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Two congregations receive $5,000 grants to enhance multicultural ministry

Presbyterian Multicultural Network funds Chicago, Detroit outreach

August 8, 2014

FORT WORTH, Texas

The Presbyterian Multicultural Network (PMN) has awarded grants of $5,000 each to two network churches that have translated the PMN’s vision into vibrant multicultural ministry in their communities.

Announced at the PMN annual meeting during the 15th National Multicultural Church Conference of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), the two recipients are Ravenswood Presbyterian Church in Chicago and Fort Street Presbyterian Church in Detroit.

They are among the first congregations to receive grants from PMN, which was started in 2001 and formally organized in 2004 to lead the PC(USA) to be as multicultural as the communities in which its congregations serve.

The network adopted a vision and strategy in 2010 which includes funds to support multicultural ministry in selected congregations. The grants are funded by $100 annual “base line” contributions that network member churches contribute. Both Ravenswood and Fort Street have supported the network since its inception.

Ravenswood Presbyterian Church

Ravenswood has a rich history as a multicultural community. In the late 1960s, the predominantly Anglo congregation was approached by a Latino/a congregation asking to rent space for worship. The Ravenswood congregation welcomed them … but not as a separate group, instead asking them to become an integral part of the church.

“Ever since, our church has lived a multicultural vision in the city of the Chicago and within our presbytery,” Ravenswood grant application states. “They are a founding member of Chicago Presbytery’s Multicultural Network,” the Rev. Raafat Girgis, associate for multicultural congregational support, told the 300 conference participants in announcing the awards.

Like many urban congregations, Ravenswood has shrunk over the last couple of decades. Under new pastor Ivan Velasco, the church is casting a new vision. Traditionally, the congregation has had two services on Sunday mornings ― one in English and one in Spanish. This fall, Ravenswood will move to a single, bilingual service.

The grant money will be used to install simultaneous translation equipment in the sanctuary and to purchase bilingual worship and liturgical resources.

Fort Street Presbyterian Church

Fort Street Church, in the heart of downtown Detroit near Cobo Convention Center ― the site of this year’s 221st General Assembly ― is diverse in a multitude of ways: demographically, racial ethnically and culturally, socio-economically and educationally. Worshipers come by car from the wealthiest suburbs and on foot from the surrounding neighborhood.

But the inner-city church has struggled financially for many years, relying on several large endowments for about half its budget. While financial means are few, human resources are plentiful. Fort Street’s grant will enable the congregation to expand its multicultural outreach, particularly to international students.

That ministry has its roots in the story of Kalu Uduma, a church member originally from Nigeria who traveled to graduate school in Tucson, Ariz., and experienced the isolation and loneliness typical of many international students in the U.S. Uduma’s apartment was across the street from Tucson’s Trinity Presbyterian Church and a family in the church took him under their wing.

That experience had a lasting effect on Uduma, who now, as a member of Fort Street, is leading the church’s efforts to provide hospitality to international students, primarily at nearby Wayne State University. “We will accomplish this,” Fort Street’s grant application says, “by providing very simple services to the international students” including “forays to grocery stores outside the immediate campus area, guided tours of the city and region to better acquaint them with their new community, helping them locate other services that are away from the immediate campus area, and otherwise seeking to solve their problem of not being able to ‘get around town.’”

The grant will also enable establishment of a series of Sunday afternoon speakers to help Fort Street Church and international students “learn how to move from a multicultural community to [a more thoroughly integrated] intercultural community.” 

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