A year ago, when Mizpah UCC made the decision to close its doors and sell the church building, leaders began a thoughtful process to determine what to do with the proceeds from the sale.
Now, a year later, the congregation has given more than $2.5 million to numerous nonprofit organizations, including the Minnesota Conference, the UCC national setting, and United Theological Seminary.
“We threw it out to the whole congregation and asked them for input about where the money should go,” said Mark Ruhland, who served as the church’s final moderator. “We wanted to hear from everybody. Our council members came up with several ideas and we initially had about 25 organizations that Mizpah shared a connection or values. We tried to keep the funds pretty much local.”
Ruhland said a committee spent ample time discussing each nonprofit. In the first round, the church made grants to approximately 25 organizations. In the second round, an additional seven received funding, and Ruhland expects a third and final round to contribute to one or two more organizations. “All in all, it was a very gratifying process,” he said. “We really respected the wishes and the values of the congregation. We covered the waterfront of issues our society is facing these days and groups that need help to address these issues.”
Ruhland said that Minnesota Conference leaders — Rev. Shari Prestemon and Rev. Cindy Mueller in particular — provided vital support to Mizpah as it made decisions over the past year. “Their assistance and guidance deserve to be noted,” he said.
As Mizpah closes its doors, the church leaves a living legacy with its generosity. “The grants were real game changers for some organizations,” said Ruhland. “It’s hurtful to see the church close but gratifying to help other organizations.”