United Methodists in North Alabama gathered on Dec. 15 to celebrate the awarding of grants to local churches seeking to minister to ethnic and multicultural community needs. Central Park UMC in Birmingham hosted the event.
In addition to the awarding of grants, attendees celebrated the ministries of Rev. Charles and Mrs. Wynnett Lee and Mrs. Maudine Holloway for their exemplary service to the North Alabama Conference. “I am very proud to know of the work and ministry of Charles and Wynnett Lee and Maudine Holloway. They are examples that a new generation of leaders can emulate,” said Rev. Richard Stryker, Executive Director of Ethnic Ministries for the North Alabama Conference. Maudine Holloway is founder and Executive Director of Community Enabler Developers in Anniston, Cheaha District and founder of the Sable Center in Hobson City. Rev. Charles Lee, in addition to serving Mt. Mariah, St. Paul, Christ Church, and Huffman UMCs, served five years as superintendent of the Sylacauga District and six years as superintendent of the Southwest District. Mrs. Wynnett Lee was an active clergy spouse during these assignments and used her gift of music to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Rev. Stryker presented grants to eight local churches. Leaders in these churches applied for the grants, presented biannually by the North Alabama Conference, by outlining new or continuing projects that lead to increased average attendance, professions of faith and membership in local United Methodist congregations, as well as displaying ethnic diversity.
The Ethic Ministries Team funds up to 50% of a project's cost. Grants are limited to $2,000. Funding for the grant is made possible through the generous contribution of United Methodists giving to apportionments in North Alabama. Listed below are grantees honored at the celebration dinner.
Burke's Chapel UMC in Wedowee received funds for its new program Families Achieving Independence through Helping Each Other to Read. One of the surrounding community's biggest needs is better education. The program seeks to empower members by providing a safe, loving environment for them to improve reading skills. Among other advantages, the program will make participants better equipped to be more involved in worship services and other church activities.
The Learning Village Program at Central Park UMC in Birmingham has been in existence since 2009. Very strong partnerships with other United Methodist Churches have helped this supplemental education program in West Birmingham achieve success. Components include a free after-school program, summer camp, and computer lab.
Patterned after the Learning Village is the C.L.I.CK. program at East Gadsden UMC. C.L.I.C.K. stands for Children learning in Christ's Kingdom. Its success has led to increased membership for the church, and is being supported for the second year.
Children and youth at Haven Chapel UMC express their faith through praise dance. The Ethnic Ministry Team supports two programs—New Generations Praise Dancers and God's Property Outreach Ministry—which attract not only more youth, but draw parents, grandparents, and supporters to the church. The program, in existence since 2003, has proven its sustainability.
Carrollton UMC has been providing essential services to the community since 2002 through the Wonderful Wednesday Outreach Program. Some activities provide urgent needs like food, clothing and counseling while others give the community a place to gather for fun times together with water slides, music, and special worship services.
A grant to Cullman First UMC will help provide childcare and materiials for the church's ESL classes, which have expanded from one to two days each week. Materials include customized handouts developed on a weekly basis for help with home study.
ONEeighty UMC in Springville will split its grant between two vital programs. The church began offering its Celebrate Recovery Program in 2004. It serves a mixed population of black and white participants, and expects an increase in Latino participation in 2014. In addition to Celebrate Recovery, ONEeighty will use half of its grant award to support the BreakOut Ministry, which serves a diverse mix of prison inmates. Started in April 2013, BreakOut has documented a direct link between program involvement and participation in church upon release.
Sweet Home UMC in Gadsden will use funds awarded to upgrade technology in its sanctuary. They will soon be able to use music, videos, and images to create a multisensory worship experience.
“The Ethnic Ministries Team is excited about the opportunity to be involved in the ministries of the churches receiving grants," Rev. Stryker said. "We are confident that as a result of working together, we will reach a broader diversity of people for Jesus Christ.”