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Seven new worshiping communities, one presbytery receive Mission Program Grants

Grants will help five communities get started, plus two established ministries to grow and develop

by Paul Seebeck | Presbyterian News Service

Leader Sara Peaslee (left) and volunteer Terry McGeeney of Access Worship in Pueblo, Colorado, which serves families raising children with special needs. (Photo by Ben Keller)

LOUISVILLE — On behalf of the Presbyterian Mission Agency, the Mission Development Resources Committee is awarding Mission Program Grants to seven new worshiping communities and one presbytery to continue its transformative work around the sins of racism and systemic oppression with its congregations.

Those receiving grants are listed below, followed by the presbytery and synod they belong to — along with a brief description of each’s mission and ministry.

 $10,000 Seed Grant Recipients

  • Access Worship (Presbytery of Pueblo, Synod of Rocky Mountains) began primarily to serve families raising children with special needs in Pueblo, Colorado. When it launched on Palm Sunday in April 2019, several adults with special needs also joined, broadening the scope of the ministry. A partner congregation, First Presbyterian Church, houses Access Worship, which has received small grants from local businesses, raising awareness about its ministry in the community. The Seed Grant will provide an annual part-time stipend of $7,500 to leader Sara Peaslee, who is currently a volunteer. The remaining $2,500 will be used to support the ministry’s expansion.
  • Harbor Online Community (Pittsburgh Presbytery, Synod of the Trinity) began as a Bible study for ex-evangelicals in Pittsburgh. During the pandemic the group went online, and others who were in the process of deconstructing their evangelical views began to join them. Harbor Online Community’s partner congregation is Community of Reconciliation, a United Church of Christ-Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) community. Harbor’s Jon Mathieu was a leader in evangelical faith communities for 11 years. Now he is in the UCC ordination process, while receiving guidance from a PC(USA) coach.
  • Nile Community (Presbytery of Grand Canyon, Synod of the Southwest) is building a faith community of South Sudanese in Phoenix, Arizona. Around 80 people are in the worshiping community, with 50 worshiping on any given Sunday. Nile’s partner congregation, Orangewood Presbyterian Church, also has an African congregation using its space for worship. Phoenix is home to a large population of South Sundanese and Sudanese immigrants and refugees.
  • TBD (Pittsburgh Presbytery, Synod of Trinity) began gathering online during the pandemic with the idea of forming into a church community. Now as the country emerges from the pandemic, leader Jason Dauer is gathering the yet-to-be-named community for regular bonfires at a local urban farm. As the community discovers the leadership gifts within, it seeks to intentionally reach out to the LGBTQIA+ community in Pittsburgh — especially to those who have been hurt or rejected by church. Over the summer its weekly gathering will be around an independent study Dauer did at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary on “Queer Theology and Queer Saints.”
  • Ubuntu Community (Heartland Presbytery, Synod of the Mid-America) is a digital community for people who have never been to church, those disillusioned with church and those about give up on church. The Rev. Letiah Fraser began a three-month pilot group in March with a diverse gathering of 12 people from around the country. Each person is curious about faith and wants to engage in the work of justice and liberation in their own communities. Each is willing to commit to living in accountability with one another. Fraser plans on adding two more six-month Ubuntu groups, with hopes that they too will want to join the community. Currently ordained in the Nazarene tradition, but working on becoming ordained by the PC(USA), Fraser hopes to have an in-person gathering soon. Ubuntu is housed at Second Presbyterian Church in Kansas City, Missouri, which is also home to the new worshiping community The Open Table.

$30,000 Investment Grant Recipient

  • Perch Church (Presbytery of San Fernando, Synod of Southern California & Hawaii) has made progress in this ministry, started in 2018 by the Rev. Al Hahn. Its members are unchurched adults ages 18-35. Most are young Asians, including second-generation Koreans, along with a few white people and Black people. They have been meeting for more than a year online because the pandemic began just a few months after they started. During this time Hahn has offered a monthly webinar dealing with spiritual issues faced by the younger generation in Los Angeles.

$30,000 Growth Grant Recipient

Rev. Sara Lee leads the Watertown Multi-Ethnic Community in New York state, which increased its average worship attendance during the pandemic. (Photo by Mike Fitzer)


  • Watertown Multi-Ethnic Community (Presbytery of Northern New York, Synod of the Northeast) is led by the Rev. Sarah Lee, who has continued to build up this new worshiping community with strong outreach and evangelism. By using hospitality and technology throughout the pandemic, average attendance has increased in Watertown’s online worship services and Zoom fellowship time. The contact list for Watertown is around 75 people. When it was safe to meet once again, 40 came to the first gathering in Lee’s backyard to celebrate WMEC’s fourth anniversary.

$22,000 Presbytery Transformation Grant (second year)

  • Presbytery of Lake Michigan is guiding its churches to deal with the issues of racism and systemic oppression. The presbytery is invested in making this transformation part of its identity, and not just another project, by taking a more personal touch with current and past learnings to create change in its congregations.

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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