ATLANTA – After more than a decade of envisioning, supporting, and seeding innovative ministries, The Diocese of Atlanta’s Ministry Innovations Taskforce will be ending its work.
An official announcement of the change is expected during The Diocese’s 117th Annual Council which convenes Nov. 10-11, 2023, at The Cathedral of St. Philip.
The Taskforce was formed in 2012. It was announced as a new ministry enterprise to help parishes imagine new ways of doing ministry.
The Diocese’s Ministry Innovations program supplied seed money, coaching, and support for churches wanting to try something different, creative, or experimental until this year.
Through 2020, grants were issued to: Canterbury House, Macon $4,590; First Step, Columbus $11,500; Theology from the Margins $5,500; Childrens Defense Fund Freedom Schools in Macon $51,384; Capacitrons Ministries, Rio de Janeiro $4,000; The Boyce L. Ansley School, Atlanta $22,500; the Go Guide ; the Go Summit, and several ministries in Cuba.
Macon Childrens Defense Fund Freedom School organizer Julie Groce said the Innovations grant not only gave the program its start, it provided legitimacy with other funders.
“We could not have produced that first program without that support,” Groce said. “And it was fundamental to leveraging other funds.”
Good Shepherd Episcopal Church, Covington, GA partnered with Capacitrons Ministries and St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil on a grant to teach transgender people to produce liturgical vestments and paraments.
Fr. Luiz Coelho of St. Luke’s said the grant paid the costs of teaching more than 30 people and that proceeds from sale of the vestments and alter adornments paid for purchasing additional sewing machines.
“This [grant] is changing the lives of people long forgotten by governments, social institutions and churches,” Fr. Coelho said. The project drew the attention and support of millionaire Brazilian singer & actress Angela Leclery, Coelho said.
The Rev. Edwin Becham, who was rector at Good Shepard when the grant was approved, said St. Luke’s bravely dove into this work despite widespread cultural disapproval of transgender people.
“Their results give a wonderfully wide view into the great work our friends in Rio are doing helping vulnerable people learn their inherent worth and their capacity for productivity, self-sufficiency, and personal growth,” Becham said.
In 2021, Ministry Innovations Task Force announced a new perspective of innovative ministry to work with the Office of Congregational Vitality to support parishes doing new ministries and collaborate with groups or individuals who have new and innovative ideas for ministry, creating opportunities for parishes/worshipping communities to expand their presence in their environs by funding innovative partnering projects.
In March 2023, Convener Ginny Heckel announced the Ministry Innovations Taskforce was further tightening its focus on helping parishes perceive and imagine new opportunities for ministries within the parish and its surrounding community.
“The goal is to collaborate with groups or individuals who have new and innovative ideas for ministry,” Heckel said. “Our focus will be to create opportunities for worshipping communities and other Diocesan ministries to expand their presence in their communities through innovative partnering projects.”
Ministry Innovation’s 2023 grants went to:
- Imagine Worship for the purchase of a Candy Apple Red Nord Stage 3 Compact 73-Key Keyboard – $4,000
- Fort Valley State University Fellowship for All; A re-imagining of the Canterbury Club Model; St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, Fort Valley – $5,000
- A New Hispanic Ministry at St. Augustine’s, Morrow – $2,200
- Jessye Norman Performing Art School for Underserved /Kids; Holy Cross, Decatur – $3,500
- Contribution to purchase food to add to parishes’ efforts to distribute food to the hungry; Anglican Diocese of Cape Coast in Ghana – $4,000
- Assistance with the construction of housing for the priest and for Sunday School; St. Teresa of Avila, Episcopal Church of Cuba – $3,000
St. Augustine of Canterbury’s new Hispanic ministry now offers a Spanish language service every month and has hosted a health fair for the Hispanic community.
Imagine Worship, uses its keyboard during its hybrid services, that Easton Davis, Canon for Communications and Digital Evangelism, calls “a new way to gather people to worship God in The Episcopal Church.”
The 2023 grants expended all of the remaining funds in the Ministry Innovations account. With that, Ministry Innovations Task Force members Beth King, Harry Groce, Janet Tidwell, and Ginny Heckel, concluded the work begun in 2012.
Reflecting on the work Heckel said, “It had its day in the sun. It’s been a privilege and a joy to serve.”
Canon for Congregational Vitality and Ministry Development Sally Ulrey is set to announce during Annual Council that grants from The Diocese of Atlanta’s Ministry Innovations Taskforce will be replaced by grants from The Episcopal Community Foundation of Middle and North Georgia. She is also expected to say that parish assistance with innovation planning will be available through various Congregational Vitality programs.