Damascus Project Receives $500,000 Grant

Who will lead us? And where are we going?

Those questions aren’t new to our congregations, though the pandemic made the answers even more elusive as churches changed course on the fly. New circumstances demanded that leaders tap veins of creativity, flexibility and inspiration that even they didn’t know they had.

Fortunately, we confronted these questions with a great resource: the Damascus Project, which builds the leadership capacity of lay people and pastors through online education. The project is the collaborative educational ministry of the UCC’s Minnesota and Wisconsin Conferences.

Now, the Damascus Project is poised to take a giant step forward, thanks to a $500,000 grant from Lilly Endowment through its Thriving Congregations Initiative. The aim of the national initiative is to encourage the flourishing of congregations by helping them deepen their relationships with God, enhance their connections with each other, and contribute to the vitality of their communities and the world.

Over a five-year period, the UCC’s Minnesota and Wisconsin Conferences will support the development of two Damascus learning tracks: Thriving Congregations and Living Faith.

“We received this news just days before Thanksgiving, so the week was filled with extra gratitude for the generosity of Lilly Endowment, and the opportunity to expand the reach of the Damascus Project,” said the Rev. Dr. Stephanie Perdew, director of the Damascus Project and author of the grant proposal. “We will be happily busy in 2024 as we create new courses, and invite laity, clergy, and young people to learn with us toward the thriving of their congregations and our witness in the world.”

Thriving Congregations courses will be geared toward lay leaders and clergy who can learn together about good congregational governance, healthy communication, and community missional assessment. The Living Faith learning track will offer a two-year online Confirmation curriculum that draws young people from small congregations into sizable learning cohorts.

“I couldn’t be more excited about this extraordinary grant,” said the Rev. Shari Prestemon, Minnesota Conference Minister. “I’ve always believed the Damascus Project is key to equipping a healthy and vibrant future for congregations and individual members in our two Conferences, and this grant offers an amazing opportunity to realize its full potential. It’s incredible news!”


Developing leaders for a changing church

© Minnesota Conference United Church of Christ | 2023