Safer Worship Grants Help Local Churches Prepare for Worship

By Charles Hewgley

The Golden Cross Foundation (GCF) board of directors this year added the Strategic Initiatives Grant to offer funding for ministry and other initiatives that serve older adults. During these uncertain times of crisis for everyone, especially older adults, the board searched for additional ways to offer support and assistance to churches and communities as they seek to serve the needs of their older members and citizens during this pandemic.

Through a $20,000 Strategic Initiatives Grant, the GCF supported the Tennessee Conference’s Safer Worship Grants. These grants are being used to reimburse churches with demonstrated need on a first-come basis for items for safe re-opening such as cleaning supplies, hand sanitizer, masks, and thermometers. Each church receiving a grant is reimbursed two-thirds of the cost of supplies used for this purpose.

“When Nashville Episcopal Area office staff asked me if the Golden Cross Foundation could help support the safer in-person worship initiative’s Safer Worship Grants, I felt an immediate affirmation for why our Strategic Initiative Grant was created. The foundation board members quickly agreed and approved our donation,” said GCF Executive Director Kent McNish.

During June and July, $15,000 was awarded to 23 local churches to prepare for safer in-person worship once local health officials deemed it safe to gather. To ensure proper safety protocols are in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19, the Nashville Episcopal Area of The United Methodist Church published Guidelines for In-Person Worship during COVID-19 to help ensure the safe return of congregation members to their local churches as each church slowly and carefully restarts in-person worship.

“I wish to express my deep gratitude to the board of the Golden Cross Foundation for your investment in safer worship among our Nashville Area United Methodist churches. I am appreciative and humbled by this act of generosity and love,” said Bishop William McAlilly.

One example of how a local church is using grant money is Crossville First UMC. Jill Kemmer, creative worship and communications director said, “I think people are becoming more at ease in worship because they see us taking temperatures and sanitizing the pews after every service. We have hand sanitizer dispensers everywhere, including outside the bathrooms. We have free masks available for every member of the congregation who needs one.”

Sango UMC member Joann Wagoner describes the impact the grant is making on her church. “Our elderly population feels more secure knowing that even before they enter the building, we have made plans for safe worship. We were able to open on June 21. Our custodian has been faithfully cleaning, and our volunteers are using the supplies every Sunday to keep our congregation safe. The comment we hear most is ‘Thank you for making returning to church a reality.’”

Kemmer from Crossville FUMC sums it up for many grantees. “We just want to say a huge thank you to the conference for not only the offer of this grant, but also the speediness of it. It really helped to give us the tools that we needed to open worship safely without having to compromise in any area due to financial concerns.”

Thanks to the support of individuals, families, and organizational and corporate donors, the Golden Cross Foundation board is continually able to offer grants supporting older adult ministries. If you would like to support the mission of GCF, please visit https://goldencrossfoundation.org/give/. If you, your family, or your organization is interested in discussing new opportunities to endow or support a grant category, contact GCF Executive Director Kent McNish at kmcnish@goldencrossfoundation.org.