New Providence UMC Receives $10,000 Grant to Retrofit Parsonage to House Older Adults

By Cindy Solomon

New Providence United Methodist Church, in Clarksville, Tennessee, received a $10,000 grant from the Golden Cross Foundation, a ministry of the Tennessee Conference of The United Methodist Church. The grant is being used to help retrofit a parsonage on the church’s property that, when complete, will house low-income older adults.

Built in the ‘60s, the personage has been vacant for the last several years. Church members tried to keep it in good repair but the home’s age brought frequent and costly repairs. In addition, other issues — the home’s small size, an increase in traffic, and people knocking on the front door at all hours asking for money and help — made it difficult at best for a pastor and his or her family to have a quiet home life.

“The congregation had been trying to raise money for repairs, but progress was slow,” said Rev. Jodi McBryant, pastor at New Providence UMC since July 2019. “At the same time, members were trying to discern what to do with the parsonage once it was repaired.”

McBryant had just come from serving a church that also had small homes on the church’s property. She shared that church members there rented out the homes to area non-profit businesses.

At the same time New Providence UMC members were discerning how to raise money for repairs and what to do with the parsonage once it was repaired, McBryant’s then 81-year-old mother mentioned she would like to rent it.

“Mom was often at the church volunteering or attending Bible study or worship,” said McBryant. “Her driving was limited, so living on the church property was ideal for someone in her situation.”

While her Mom has since found other accommodations, that kernel of an idea blossomed. Members decided to retrofit the parsonage so that, when complete and brought up to codes, one or two low-income senior adults can comfortably live in the house at an affordable rate.

Bill Wheeler, a member of the church’s leadership team, suggested applying for a retrofitting grant from the Golden Cross Foundation. The application was approved and grant money is being used for senior-friendly improvements such as railings, grab bars in bathrooms, and a walk-in shower.

“Each resident, will have his or her own bedroom and bathroom in addition to sharing common areas such as a kitchen, laundry room, and living room,” said Mc Bryant.

Prospective renters will not be required to be members of New Providence UMC.

“We’re leaving it up to God,” said McBryant. “We feel like the right person or people will come.”

Because the church has a daycare, trustee committee members will use a management company or software to conduct appropriate credit and background checks on all applicants.

Future tenants will benefit from regular checks by church staff and have the opportunity to get to know and engage with an extended church family. If interested, the tenants could also become involved in church activities such as reading to children in the daycare program or Project Transformation, participating in a small-group studies and Wednesday night activities, and attending Sunday worship. Such interactions could help reduce or even eliminate the loneliness and isolation older adults frequently face.

“I look forward to the opportunity for our church to be the hands and feet of Jesus in our community,” said McBryant. “Thanks in part to the Golden Cross Foundation grant funding our parsonage’s retrofitting project, this is one way we can do that. Many times, churches seem to focus more on children and youth. While they are certainly important, my heart breaks for older adults in our communities who are often forgotten.”