a larger warehouse.

Faith Presbyterian Church in North Georgia Mountains, (Cherokee Presbytery, Synod of South Atlantic)

Faith Presbyterian Church members assemble for a 2017 Pentecost photo. (Photo provided)

Faith Presbyterian Church started as a new church development with eight people in Blue Ridge, Georgia in 2000.  Four years later they became a PC(USA) charter congregation. For seven years they held worship services in numerous rented locations, before finding a permanent rental home in 2011. Since then, Faith has doubled its membership from 59 to 118 — making them the fastest growing congregation in their presbytery. Many of Faith’s members are semi or fully retired members, who have leadership roles within several nonprofit organizations.

Faith’s members take lunch to students in need during summer vacation and assists in the community’s Snack in the Backpack program which goes to every school in their county, for children who need nutrition on the weekends. The church supports two shelters — one for battered women and children and another for girl’s who have been removed from their homes by Child Protective Services — and a day program for adults with severe disabilities. Faith also tends to a summer garden. The harvest is given to a local food bank.

Faith will use the Walton Award to help construct a church on recently purchased land — as their rented home can no longer accommodate their fast-growing congregation.

Each Walton winner was nominated by the Mission Development Resource Committee (MDRC). The Presbyterian Mission Agency Board (PMAB) endorsed those recommendations at its meeting in Cincinnati, April 25-27.

The Walton awards were established in 1991 as part of a $6-million gift from the late Sam and Helen R. Walton through the Presbyterian Foundation. The gift included an endowment of $3 million. The earned interest is to be used by winning worshiping communities and congregations for site acquisitions and capital improvements.

Tim McCallister, associate of Mission Program Grants and Racial Ethnic Schools and Colleges for Presbyterian Mission, is grateful to be a part of giving out Walton Awards because he sees how they can take the pressure off of communities like Serious JuJu and Faith Presbyterian.

“Money they would’ve used for rent or mortgage expense, or land acquisition, can be put back into their ministry,” he says.

“Giving the opportunity to help even more people. It’s personal to me. My son got into the skater crowd — who had drug, alcohol and legal issue. It would’ve been great to have a community like JuJu help guide my son into making better decisions.”

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Since 1993 there have been 117 Walton Awards totaling $4.775 million.

In March and April MDRC through Mission Program Grants, which is housed in Racial Ethnic and Women’s Ministries, granted $325,000 to 26 new worshiping communities.


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