Episcopal Community Ministries Expands Grants, Transforms Ministries
There’s a garden growing produce and flowers for food pantries at All Saints, New Albany. Recent immigrants are finding help adapting to a new country at Church of Our Saviour-La Iglesia de Nuestro Salvador, Cincinnati. And people with medical expenses beyond their means are receiving emergency assistance through Trinity, Troy.
These and 17 other ministries across the diocese were supported in 2022 with grants from Episcopal Community Ministries (ECM), which recently announced its intention to award more money and award it more frequently, beginning with a new granting cycle for which applications are due by December 15.
ECM will make $100,000 in grants available in 2023, said the Rev. Canon David Getreu, canon for budget and finance, a significant increase over the $70,500 it awarded in 2022. ECM also perceived a need to keep grant money flowing to parish ministries throughout the year, Getreu said, and is instituting a second application period with a deadline of June 15.
That is good news for ministries like the Garden for All at All Saints, New Albany—where garden co-founder Catherine Duffy says simply, “We couldn’t have done our work if it weren’t for ECM.” And it is a sign of the diocese’s commitment to vulnerable and marginalized populations, such as the immigrants served by the Transformations program at Church of our Saviour-La Iglesia de Nuestro Salvador, where the Rev. Paula Jackson, the church’s rector, says, “Our ECM grants are the single most important thing that make us feel connected to our diocese.”
ECM was created as a diocesan ministry in 2020 to carry on the work of the now-defunct Episcopal Community Services Foundation (ECSF), which was an independent charity. The move reduced the ministry’s overhead by $60,000, making more money available for grants, Getreu said.
Governed by a seven-member board, ECM focuses its efforts on supporting hands-on congregational ministry, while significantly reducing grants to congregations that pass the money on to another organization. Under ECM’s guidelines ministries must have the active participation of church members and be supported by congregational resources to qualify for a grant.
“When people are actively involved, not just writing checks, but actually relating to people in need, offering radical hospitality and offering fellowship, looking people in the eye, saying ‘You are loved,’ there is great power in that,” said Andrea Owens, ECM administrator.
ECM grants range from $1,000 to $6,000, and their impact is not exclusively financial. “In some tiny congregations, the outreach work is what pulls the congregation together,” Getreu said. “Getting an influx of $1,000 or $2,500 seems to be a shot in the arm that does a tremendous amount of good.”
ECM is supported primarily by income—in 2023, a 4% draw—from the Bishop Blanchard Memorial Fund, an endowment established in 1989 by Bishop Herbert Thompson to honor his predecessor, the Rt. Rev. Roger Blanchard, the diocese’s fifth bishop. ECM also solicits donations to enhance its work and expand its reach which currently focuses on food and food security; housing; emergency assistance; education and life skills; youth at risk; and social justice.
The work ECM supports is as varied as the categories might suggest. James Beerbower, senior warden of Trinity Church, Troy said ECM is among the most reliable supporters of the parish-supported Dr. E Robert Torrence Medical Benevolence Funds, which he serves as treasurer. The fund aids people referred from local free clinics with emergency medical expenses that can range from eye exams to radiology to prescriptions to dental needs.
ECM’s $2,000 grant, combined with $2,000 from a parish rummage sale, serves as the foundation of a fund that has grown slowly since its inception in 1994. Last year, the parish distributed some $15,000 to more than 20 families.
“We are trying to increase the number of people we can help,” Beerbower said. Everyone who works on the fund, whether writing grants, reviewing applications or sorting rummage goods is a volunteer, he added, and “all the money that comes in is paid back out.”
At All Saints, the effect of the ECM grant was transformative for a garden that has drawn the community together, and helped it to cultivate relationships with its neighbors, says Duffy, who in addition to her work on the garden is a postulant for the priesthood, co-chair of the diocesan Creation Care and Environmental Justice Commission, and a member of the nominating committee for the diocese’s next bishop.
“We first started in response to COVID, and the Garden for All became this beacon, this sign that the church was still here,” Duffy said. “We couldn’t gather in the building, but we were still the church. We could still do ministry.”
ECM’s $6,000 grant not only funded the garden’s regular operations, but also helped launch the garden’s Sow and Grow program, through which garden volunteers provided the patrons of two local food pantries with the containers, soil, seeds and training necessary to grow tomatoes, beans and lettuce in their residences. Participation in the program rose from 14 families in 2021 to 40 this year, and Duffy said the gardeners hope to double participation in 2023.
The ECM grant also covered the compilation, design and printing of a book of recipes that introduced patrons of Gahanna Residents in Need to the uses of bok choi, butternut squash and other produce.
Garden volunteers range in age from 3 to 93. Some work the soil, some arrange flowers, two paint vases, and there are so many ways to get involved beyond the garden fence,” Duffy said. “It’s a different ways of doing ministry,” she said, “and I think it has got a lot of people excited.”
Church of Our Saviour-La Iglesia de Nuestro Salvador, a bilingual parish, draws on many sources to support its expansive food pantry and community meals program and its innovative and ambitious work with refugees. But ECM funding–$5,000 for the food ministry and $6,000 for Transformations—is especially meaningful, Jackson said.
“We have nothing but gratitude for the recognition and the validation of the ministries into which we put our effort,” she said. “To have this affirmation that we are making a difference spiritually from an agency of our own church really means something to us, over and above the grants.”
ECM’s funding has helped the Transformations program to transform the parish. “It doesn’t exist to be an evangelical arm of the parish, but it is because of Transformations that half or more of our worshiping congregations on Sunday morning are Latino immigrants and their children,” Jackson said. “And although the Food Pantry´s purpose is not to make converts, we have been blessed and transformed by Food Pantry guests who become volunteers, some seeking baptism or other sacramental ministries and becoming part of the congregation.¨
The breadth and stability of Transformations’ ministry has made its energetic director, Nancy Sullivan, one of the best-known Anglo advocates for immigrants in Cincinnati, Jackson said, to the point that other larger organizations seek her advice on how to spend their grant money.
“ECM is one place where we never have to worry about recognition and support for our Latino ministry,” Jackson said.
Donations to Episcopal Community Ministries can be made online.
photo: Transformations CDC