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A new take on the Parable of the Talents

Wisconsin congregation sells baked goods and handcrafted items to nearly triple a gift from the Presbytery of Milwaukee

by Presbytery of Milwaukee | Special to Presbyterian News Service

Members of Grace United Church selling baked goods and crafts at the Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin, Farmers Market. Seated from left are Tina Beckman, Rita Arnold and Linda Yeadon. Standing form left are Elaine Hulstein and Harriett Rowland. (Photo by the Rev. Delisa Buckingham-Taylor)

LOUISVILLE — Grace United Church of Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin, a merged congregation of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and the United Church of Christ, recently completed a fundraising project to nearly triple a gift of $2,000, to be used with the Matthew 25 invitation’s foci in mind: alleviating hunger and poverty, confronting racism, advocating for criminal justice reform and addressing other social justice needs.

Along the way, Grace members and friends learned a retelling of another parable found in Matthew 25, Jesus’ Parable of the Talents.

Last fall, the Presbytery of Milwaukee received an anonymous gift of $100,000, with instructions to distribute $2,000 to each member congregation, allowing each to use the funds in any way they saw fit, as long as the use met the conditions of Matthew 25: 37-40:

Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink?  And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’  And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’”

The logo for the Matthew 25 Invitation represents unity and equality. The three interlocking figures represent the equality of all people without gender or race bias.

The congregation of Grace United Church took up the challenge, selecting the Homeless Coalition of Fort Atkinson and RIP Medical Debt to receive the funds. The congregation went one step further by also adopting Jesus’ teaching in the Parable of the Talents, in which two of three slaves double their master’s money. The members and friends of Grace United Church believed they could at least double the $2,000 gift to expand the ministry of the funds received.

Beginning in Lent and ending on Labor Day, members of the congregation sold homemade baked goods, handcrafted items, collectibles, and other items at church and at the Fort Atkinson Farmers Market. In addition, they collected donations, more than doubling — and almost tripling — the original $2,000 seed money from the presbytery, bringing the total funds to $5,864.

The congregation’s pastor, the Rev. Delisa Buckingham-Taylor, who has since moved to Ohio to be with her husband, who’s also a pastor, said, “Grace United Church has a strong commitment to relieving suffering and offering God’s love in tangible and practical ways. Members and friends at Grace Church like to say that they ‘put arms and legs on God’s love.’  The Matthew 25 Project strengthened our commitment to serve Christ through ‘the least of these,’ and help move this world closer to the fulfillment of God’s reign of justice, peace and love for all.”

The Homeless Coalition of Fort Atkinson will use the funds to purchase a transitional home for families experiencing homelessness who need a safe temporary home while addressing issues related to their homelessness. Learn more about the Coalition’s transitional housing program here.

RIP Medical Debt is a national organization that purchases medical debt in collections for pennies on the dollar and forgives that medical debt so that recipients can avoid bankruptcy, homelessness, and other financial crises.  Donations to the organization are multiplied one-hundredfold in cancelling medical debt. Since 2014, the organization has cancelled more than $5 billion in medical debt.

 For more information about Grace United Church visit the congregation’s Facebook page here.


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