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United Thank Offering grants awarded to young adults, seminarians

February 29, 2016
Office of Public Affairs

United Thank Offering grants to 10 young adults and five seminarians were awarded by the Episcopal Church Executive Council at its February meeting in Fort Worth, TX following the recommendation by the United Thank Offering Board.

The United Thank Offering is a ministry to promote thankfulness and mission in The Episcopal Church. Known worldwide as UTO, the United Thank Offering grants are awarded for projects that address human needs and help alleviate poverty, both domestically and internationally in The Episcopal Church.

Funding for the 15 grants was derived from the Ingathering from General Convention 2015. The one-year grants are $2500.00 each and are based on the Five Anglican Marks of Mission.

“We were overwhelmed by the amazing work these young adults and seminarians are doing in the church and grateful for the opportunity to hear their stories and continue to journey with them in their ministry,” noted Sandra Squires, President of the United Thank Offering Board.

The 10 Young Adult Grants are:

Diocese of Hawaii: Matthew Lukens          

Mark 1: Reclaiming Our Space: Church throughout the Week

To shift the church from an empty building during the week to a resource to the community.  This two part program is aimed at the younger members of the neighborhood. First would involve the use of the church building and garden as a co-working space as an alternative to a coffee shop.  The church will provide space, seating and internet connections. The second would be to host a weekly meal preparation time in the church’s kitchen. There would be a weekly opportunity for the young adults to gather and do meal preparation in bulk. The cost to those preparing the meal would be based on the amount of servings that young adults take home for the week. It would offer a time for fellowship and an opportunity to cook in community. The money granted would be used on table, seating and wifi improvements, coffee supplies and kitchen supplies as well as advertising.

Diocese of Iowa:  Joseph Nastruz                    
Mark I: Feeding the Hungry at Chef D’s

To provide a free meal to 50-75 people once a month at a local restaurant, Chef D’s, in Des Moines, IA.  Chef D’s has become known for its outreach ministry to the homeless and poor in the area by providing a free meal in a restaurant setting with table service. Emphasis is placed on not only feeding individuals but giving them a sense of dignity. This is a collaborative project between Chef D’s and Breaking Bread, a Eucharistic young adult group. The group plans to help serve these meals and give participants a chance to tell their story.  The grant will fund the cost of serving meals for 10 months at Chef D’s.

Diocese of Kentucky: Erendira Jimenez-Pike                 

Mark 4: Hear2Heal: Racial Reconciliation in the Diocese of Kentucky 

To promote racial reconciliation in the Diocese of Kentucky by facilitating an opportunity for diocesan leaders to understand injustices firsthand. This project will allow the wide range of churches in the diocese — rural to urban, conservative to progressive, poverty stricken to wealthy, and continually increasingly segregated — to gather together clergy and lay leaders to listen to people of color in their parish and neighborhood communities and reflect on their own biases and privileges and then discern how to take this back to their parishes. The grant will fund honorariums for local community speakers a well as food for the event.

Diocese of Minnesota: Steve Mullaney        

Marks 3 and 4: Faith-Based Organizing in North Minneapolis

To assist two Episcopal faith communities in North Minneapolis, St. Andrews Episcopal and Circle of the Beloved Episcopal Service Corp, to seek deeper relationships with their neighborhood and neighbors especially around the issues of young adult employment and food justice.  The plan is to train young adults and experienced adults in facilitation and community organizing practices in an effort to seek creative solutions for young adult employment and food justice.  Participants will complete 200 one-to-one meetings with different neighbors, community organizations and faith communities. The grant will fund training for the organizers, the 200 one-to-one meetings, as well as food, publicity.

Diocese of Northern Michigan: Shelby Marter      

Mark 3: English as a Second Language (ESL): Tutoring with a Twist

To expand a Canterbury House student-led English as a Second Language (ESL) tutoring program for students from two area universities with high concentrations of foreign students.  The emphasis will be on building conversation skills beyond the current emphasis on preparation in English mechanics and test taking.  The grant will fund a student coordinator position who will facilitate clear communication practices between tutors and students as well as to purchase more resource materials.

Diocese of San Diego: Hazelruth Adams            

Mark 1: Love + Fear Conference: Applying faith in Turbulent time

To bring young people from late teens to 30s to a conference which addresses the relationship between fear and bigotry in the community and how our faith encourages us to approach our own fear and others’ fear. The 2016 conference will be a pilot to gauge whether annual conferences which bring young Christians together to address contemporary issues are a feasible endeavor. The conference would provide an intensive experience that support young people to grow in their faith and care for their church and broader communities in which they live. The grant money will provide honorariums for speakers, food for conference participants and advertising,

Diocese of Southern Ohio:  Melanie Williams       

Mark 4: Woodland Park Community Garden

To create a community garden at the site of Near East House, a Praxis intentional community in Columbus, OH. The garden will be created on an abandoned lot and maintained by members of the neighborhood, with an emphasis on the youth, which will create bonds between residents.  This is a collaborative project between the residents of Near East House and St. Phillips’ Episcopal Church. The harvested produce will be distributed to those who work in the garden providing individuals with fresh vegetables which otherwise would not be affordable. Any excess items will be given to the St. Phillips food pantry. The grant would fund materials needed to build raised beds and eco-friendly rain barrels and irrigation equipment.

Diocese of Southwest Florida: Rachel Schnabel   

Marks 3 and 4: Computer and Information Technology course at the Anglican Social Center in Brazil 

To design, outfit, and implement a new computer and information technology course to be offered to the students at the Centro Social Angliano (CSA) in Pedregal, Novo Gama, Brazil. This course will benefit the 130+ students from the poorest areas and of greatest financial need. This course will also provide an alternative to the crime and drugs that exist outside of school. The addition of this course will be a great incentive to increase enrollment and to supplement the program of CSA, which provides education, artistic opportunities, community, Christian education, and nutrition to the children. The grant will fund classroom equipment, safety items and supplies for the classroom

Diocese of Virginia: Grace Aheron

Mark 4 : Sacred Solidarity: Race Justice at the University of Virginia

To host a unique weekend retreat led by Circles and Ciphers, a group comprised of young men who have had gang, prison, and court related experiences who foster open communication and racial healing through hip-hop music and art.  The participants, primarily white-privileged university students, will experience racial reconciliation through the retreat, then commit to one year follow-up to share their circle work in their own spaces. The grant will fund a weekend retreat and a follow-up meeting.

Diocese of Western Michigan:  Kellan Day

Mark 1:  Manifest: A Journal by Young Adults for the Church

To offer young adults the opportunity to create a project/publication that could help explain why young adults want to reinvent church.  By publishing “Manifest” the young adults throughout the church will be given voice to offer their wisdom, reflections and input on the state of the church.  Rather that stand in silence they choose to use their voices through written form to challenge, encourage and be an integral part of the Body of Christ. The grant will fund printing supplies as well as labor and the design of the publication. An honorarium for the project editor will be funded.

The five Seminarian Grants are:

Church Divinity School of the Pacific: Teresa Mary Wakeen  

Marks 1-5: New Episcopal Congregation in the City of Detroit, MI

To develop a new congregation in a poor, under-served area of Detroit in partnership with several other Episcopal organizations. The congregation will be part of the New Mission Development Communities of the Diocese of Michigan and will be centered at Crossroads of Michigan, a social service outreach service agency. The author is a postulant to the priesthood in Detroit while enrolled in seminary at Church Divinity School of the Pacific. The grant will fund a stipend for clerical developer and host a retreat for the core lay leaders.

General Theological Seminary: Alexander Doyle Barton

Mark 1: Magnificat Arts Program

To provide a program for residents of St. Mary’s Shelter, in Manhattan, NY which serves immigrants and asylum seekers to express their own story and artistic interests through photography, writing, and spoken word.  This project will take place over four weekends, in which shelter residents will collaborate with local and international journalists to learn visual, written and oral storytelling techniques.  It will culminate with a showcase of their final work. The grant will fund stipends to each participant from the shelter as well as printing, display supplies and initial costs of a finished booklet.

General Theological Seminary: Valerie Bailey Fischer
Mark 2: General Seminary Good Shepherd Atrium

To build a portable atrium to be used as a teaching and learning area by seminary residents and their children, the new Christians. This project will include training seminarians to become leaders and teachers of The Catechesis of the Good Shepherd which will be used as a tool for children and adult formation. As the seminarians become clergy, they will have the background to continue the process of teaching, baptizing, and nurturing new believers in the Christian faith. The grant will fund the building of the atrium and training seminarians.

Seminary of the Southwest: Gregory Warren

Mark 1: Enriching our perspective on enculturation to grow the Episcopal Church’s Hispanic ministry

To provide an opportunity for a student to travel to the Dominican Republic and learn how to improve the Hispanic ministries. The Episcopal Church is rapidly growing in the Dominican Republic and they have many ideas to share. This individual will spend time there learning cultural cues and miscues that will improve Hispanic ministries in the US. All information gained will be presented to seminarians and others in the community. The grant will fund the immersion and training time in the Dominican Republic as well as a presentation at the Seminary of the Southwest and a guided retreat for a parish with a Hispanic ministry.             

Virginia Theological Seminary: Taylor Poindexter

Mark 1:  Eucharist-Centered Gardening

To support the expansion of the prayer/mediation garden which is on the seminary grounds to grow flowers for altar arrangements in the chapel and support the communion wheat plot. This garden is part of six teaching gardens that have been established and successfully maintained. Methods will be used to teach the practical and display best practices in solidarity with subsistence farmers. The grant will pay for a rototiller, two tons of chicken manure used to enrich the soil with needed nutrients, bird netting, and wood hinges etc. to build a fence to keep the vermin and birds out of the garden.


For more information contact the Rev. Heather Melton, United Thank Offering missioner.


The Five Marks of Mission are:

To proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom

To teach, baptize and nurture new believers

To respond to human need by loving service

To seek to transform unjust structures of society, to challenge violence of every kind and to pursue peace and reconciliation

To strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and sustain and renew the life of the earth