Feb 26, 2021 | John W. Coleman

The Eastern PA Conference Urban Commission awarded $30,000 in urban ministry grants to eight churches and three church/community alliances at the end of 2020. Their diverse ministries include provision of free food, temporary shelter, outreach to youth and young adults, and legal services for immigrants.  

The commission also distributed $30,000 to the Eastern PA Conference Cabinet last spring to help the conference, districts and churches respond to urgent needs caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Thus, the total amount budgeted and granted for 2020 was $60,000.

The eight churches that received Urban Initiative grants are:

  • Fritz, Bethlehem
  • Korean, Bethlehem
  • Wesley, Bethlehem
  • Nueva Creacion, Lancaster
  • New Birth, Lebanon
  • Haws Avenue, Norristown 
  • Holmesburg, Philadelphia
  • St. James, Philadelphia 

The three Urban Alliance grants went to:

  • West Lebanon Mission Link
  • Mission First
  • Justice for Our Neighbors of the Delaware Valley
Fritz UMC Children’s Ministry on Zoom

Fritz UMC serves its pandemic-stressed community “Soul Food,” a holistic, online, educational ministry offering physical and mental exercises, dance, cooking and fellowship, all provided on Zoom.

Korean UMC, with an aged membership, is trying to maintain and grow its outreach to young adults, including Lehigh University students, in the face of campus closures and other pandemic challenges.

Nueva Creacion, New Birth (Nuevo Nacimiento) and St. James each sought funds to purchase cameras and expertise to train members to improve their church’s popular video livestreaming of worship services.

The West Lebanon Mission Link has been feeding over 50 families a month safely in a parking lot since May 2020. Many are middle-class families working multiple jobs to make ends meet and falling short by the end of each month.

“We serve young families, the elderly and children…to show the love of God and to let people know that God always is caring for them,” reads their grant application. To each bag or box they also attach information about their churches and ministries. “We are reaching unchurched people in our communities.”

Next they want to offer visitors instruction in food preparation, budgeting and other survival topics. And some visitors have asked about having worship and activities in Spanish.

Mission First, Pottswown

Mission First in Pottstown, a community outreach of Cedarville UMC and its partners provides temporary shelter, meals and other aid to neighbors trying to survive and improve their quality of life. The downtown mission— located at the former First UMC—began in May 2020 when the two churches merged to form one church and one mission outreach center.

When pandemic restrictions prevented other closed churches from offering nightly shelter to the unhoused, Mission First stepped in to provide subsidized hotel rooms during these frigid winter months. Even with a negotiated room rate of $450 per week, however, the cost has been a tough challenge.

Mission First appreciates its Urban Commission grant, but it is seeking more partnerships and funding support. That includes support from other churches and Mission Links.

Justice for Our Neighbors of the Delaware Valley (JFON-DV) is a collaborative ministry that offers church hospitality and expert, affordable legal services for low-income immigrants. It also advocates for immigrants’ rights and educates communities of faith and the public about immigration concerns and our Christian responsibility to “care for the sojourner.”

Part of a national network with regional sites, JFON-DV will open a legal services office at Haws Avenue in Norristown this spring to serve burgeoning immigrant populations in our area.

The application period for the Spring 2021 Urban Commission grants will be announced soon. The Commission offers grants twice a year to Urban Alliances and Urban Initiatives that can demonstrate progress toward strategic goals and alignment with the Eastern PA Conference mission. 

Learn more at https://www.epaumc.org/ministry/urban/. For more information contact Commission co-chairpersons the David Eckert, pastor.messiahchurch@verizon.net, or the Rev. Myra Maxwell, Pastormyrajmax1@gmail.com.