Last week, the Minnesota Conference Board of Directors approved a plan to make three grant opportunities available to clergy and congregations. These grants are designed to provide some immediate relief to those struggling most during this difficult pandemic, and to strengthen our clergy and churches for the future beyond COVID-19.
“In our regular conversations with clergy and congregational leaders across the Conference, we are inspired by all the amazing ways our clergy are so beautifully serving during this crisis, and by the ways congregations are remaining faithful and connected,” says Conference Minister Shari Prestemon. “We are also aware of how draining this all is, and of real needs that are emerging. We want our clergy and congregations to know we see them clearly during this time, and that we’re here to help.”
The Board of Directors has allocated Conference funds for three different kinds of grants. An application process will be announced in the coming week.
Emergency Operating Grants for Congregations
These grants will range from $500-2,000 each and are meant to assist congregations in one of three ways: a) help cover immediate-term regular operating costs in churches that lack the current means to pay their essential bills (e.g. church staff salaries/wages, utilities); b) support a congregation’s ministry to the wider community, either an existing ministry experiencing higher demand or a new ministry to address a new community need resulting from the pandemic; or c) purchase of basic technology needed to support virtual worship or meetings.
Counseling Assistance for Actively Serving Authorized Ministers
These grants are designed to address the immediate mental health and spiritual needs of actively serving authorized ministers during this extraordinary and stressful crisis, regardless of the setting in which they serve. Grants will cover up to three (3) spiritual direction or tele-therapy sessions per person with professional practitioners at LeaderWise. Priority will be given to authorized ministers who are not currently receiving spiritual direction or counseling services.
In the immediate aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, those churches without a website or online giving capacity have faced additional obstacles. This grant program will have longer term benefit for awarded congregations. Grantees will work with the “UCC Everywhere” program of the UCC’s national setting to develop or re-design their congregational website. All websites will include online giving capacity. The Conference will cover a three-year contract with “UCC Everywhere” for five (5) congregations. Website development will generally take 2-3 months. Priority will be given to congregations who do not currently have any website.
Interested churches and clergy will need to complete a simple application process for each type of grant. Applicants will be considered on a first come, first-served basis and awarded based on priorities indicated above. Grants will be awarded until all dollars allocated for this pandemic relief effort are spent. Details about the application process will be shared with all clergy in the Conference in the coming week. Stay tuned!