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Nearly two dozen new worshiping communities receive Mission Program Grants

The grants, between $10,000 and $30,000, are designed to plant seeds or help the communities to further flourish

by Paul Seebeck | Presbyterian News Service

Growing Neighbors creates community gardens and “farmyards” in various communities in the Inland Northwest in the Spokane, Washington area. (Photo courtesy of Shadle Park Presbyterian Church)

LOUISVILLE — On behalf of the Presbyterian Mission Agency, the Mission Development Resources Committee (MDRC) has approved Mission Program Grants to 23 new worshiping communities. The communities receiving grants are listed below, followed by the presbytery and synod they belong to and a brief description of their mission and ministry:

$10,000 Seed Grants recipients

  • Eschel (Eastern Korean American Presbytery, Synod of the Northeast) serves a large number of Korean immigrants, many who live on the margins of society in Northern New Jersey.
  • God’s Garden Expansion Project (Presbytery of Wabash Valley, Synod of Lincoln Trails) is led by a chaplain, the Rev. Susan Brouillette. Increasingly she heard people committed to making the world a better place describe themselves as spiritual but not religious. She hopes to share her experience of being in relationship with both God and a community of faith with them and create a new worshiping community based on connection and unconditional love.
  • lama Yoga (Synod of the Pacific) already has $14,500 in support from the Presbytery of Sacramento to use yoga in building a Christian community. Located across from the Capitol provides an opportunity for outreach to political leaders and their staffers — and potential for self-sustainability with class fees.

Jonathan Prado, who served as youth minister in Ecuador, has been actively building a social media ministry, Igelesia AND en linea from his home in Corona, California. (Screenshot)

  • Iglesia ADN en linea (Presbytery of San Fernando, Synod of Southern California & Hawaii) has been active as an online ministry for two years through social media. Leader Jonathan Prado, who served in ministry as a youth in Ecuador, is connected to about 350 people. He primarily reaches out to those who have been hurt by the church or don’t have a community to belong to.
  • Inbreak collective (Presbytery of San Fernando, Synod of Southern California & Hawaii) in Pasadena, California created a digital residency for artists to explore the intersections of art, race and faith for the purpose of nurturing and healing deep societal wounds. Since they meet digitally, artists from all over the country have expressed how rare it is to find space to engage these themes together in one place. Inbreak has also launched a cohort group which is also embracing its mission of creating art that is transformative for the healing of communities.
  • Joy Community (Heartland Presbytery, Synod of Mid-America) focuses on combining education and advocacy for environmental and social justice issues under the umbrella of Christian theological study and the preaching and practices of Catholic monasticism, Celtic Christian and the PC(USA) Matthew 25 vision.
  • La Esperanza PC (Presbytery of Greater Atlanta, Synod of South Atlantic) started with a few families from Venezuela. Now people from other countries are joining them for Bible study and worship. The Rev. Zulema Garcia, who recently migrated from Venezuela, shares the challenges of starting a new life in the Atlanta area — and the grief of leaving behind loved ones suffering under deplorable living conditions.
  • Limen Place (Mid-Kentucky Presbytery, Synod of Living Waters) in Louisville, Kentucky is hoping to make new disciples of Jesus Christ by focusing on three items: 1) holding a space where people can comfortably bring up religious questions, 2) teaching that Christ — and therefore true Christianity — stands up for the poor and marginalized, 3) Existing outside the bounds of any single religious organization.
  • New Hope Presbyterian Church (Flint River Presbytery, Synod of South Atlantic) traces its beginning to the December 2019 merger of the now dissolved All Saints and Morningside Presbyterian churches. New Hope is one of two mainline churches in Columbus, Georgia to be explicitly inclusive of LGBTQIA+ people. Fifteen percent of their financial pledges come from participants who are nonmembers.
  • With the changing demographic in the neighbor of its partner congregation in Yucca Valley, California Reach Cathedral City (Presbytery of Riverside, Synod of Southern California & Hawaii) is reaching out to the Latino community through its English Language Services program. They also have an intentional faith development program, “Kid Reach,” where they invite parents of the children to join them into worship and community.
  • Remnant Community Church (Eastern Korean, Mid-Atlantic) is seeking to create a new worshiping community for second- and third-generation young adult Korean Americans who have left the church. According to Remnant leader Daniel Kim, part of their reason for is that they do not resonate with the mostly first-generation immigrant churches in Lawrenceville, Georgia.
  • Riverdale Fellowship Corporation (National Capital, Mid-Atlantic) is a youth-centered evangelism outreach in Upper Marlboro, Maryland which has 45 members. During the pandemic Riverside leader Godlove Kobe has ministered to about 100 others online — including university and school students, and community members. He has strong support from the “mother” church, Riverdale Presbyterian, which closed after 125 years of ministry.
  • The Table Community Church (Presbytery of Tampa Bay, Synod of South Atlantic) is led by the Rev. Kenny Ellis, who felt the Holy Spirit nudging him to move from serving an organized congregation to forming new worshiping community in Plant City, Florida. Ellis has relocated to Plant City and is building relationships with people — modeling the way of Jesus and sharing the gospel as the Holy Spirit provides opportunities.

Tu Iglesia began when Ricardo Polanco offered short sermons and worship services to family members in Guatemala during the pandemic. (Screenshot)

  • Tu Iglesia (Synod of Southern California & Hawaii) began when leader Ricardo Polanco offered sermons and short worship services on Facebook Live to provide worship options during the pandemic for family members in Guatemala, whose pastor left. Polanco has gained almost 900 followers and is well connected to two other Spanish-speaking church planters in the Presbytery of San Fernando who provide encouragement and support to each other.

$30,000 Investment Grant recipients

  • Be Well–Come Together (Presbytery of South Louisiana, Synod of the Sun) has partnered with Faith Presbyterian Church to serve a community challenged with crime and poverty on the west bank of the Mississippi River in New Orleans. Resources being provided by BWCT include courses for finances, elder care, healthy eating, exercise — and monthly soul food conversations reaching up to 50 people.
  • Beloved Everybody Church (Pacific Presbytery, Synod of Southern California & Hawaii) continues to minister with and journey alongside individuals with intellectual disabilities in Los Angeles. Led by the Dr. Bethany McKinney Fox, Beloved Everybody Church is poised for growth through community connections made through partnerships which enhance its the missional outreach and reach. See how they, along with CHVRCH+, below, can inform other faith communities on how to become more inclusive and welcoming.

CHVRCH+ meets on a virtual reality platform in space modeled after the sanctuary of First Presbyterian Church in Miami. (Contributed photo)

  • CHVRCH+ (Presbytery of Tropical Florida, Synod of South Atlantic) is a new worshiping community meeting on a virtual reality platform. In a VR platform participants who have created avatars explore virtual space modeled after the sanctuary of First Presbyterian Church of Miami, where the leader of CHVRCH+, the Dr. Christopher Benek, serves as pastor.
  • Growing Neighbors (Presbytery of the Inland Northwest, Synod of Alaska-Northwest) has come alongside others to create community gardens and “farmyards” in various communities in Spokane, Washington. In this process they have built relationships with involved individuals and a number of local organizations who partner with the ministry. Growing Neighbors has installed “Little Free Pantries” which provide year-round 24/7 food access. They also coordinate sustainable food delivery and community composting, thanks to more than 400 volunteers, 40 growing spaces and 100 partner organizations.
  • Iglesia Presbiteriana Nueva (Presbytery of Tampa Bay, Synod of South Atlantic) serves farmworker and immigrant communities in Winter Haven, Florida. During these difficult times, Iglesia provides pastoral care, worship, Bible study and prayer — along with monetary assistance, food, and help with utilities and employment issues for those who need it.
  • La Iglesia de Panorama City (Presbytery of San Fernando, Synod of Southern California & Hawaii) started parenting classes before the pandemic that were offered in public schools in the San Fernando Valley in California. More than 40 parents now join the classes offered via video conference by leader Jami Lazaro. Since moving its worship services online, 20 congregant members are joined by about 150 people tuning in for La Iglesia’s video conference worship.
  • Light Street Church (Presbytery of Baltimore, Synod of Mid-Atlantic) in Baltimore had a membership of 30 when they rebirthed as a new worshiping community. Now it has grown to over 70 members with the majority being new church participants. Nearly 25 percent of their membership lives regionally outside the Baltimore area. While engaging in ministry needs specific to their context, including in food insecurity, Light Street seek to be an inclusive place for everyone seeking community.

$30,000 Growth Grant recipients

Coastland Commons held community walks last fall to learn more about the history of redlining in Seattle. (Contributed photo)

  • Coastland Commons (Seattle Presbytery, Synod of Alaska-Northwest) began regular gatherings in the fall of 2019 and had 40-50 attending when the pandemic hit. Now mainly digital, they have been able to do prayer walks together where they have learned about Seattle’s history of land use by Black, Indigenous and people of color communities. They also have been offering weekly artistic space, yoga time and discussion forums, along with their monthly worship time through Zoom.
  • Hagar’s Community Church, (Presbytery of Olympia, Synod of Alaska-Northwest) formed inside the walls of the Washington Corrections Center for Women, has nearly 150 women joining them for weekly worship. The face-to-face worship time now happens in numerous smaller gatherings throughout the week. When Hagar’s pastor, the Rev. Layne Brubaker, first entered the prison walls in 2018, the women had never heard that all are children of God who loves and forgives — which has resulted in more than 20 baptisms.  Hagar’s Community Church recently published “Fury and Grace,” a devotional featuring poems and art from women at the correctional facility and leaders in its community. Thanks to the 1001 new worshiping community residency program, Hagar’s has launched a reentry program led by the Rev. Riley Pickett for women recently released from WCCW into communities across the Evergreen State.

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 1001 worshiping communities over the next 10 years. At a grassroots level, nearly 600 diverse new worshiping communities have formed across the nation. 


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