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Funding the change: CTS grants help local churches lift up community

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Two local churches will get a boost in their efforts to fight poverty thanks to grants totaling $40,000 from the Faith and Action Project at Christian Theological Seminary. 

Broadway United Methodist Church and Trinity Episcopal Church each received grants from the project. They were two of six recipients overall of funds that totaled $125,000.

The goal of the Faith and Action Project is to fight poverty in Indianapolis. Fifty-four proposals were initially submitted to the project, and there were 14 finalists. 

“We looked for the programs that have the greatest potential to create real, lasting change,” Faith and Action Director Lindsey Rabinowitch said in a press release. “Our hope is that, with additional resources, these programs can be scaled up and replicated and, therefore, help more people trapped in poverty.” 

Broadway United Methodist Church, located at 609 E. 29th St. in Indianapolis, received $20,000 for its initiative aimed at working directly with families, skipping over social service agencies. Modeled after the Family Independence Initiative started in California, the program gives resources to families already working to get themselves and their community out of poverty and gives them the freedom to come up with their own plans to do so.

“We’re building on the gifts people already have,” Michael Mather, the pastor at Broadway, said. “We want a from-the-ground change.” 

Mather said the initiative is in a lot of ways a research project, since it is still in its beginning stages. He and DeAmon Hargis, a member at the church, will be closely watching the families that receive money and resources to see what works and what doesn’t and what needs to be changed going forward.

“We think of them as needed and not needy,” Mather said. “We think people just need the resources to get out, and that’s where we can help.” 

Mather gave an example of a family that was already engaging in efforts to beautify its neighborhood. That family received some money last year and was able to throw parties and bring the community together to get more done than it would have otherwise.

“Because we’ve been in the community we know the people who are doing good work,” Hargis said. “We saw most churches were acting like masters rather than servants, and we wanted to change that.”

Trinity Episcopal Church, located at 3243 N. Meridian St. in Indianapolis, received $20,000 for its program to provide transitional housing for 16- to 21-year-old LGBTQ people. Pastor Julia Whitworth said between 40 to 60 percent of LGBTQ youth have needs that need to be specifically addressed, and this program will do that. 

Specifically, this grant will help the church hire a program director who can get the initiative off the ground, including fundraising, licensing and budget development. 

“This is very exciting for us,” Whitworth said. 

Whitworth said the church already owns a large residential complex and a year ago tasked the church board with coming up with proposals to do something impactful with it for the community. It created a committee of eight and came up with several ideas, but this is the idea that stood out.

“We thought this was the one that best met the needs of the community,” Whitworth said. 

She added that the church is lucky to be working with Indiana Youth Group, an LGBT youth organization in Indianapolis, for this program.

“They have a deep expertise in this area,” she said. 

Whitworth said it is the policy of Trinity Episcopal and the Episcopalian denomination to be open and affirming with people of all identities, and this program will help carry out that mission.

“We have a responsibility to them in part because of religious teaching that tells them they are not worthy,” Whitworth said. “We believe that all children are beloved by God. These are children in need, and we need to fill it.”

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