$276,360 awarded in Ethnic Local Church grants


10 ministries receive financial aid from General Board of Church & Society to strengthen education, advocacy or leadership development for social justice engagement.

FRUITLAND PARK, Fla. — Directors of the United Methodist General Board of Church & Society (GBCS) awarded $276,360 in Ethnic Local Church grants at its spring meeting here.

The Ethnic Local Church Grants program is to strengthen congregations through education, advocacy or leadership development for social justice engagement. Grants are awarded twice each year.

The $276,360 was split among 10 programs in three U.S. jurisdictions and Central Conferences overseas. Five annual conferences in the U.S. and the South Congo area in Africa received grants. The remainder has been allotted to three domestic and family violence seminars and Social Principles consultations, all in Central Conferences.

Grants go to a wide variety of ministries, including addictions work in Oklahoma, a summer reading program in New Jersey, leadership development in New England and North Carolina, and mentoring programs in Kansas.

Hamilton Memorial Freedom School

A $20,000 grant was approved for the Hamilton Memorial Freedom School in the Greater New Jersey Conference. The summer school is a ministry of Hamilton United Methodist Church in Atlantic City. The six-week school provides education enrichment, role models, activities, service projects and meals to at-risk children. It relies on a curriculum developed by the Children’s Defense Fund that includes a component emphasizing community service and social justice advocacy.

This is the second year of the Hamilton Memorial Freedom School. The first year hosted 52 campers representing 33 families. It was the first of its kind in economically depressed Atlantic County. The school’s sponsors have committed to increase enrollment this year.

Summer School on Chemical Dependency

Fifteen thousand dollars will go to Oklahoma Conference’s “Summer School on Chemical Dependency.” The school is a program of the conference’s Addictions Ministries.

The grant will support full scholarships for clergy to attend the 12-day summer school on the campus of Oklahoma City University. The summer camp is an intense, experiential lab with built-in reflection, group processing and different views on addiction issues.

Besides the annual summer school, Addictions Ministries also offers one-day seminars throughout the state five to six times a year, and two Faith Partner Trainings each year to start an addiction ministries program within the local church.

Community Food & Summer Camp Program

Asbury Beacon of Light Community Outreach Center in the South Georgia Conference will receive $9,560. The grant is for the “Community Food & Summer Camp Program.” Asbury Beacon of Light is an outreach ministry of Asbury United Methodist Church in Savannah, Ga.

This year’s camp, the third, will host 35-40 children and provide academic improvement tutorials, anti-substance abuse education, spiritual development, cultural arts, field trips and personal value training, including gang prevention strategies.

Participating children and youths receive at least two meals daily. In addition, their peers not enrolled in the summer camp are offered an opportunity to share meals. Each enrolled student also receives free eye and dental screenings prior to returning to school.

Diversity leadership training

Parkway United Methodist Church in New England Conference will receive $5,000 for leadership training and development. The Milton, Mass., congregation seeks to model a healthy cross-cultural United Methodist Church. Its goal is to increase the diversity of its church leadership while expanding ethnic and linguistic contributions to its worship service.

The congregation, which is 80% black, will conduct a Natural Church Development Survey through the New England Conference Office of Congregational Development. This will be followed by a series of diversity workshops.

Jerusalem Justice & Peace Ministry

Ten thousand dollars was approved for the Jerusalem Justice & Peace Ministry (JJPM) of South Congo Annual Conference. JJPM organizes education programs to empower church members, communities and their leaders about justice issues.

The grant is to support a need expressed by people in remote areas affected by social justice inequities. A seminar will introduce capacity building to accomplish social changes by seeking good governance. Social justice education, advocacy for public policy and human rights issues are part of the program.

African-American Clergy Retreat

Lake Junaluska Assembly in North Carolina will receive $3,500 for an “African-American Clergy Leadership Retreat.” The Assembly’s African-American Ministries is sponsoring the retreat April 4-6 at Lake Junaluska Conference & Retreat Center in Western North Carolina. Purpose of the retreat is to equip clergy with a toolbox of skills and strategies that will allow them to become adept organizers and administrators.

Men Connecting with Boys

The “Young Lions Mentor Program: Men Connecting with Boys” in Kansas East Conference will receive $29,000. The program is a ministry of Asbury Mount Olive Community United Methodist Church in Topeka. Objective is to empower men to become leaders in the church and home through creating a Christian support system that offers easy access for boys, ages 9-18, and men.

The program will consist of large-scale events to deepen personal relationship with Christ and increase involvement with the community. Events will include a men’s retreat, a father/child breakfast and ongoing monthly “Men’s Community.”

A core group of potential leaders will be enlisted for a five-week Bible study and a weekend culminating retreat. Topics to be addressed will include stewardship, leadership of the body, discipleship, effective fathering and mentorship.

Closer to Earth

Community Youth Outreach (CYO) in the Oklahoma Conference will receive $29,300 for its “Closer to Earth Youth Action Summer Project.” The project takes non-violent youth offenders from the city and introduces them to organic gardening and landscaping.

CYO was started by Quayle United Methodist Church in 2002 and is housed on 3.5 acres adjacent to and owned by the church. CYO expanded in 2007 to several work sites in Oklahoma City through a prevention component named “Closer to Earth” youth gardens. The summer project will pay a stipend to youths to lead their peers in production of food, compost, marketing and increasing life capacity.

Train the Trainer

Seventy-five thousand dollars has been allocated for domestic and family violence “Train the Trainer” seminars in three Central Conferences in Africa.

And $80,000 is designated for Social Principles consultations with General Conference delegates in the Central Conferences.

Ethnic Local Church Grants

More information and applications for Ethnic Local Church Grants are available on the General Board of Church & Society’s Web site at GBCS Grants. More information can also be obtained by contacting the Rev. Neal Christie, GBCS assistant general secretary, Education & Leadership Development, at (202) 488-5611.

The General Board of Church & Society is one of four international general program agencies of The United Methodist Church. The agency’s primary areas of ministry are Advocacy, Education & Leadership Formation, United Nations & International Affairs, and resourcing these areas for the denomination. It has offices on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., and at the Church Center at the United Nations in New York City.