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New grants help parishes cast, learn

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By Stuart Mann

Synod Council has approved a new grant program to help parishes as they emerge from the pandemic. The Cast & Learn grants will help parishes try new and creative forms of ministry after almost three years of focusing on survival.

“Every congregation right now is in a rebuild mode, and these grants are designed to support and resource this rebuild,” says Janet Marshall, director of the diocese’s Congregational Development department. “We’ve come out of a time when our focus has been entirely on making things work and keeping things together, and now it’s time to be creative again.”

The grants range from $10,000 to $40,000 and will be available over the next two years. The program has a total of $300,000 in funding.

Ms. Marshall says the time is right for these grants. “We believe that there are a lot of people in our communities who have come much closer to feeling their spiritual hunger and their spiritual need, and that God has given us this moment to be able to respond to that – to hear it, to see it and respond to it. In the same spirit as the diocese’s jubilee and the expedited Reach Grants that have helped so many parishes, we’re saying we’re here for you as you’re imagining ways to rebuild and to make new relationships with the community around you.”

The grants are for new projects or ministries that will be implemented and tested within a year. They will allow parishes to hire a consultant or a part-time staff person if needed. Examples include starting a new alternative worship service; expanding a children’s or youth program; and learning how to be church with people who worship online.

“The important thing is that churches applying for a grant need to be able to say what they want to learn from the new ministry, and why they feel it’s right for their context and then be able to test that within a year,” says Ms. Marshall. “What do you want to learn next?”

The projects must be designed to reach out to people who are not currently connected to the church (the unchurched, the de-churched or those who have drifted away). They must also increase the engagement of lay people in the parish through leadership and/or participation. Other grants may be available for the project after the Cast & Learn grant has run out.

Parishes are invited submit applications and make a pitch to the diocese’s PEMG (Project Enabling and Monitoring Group).

The name of the Cast & Learn grants come from the diocese’s strategic visioning process, Cast the Net, which is asking clergy and lay leaders throughout the diocese to imagine how they might “cast our nets to the other side,” how they can be innovative in finding new ways of being Church. The Cast & Learn grant program is a new funding stream designed to encourage parishes to take up that opportunity.

For more information on the Cast & Learn grants, visit the Grants & Funding section of the website.