Eleven new worshiping communities, one presbytery receive Mission Program Grants

Nearly $300K is given to further establish, start ‘1001’ communities and help with congregational transformation

 By Paul Seebeck | Presbyterian News Service

LOUISVILLE — On behalf of the Presbyterian Mission Agency, the Mission Development Resources Committee recently approved Mission Program Grants to 11 new worshiping communities and one presbytery for its congregational transformation work. Eight received grants of $25,000 to help them live into their mission and ministry, and three received $7,500 to start new ministries. Each grant recipient is listed below, followed by their presbytery and synod — along with a brief description of their mission and ministry.

$25,000 Investment Grant recipients:


The Rev. Marthame Sanders hosts the “aijcast” podcast, which has doubled its audience in the past 12 months. Mike Fitzer/Film 180

  • “aijcast” (Greater Atlanta, South Atlantic) launched in 2017 as a weekly podcast featuring conversations and performances at the intersection of art, inspiration and justice. Hosted by the Rev. Marthame Sanders, who also produces “New Way” — a podcast of the 1001 New Worshiping Communities movement — “aijcast” has:

doubled its audience in the past 12 months.
• expanded partnerships to include a live speaker series.
• facilitated video/audio recordings for the annual Wild Goose Festival
• provided support for the inaugural Just Worship Conference at Columbia Theological Seminary.

  • Casa Brasil (Greater Atlanta, South Atlantic) is a Brazilian community that worships in Portuguese — the language of their hearts. They understand the importance of community and love of culture, but their primary purpose is to worship Christ Jesus, who reached them with manifest love on the cross.
  • Centro Cristiano Agua de Viva (San Joaquin, Pacific) is a Hispanic/Latino(a) faith community in Hanford, California, committed to both evangelism and discipleship of its members. The pandemic has caused many hardships for their community. Many members were the first to lose jobs — and were unable to receive local or federal assistance. Some have returned to their country of origin, rather than risk becoming ill or incurring additional debt.
  • Commonwealth of Oakland (Pittsburgh, Trinity) has endeavored to bring people into gathered space in its neighborhood in Pittsburgh. At its gatherings, students, neighbors and homeless men and women gather for a meal and worship and participate in other outreach endeavors. In so doing, they have called people into community across lines of race, class and gender.

    As part of its digital ministry, connect.faith in Pleasantville, New York, has created a podcast — and regularly produces resources — to help people connect spirituality and justice issues. connect.faith

  • connect.faith (Hudson River, Northeast) was born out of the Pleasantville Presbyterian Church digital ministry in New York. Because connect.faith has been developing online ministry tools for over a year, they were positioned to address the challenges of the COVID-19 crisis. Focusing on creativity, spirituality and justice, they have become a place for people who have either been rejected by the church — or have not been able to find a community that is spiritually right for them where they live. Their high-quality content invites creative participation from those who interact with the material.
  • David’s Court Ministries International (Greater Atlanta, South Atlantic) is a hybrid community worshiping in two platforms, with people in person and online. Leaders at David’s Court describe their community as a safe, welcoming haven, especially for non-U.S. citizens. As they arrive in the U.S. far from home, they find a place where they can openly express their faith — and speak their broken accented English without feeling inferior or afraid of being judged.
  • King’s Cross International Church (Sheppards and Lapsley, Living Waters) in Birmingham, Alabama, is a worshiping community of young adults seeking meaning in Jesus Christ. Serving minority groups in their community who need a safe place to worship without abandoning their uniqueness, King’s Cross seeks to be welcoming of cultural diversity, inclusive of differing worship style, and sensitive to those for whom English is a second language.

Lyrical Assembly believes transformative change can happen through the prophetic power of the spoken word. Lyrical

  • Lyrical Assembly (San Francisco, Pacific) is a community dedicated to faith, arts and activism. Created to provide space for artists and believers who are passionate about fully living out God’s calling to do justice, love mercy and walk humbly, Lyrical views poetry and the arts as tools to decolonize faith, speak out against injustice and create communal healing.

$7,500 Seed Grant recipients

  • The Frame (Denver, Rocky Mountains) is engaging people in intentional discipleship that goes beyond a weekly worshiping event. By helping people shift from only hearing the word to practicing and integrating it in formative ways throughout their daily living, they hope to become a place that challenges people to live fully into relationship with God — and the community they belong to.
  • Spiritual Wellness Center (Greater Atlanta, South Atlantic) in Decatur, Georgia, embraces the spirit of the divine Creator that lives within each person — and expresses it through love by serving the communities where they live. They engage the Christ within by teaching a new mindset of discipleship as Missio Dei, which is walking in the footsteps of Jesus in the communities where they live, work and play.
  • Thread Community (Heartland, Mid-America) plans to utilize a “playback theatre” format in worship. Playback theatre is improvisational theatre where participants tell stories from their lives and watch them enacted on the spot. The playback theatre experience is the way leader Emily Bartlett likes to imagine her spiritual life. “Every story is either a prayer to God of gratitude or a prayer of healing,” she says. “Every time a troupe member connects with a part of the story they are embodying; it is worship of the God that created and connected us all.”

 Presbytery Grant for Congregational Transformation

  • Vital Congregations Initiative – (New Brunswick, Northeast) $50,000 for two years, 2020 and 2021

The Presbytery of New Brunswick is currently in its year of preparation before beginning the second wave of the Vital Congregations Initiative in 2021. With many of their 38 congregations already in various stages of a transitional, transformative process, New Brunswick hopes its congregations, pastors and leaders will find the Spirit freeing them to embrace what they are already experiencing — a call to a new season of mission and ministry.

Mission Program Grants are made available through the Racial Equity & Women’s Intercultural Ministries of the Presbyterian Mission Agency. The grants support the transforming work of new worshiping communities and mid councils.

In 2012, the 220th General Assembly of the PC(USA) declared a commitment to a churchwide movement resulting in the creation of 1,001 worshiping communities by 2022.

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