Founded in 2013, the Golden Cross Foundation (GCF) provides funding assistance for new and ongoing ministries and services with older adults in the Tennessee Conference and provides expertise and strategic planning to the conference for the expansion of innovative and effective ministries with older adults.
The Golden Cross Foundation, a non-profit corporation and extension ministry of the Tennessee Conference of The United Methodist Church (UMC), awarded more than $150,000 to 17 United Methodist churches and organizations throughout the conference in 2018. Money from the grants has been used toward retrofitting churches with ramps and handrails, starting older adult ministries, purchasing a 14-passenger mini bus, providing financial assistance for counseling, and building micro homes.
“You might say the foundation exists to give money away,” said GCF Chairperson Charles Hewgley, “The GCF board meets quarterly to review and approve grant requests from UM churches and organizations throughout the Tennessee Conference of The United Methodist Church. The grant applications are thoroughly vetted by the Grants Review Committee chaired by Rev. Jim Robinson.”
In 2018, 17 grants were awarded ranging from $1,325 to $60,000. Many of the churches receiving grant money applied it toward retrofitting their buildings with ramps, handrails, and grab bars to make them more accessible—inside and out—to people with limited mobility. Other churches used the money to make improvements in sound or projection systems to better accommodate people with vision or hearing issues. Money for the largest grant, $60,000, is being used by Open Table Nashville to build two new micro homes at The Village of Glencliff (on the grounds of Glencliff UMC) earmarked for older adults experiencing transition from hospitals and rehab facilities back to normal living.
While many of the improvements help make older buildings and facilities ADA compliant, another benefit is that older adult worshippers feel welcomed and valued. In some cases, the upgrades encouraged members to return to church.
Members of East End UMC in Savannah, Tennessee, used their grant money toward retrofitting restrooms with fixtures and handrails, enhancing the sanctuary’s sound system, and installing interior and exterior ramps and a covered walkway. “We hope and pray that members and visitors who were unable to access our facility for fear of falling or who have difficulty hearing during worship or navigating in small bathrooms will now be encouraged to attend,” said Janice M. Shelby, grant coordinator and immediate past chair of East End UMC’s administrative council.
“We want everyone to know they are an important part of our ministry. Far too often, as people age, they feel the church doesn’t or can’t provide for their physical needs. As a result, they stay home. We want all who come to East End UMC to be able to enter the building without getting wet on a rainy day, access the sanctuary without the fear of falling, and have privacy in an appropriately designed bathroom.”
Rev. Tim Dunavant is pastor at Gainesboro (Tennessee) First UMC, a church with a vibrant congregation that includes many in the community who are aging. “The ‘we are not as young as we used to be’ dynamic created several barriers holding back people from fully engaging in the services and events at church,” said Dunavant.
Money from their GCF grant was used to help provide a new sound system that includes assisted listening devices connected directly to microphone.
The GCF board of directors is composed of laity and clergy from each of the Tennessee Conference’s five districts. The board of directors meets four times a year to review grant proposals. In 2018, grants were given to churches of all sizes including 40-member Travisville UMC in Pall Mall, Tennessee, and 1,000-member Belle Meade UMC in Nashville.
2018 UM Churches and Organizations Grant Recipients
Crievewood UMC $1,000
Belle Meade UMC $2,500
Wings of Hope $4,000
Beersheba Springs $10,000
Glendale UMC $4,325
Good Shepherd UMC $10,000
Gainsboro UMC $7,002
Open Table Nashville $60,000
East End UMC $10,000
Travisville UMC $1,000
Hillcrest UMC $10,000
East End UMC $8,475
Dickson 1st UMC $10,000
Monterey UMC $1,325
Savannah East End UMC $1,525
Clark UMC – McMinnville $5,500
Madison Street UMC $7,500
2018 Total $154,152
Since 2013 more than $300,000 in grant money has been awarded to 34 UM churches and organizations. “Word is spreading about the Golden Cross Foundation grants,” said Kent McNish. “If your church wants to start or expand an older adult ministry or you want to retrofit your building to make it ADA compliant, we encourage you to apply.”
Additionally, GCF funds ENCORE Ministry under the leadership of Rev. Dr. Richard H. Gentzler, Jr. ENCORE Ministry is a valuable resource that is now available in the Tennessee Conference to help congregations meet the needs of the fastest-growing demographic group in our conference. And, because this ministry is funded by a grant from the Golden Cross Foundation, there is no cost to congregations or districts for its service. (Please see the report of ENCORE Ministry)
Application due dates are four weeks prior to a board meeting. The remaining 2019 board meetings are August 16, and November 15. For more information and an online application click here or visit www.goldencrossfoundation.org/application-guidelines/.
For more information about the Golden Cross Foundation, visit www.goldencrossfoundation.org, or contact Kent McNish, executive director of The Golden Cross Foundation at firstname.lastname@example.org or phone/text 615-479-6175.