By: Amanda Willis
Living Spirit United Methodist Church in Minneapolis has been able to reach new people through its Afro-Caribbean drum circle—a music ministry that was made possible through an Investing in Congregations micro grant from the Minnesota Conference.
Earlier this year, the church received $2,250 to begin the drum circle by hiring an instructor and buying a few new drums. The ethnically diverse church has had a drum circle in the past and resurrected the ministry so that it could connect with new people in its community.
“The people from the community who joined in the spring felt really included and welcomed in a clear way—to the point that we had the instructor join us for worship the rest of the year,” said Dana Neuhauser, director of ministry—children, youth, and families at Living Spirit UMC.
Living Spirit is among 29 churches that received an Investing in Congregations grant in 2016. Such grants, offered through the Minnesota Annual Conference’s Office of Congregational Development, are awarded annually to churches that demonstrate a potential, capacity, and commitment to reach new people, grow in love of God and neighbor, and heal a broken world—and applications for 2017 grants are being accepted through Oct. 15. There are two types of grants: major grants, which total more than $2,500, and micro grants (like Living Spirit’s), which total $2,500 or less.
Living Spirit now has a group of about 12 multi-generational drummers—half of whom are members of the community and not the church. In the spring, they gathered on five separate Saturday mornings to learn how to use the percussion instruments. After the last practice, the group performed during a church service.
“It’s really a great metaphor for our ministry… even if your part is really simple, if your sound falls away it’s really noticeable,” Neuhauser said. “We each have a role to play.”
Investing in Congregations grants—which is awarded for new ministries, programs, or staff positions—ranged from $500 to more than $20,000 in 2016. A committee that includes both laity and clergy reviews applications each year and decides how to divide up the $200,000 in grant money that’s available through the conference’s apportioned budget. Projects are funded for up to three years. Grant money is reduced each subsequent year for projects that receive funding more than once, and the goal is for each one to become self-sustaining by the end of the three years.
Earlier this year, Arlington United Methodist Church received $500 to start a school lunch program at the church. Its local high school is located directly across the street from the church, and students are permitted to go off campus during the lunch hour.
The church worked with other local churches from various denominations to provide a hot lunch in its building on the third Thursday of every month. Even small congregations participate by bringing already cooked food to be served potluck-style.
This spring, the hot lunch program brought about 15 students to the church each month. It will resume in October, and the hope is to attract more students by advertising the lunches on a banner facing the high school.
Rev. Rod Stemme, Arlington UMC’s pastor, wants the community to know that the church is a place that’s welcoming to everyone. He was initially worried that the lunch program might be met with some resistance, but instead, residents embraced it.
“There weren’t any questions about why or how,” he said. “That’s why I thought that the time was right for this to happen.”
Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church