The Second Episcopal District African Methodist Episcopal Church (SED) has received a grant of $999,726.00 from Lilly Endowment Inc. to help establish the Second District Rural Churches Revitalization Program (RCRP).
The program is funded through Lilly Endowment’s Thriving Congregations Initiative. The aim of the national initiative is to strengthen Christian congregations so they can help people deepen their relationships with God, build strong relationships with each other and contribute to the flourishing of local communities and the world.
Lilly Endowment is making nearly $93 million in grants through the initiative. The grants will support organizations as they work directly with congregations and help them gain clarity about their values and missions, explore and understand better the communities in which they serve, and draw upon their theological traditions as they adapt ministries to meet changing needs.
Thirty rural congregations from Maryland, Virginia, and North Carolina located in regions with declining populations discover new ways to flourish. This program builds upon the work of the SED mirroring initiative, a church assessment method, started in 2017. Mirroring aided rural congregations in determining strengths and areas requiring growth. The RCRP will lead these churches through an informed decision-making process. Each church will delineate clear next steps designed to create community engagement and new ministry development that will move the churches toward healthy sustained growth. Congregations will participate in retreats, hear from church renewal experts, and have assigned coaches. Churches will learn how to redeploy their resources, expand teamwork, and create new community-focused ministries. By the end of the program, these thriving rural churches will offer a blueprint that other rural churches can emulate.
James L. Davis, Servant Bishop SED says that, “Rural communities are essential to the health of our society; they provide food, water, recreation, and economic support. The SED understands the pivotal role our rural churches have in these communities. This program will help our churches to address gaps in service and establish ministries that will strengthen not only our congregations but also the wider society.”
The Second Episcopal District AME Church is one of 92 organizations taking part in the initiative. They represent and serve churches in a broad spectrum of Christian traditions, including Anabaptist, Baptist, Episcopal, Evangelical, Lutheran, Methodist, Mennonite, Pentecostal, Presbyterian, Reformed, Restoration, Roman Catholic, and Orthodox, as well as congregations that describe themselves as nondenominational. Several organizations serve congregations in Black, Hispanic, and Asian-American traditions.
“In the midst of a rapidly changing world, Christian congregations are grappling with how they can best carry forward their ministries,” said Christopher Coble, Lilly Endowment’s vice president for religion. “These grants will help congregations assess their ministries and draw on practices in their theological traditions to address new challenges and better nurture the spiritual vitality of the people they serve.”
Lilly Endowment launched the Thriving Congregations Initiative in 2019 as part of its commitment to support efforts that enhance the vitality of Christian congregations.