By: Christa Meland
Throughout Lent, Hamline Church in St. Paul examined the parable of the Good Samaritan and asked the question, “What do we need to do to be truly good neighbors?” As part of the Healthy Church Initiative process, church members and leaders interviewed community leaders and residents about opportunities and challenges in the area. Over and over again, they heard about the need to support and strengthen Hamline Elementary School.
So they asked the school: “What do you need?” and learned that it needed help connecting to the families nearby in order to truly become the neighborhood school it hoped to be.
Hamline Elementary invited the school to partner in reaching out to the neighborhood by providing funding for and physically assisting with a woven fabric public art installation along the school’s playground and school yard fence. The church will also assist with a fall festival for the community that the school has organized.
Through this project, the church will build relationships with a variety of community organizations that will continue into the future.
The funding that Hamline Church will put toward this project is made possible thanks to a $900 grant from the Minnesota Conference. Hamline is one of 22 churches that just received a church-school partnership grant. A total of $10,000 was distributed, $5,000 of which came from the 2015 Love Offering (30 percent of which was earmarked for the grants) and $5,000 of which came from the Mission Promotion Team.
Each church received up to $1,200 for its project. These grants represent a second round of church-school partnership funding. Last year, 20 churches collectively received $23,000 in grants.
“The church needs to express itself beyond its walls,” said Jill Michael, chair of the conference’s Mission Promotion Team. “By being in community with our neighborhood schools, we build new relationships and perspectives and gain mutual understanding. We both have so much good to give!”
Here’s a look at a few more projects that received grant money.
White Bear Lake UMC: Books for every child
White Bear Lake United Methodist Church also received a grant, its totaling $650. Last year, the church’s Faith in Action Team initiated READ5000—a multi-year effort to provide 5,000 books to students at Willow Lane Elementary, where 60 percent of students receive free or reduced-price lunches. To date, the congregation has donated or purchased 600 books for the school’s children. Last fall, the church’s support made it possible for every first-grader to purchase a book from the school’s annual book fair—which had never happened before. Students wrote thank-you letters to express their gratitude. They were also asked to “pay it forward” by doing something kind for someone else.
The next school book fair will take place in November, and the church will use its grant money to enable all of the school’s first-graders and second-graders to purchase books. Once again, members of the church’s Faith in Action Team will be present at the book fair to connect with students and help them select books.
Living Spirit UMC: Backpack program and nutrition workshops
Last year, Living Spirit United Methodist Church started a backpack food program for students at nearby Bancroft Elementary in South Minneapolis. Through this program, the church provided breakfast, lunch, and snacks for three children each weekend and school break since the beginning of the school year. The congregation has since contributed enough to support four students through the next school year.
Its $500 grant will help expand the size and scope of what it’s already doing. Some of the funding will go toward food for two additional students, but the majority would be used to host nutrition and cooking workshops with families from Bancroft. The goal is to nurture capacity in all families to provide nutritious food, even with limited means.
St. Francis UMC: Community garden
St. Francis United Methodist Church received $1,100 to create a community garden on the church’s property in partnership with nearby St. Francis Elementary School. Not only will the project enable the church to connect with new community members, but children will have an opportunity to learn about agriculture. When the community garden is completed, there will be a community picnic and a master gardener presentation to the school’s students. And at the end of the season, those involved will enjoy a harvest party.
“I truly believe that this would be…an opportunity to reach beyond our church walls—to create a space for us as a church to engage and live life with people who are not coming to church on Sunday mornings,” Rev. Kevin Coder wrote in a church newsletter article.
Christa Meland is director of communications for the Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church.
Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church