UKirk offers pivot grants to support collegiate ministries during COVID-19

Grants encourage new ways of doing ministry and/or dismantling structural racism

by Tammy Warren | Presbyterian News Service

United Campus Ministry student Amaya Savoy-Easton (right) receives a Prayer and Care Package from Rev. Todd Salmi in celebration of successful completion of the academic year after transferring to Texas State. (Photo by Todd Salmi)

LOUISVILLE — As the reality of COVID-19 set in, it forced the postponement of the UKirk Collegiate Ministries Association’s national gathering until 2021.

Stephanie Fritz, associate coordinator for Christian Formation, asked the UKirk national board to consider tangible ways to inspire, support and equip network ministries from around the country during the pandemic.

In March, college ministers had to pivot their ministries from in-person to online with virtually no notice, as students were sent home in the middle of the semester, explained the Rev.

Virginia “Gini” Norris-Lane, executive director of UKirk Collegiate Ministries. “As the pandemic continues to affect all of our colleges and universities, ministries find they are having to adjust in new ways, including determining how to invite and integrate new students into virtual programs, and navigating reopening guidelines that are different from institution to institution.

“We quickly realized that small ‘pivot’ grants could offer some financial support and encouragement to ministries this fall, which would allow them to dream and invest in new ways in their ministry and justice work,” Norris-Lane said.

The PC(USA)’s Office of Christian Formation worked with Financial Aid for Service to reallocate some funds previously earmarked for this year’s postponed UKirk national gathering to create the new pivot grant program.

UKirk-registered ministries can apply for $500 pivot grants. These funds can be used to help campus ministries “pivot” to new ways of doing ministry and/or dismantling structural racism. Grants will be awarded monthly as funds remain available. Submissions received by the first of the month will be read for selection by the 15th of the month. For more information about this program and how to become UKirk-registered ministry, contact Fritz at stephanie.fritz@pcusa.org.

The Rev. Todd Salmi, college minister, recently shared a COVID-19 pivot story from the United Campus Ministry at Texas State University in San Marcos, Texas. With a required move out of their dorms, Texas State students had to shift to online classes while managing the isolation of social distancing. United Campus Ministry put together 50 Prayer and Care Packages, including school supplies, snacks, photos of friends at campus ministry events, and personal prayers and notes of encouragement.

Texas State University graduate Abby Borel received a study Bible and honor cord from United Campus Ministry. Borel is preparing to begin her career in teaching. (Photo by Todd Salmi)

“For graduating seniors,” Salmi said, “a special package included a study Bible and honor cord for graduation regalia.” The majority of packages were mailed to students at home across Texas, but Salmi delivered the local packages while social distancing.

The UKirk Pivot Grant is one of several grants administered by Financial Aid for Service and available to Presbyterian-related colleges and universities. The Teaching the Bible Grant will be offered for the remainder of the year, with a reduced award amount and an appeal to related schools to write about being a Presbyterian-related institution during a pandemic, and through a social justice inflection point.

“Our goal is — always — to promote teaching the Bible and religion at related schools. This year, we also want to build a record,” said Laura Bryan, coordinator of Financial Aid for Service. “We are living a moment in history right now. What does it mean to be a Presbyterian institution — to teach, to form community, to plan for the future — in such a time as this? This will be the focus of Teaching the Bible Grant for the rest of this year.”

For more information on available grant programs, contact finaid@pcusa.org.


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