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$350k gift energizes mission in Presbytery of Detroit


Grants awarded to assist congregations to put ‘Faith in Action’

by Tammy Warren | Presbyterian News Service

The interfaith interaction during the Youth United week of service helped teens learn that though they may be from different faith communities, they have much in common. (Photo by Laura Hedgecock)

LOUISVILLE — A $350,000 gift from an anonymous donor is inspiring congregations and community partners to work together to put their faith into action through new and existing mission initiatives in communities across the Presbytery of Detroit.

This effort has as its foundation the Epistle of James 2:14-17 (NLT), in which the author explains that faith without good deeds is “dead and useless.”

Although no specific guidelines for use of the gift were provided by the donor, who has been involved with and supported the Presbyterian Church for more than 50 years, the conditions of the gift are that the funds must be disbursed within one year for mission projects presbytery-wide.

The Rev. Julie Delezenne, vice moderator of the presbytery, pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Warren, Michigan and chair of the presbytery’s Faith in Action Work Group, is coordinating the grant process. She and other mission leaders in the presbytery thought it best to award the funds as grants in two phases.

Faith in Action Phase 1 offered a simple application process and grants of $1,000 or less. Delezenne said she was thrilled that 45 congregations submitted applications during the first phase.

“We decided to offer the Phase 1 grants to get excitement up in the presbytery, to see what ideas would come to the surface, and to make this opportunity accessible to all congregations,” Delezenne said. “We said, ‘let’s have fun and let’s do something and try something and see what sticks.’”

First Presbyterian Church of Farmington, one of 30 congregations receiving a $1,000 Faith in Action grant during Phase 1, used the funds to create a week-of-service camp for students from Christian, Jewish and Muslim faith communities. The students named the camp experience “Youth United.”

The objective was to provide middle and high school students with an interfaith experience that featured service in the Farmington/Farmington Hills area and culminated in opportunities for meaningful dialogue. Members of the Farmington Area Interfaith Association were invited to join in this effort.

“Youth want to serve,” said Karen Linnell, a ruling elder at First Presbyterian Church of Farmington. “They want to be empowered to help other people.”

More than 50 teens and 20 adults volunteered during the service week, held at C.A.R.E.S. of Farmington Hills, a nonprofit with a vision to become a comprehensive service center for those in need. Projects included weeding and rejuvenating a ballfield; building benches for a dugout and gazebo; sorting clothing in a clothes closet; relocating the children’s area in the food pantry to make space for additional grocery shelves and a cashier’s station; painting the grocery area; and creating art for the walls, including two murals, one of which will travel to each participating congregation.

Youth from 10 Christian, Jewish and Muslim congregations took part in a week-long interfaith service project with support from a Faith in Action grant awarded to First Presbyterian Church of Farmington, Mich. (Photo by Laura Hedgecock)

“This experience has energized and empowered members of First Pres of Farmington,” Linnell said. “We see this and other partnerships as opportunities to grow as we serve the wonderful culturally and ethnically diverse community in which we were planted. We see ourselves as a witness for not just loving our neighbors, but treating all members of our community with dignity, understanding and respect.”

By holding small group discussions and sharing and working together on various projects, the youth discovered commonalities in their faiths.

“Interfaith coalitions are powerful and interfaith relationships are meaningful,” Linnell said. “Granting neighbors dignity is something we don’t often think about, but it’s huge, and it’s part of the call to love our neighbors.”

Several other diverse projects received a $1,000 Faith in Action Phase 1 grant, such as First Presbyterian Church of Warren’s intergenerational Inclusion Ministry that provides  mentoring and social activities for differently-abled high school students and senior adults once a month in a safe space; Faith Community Presbyterian Church’s car repair clinic for youth who have aged out of the foster care system, allowing them to drive to school and jobs in safer vehicles; and Westminster Presbyterian Church of Detroit’s neighborhood community garden collaborative with neighbors sharing in faith and fellowship as they grow healthy food together.

Phase 2 Faith in Action grants, from $2,000 to $30,000, were recently awarded to 19 of the 30 congregations that applied. Since the awards are larger, Delezenne said the application, accountability and reporting process is more thorough for the Phase 2 disbursements.

“A clergy colleague told me whether or not they got the grant, what this process had done for them was to sit (people) down and put their dreams into writing. It nudged them to put into written word what God was putting on their hearts. It gave them some accountability, perhaps, to think through the steps it would take to turn those dreams into reality.

“The work that has been unleashed because of this gift is incredibly important,” Delezenne said. “The service to our communities across the presbytery, the giving of our time and skills and gifts to meet community needs … that many of us had the willingness to put ourselves out there has really inspired me and our team. We are capable of putting our faith in action together.”

The Presbytery of Detroit Leadership Summit 2019, “Putting Your Faith into Action,” a conference for pastors and deacons, elders, trustees committee chairs and church members, will be held from 9 a.m. through 12:30 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 23, at First Presbyterian Church, Birmingham, Michigan. Registration deadline is Feb. 15. For more information, email

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