We Received a $200,000 Grant! (almost) (revised)

By Kevin Bowen

Revised on May 15, 2019 to add more details in response to questions we received


We were recently awarded a $200,000 grant from the Metropolitan New York Synod toward building renovations to support bringing together and growing our existing ministries in an Immigration Welcome Center. What a reason to celebrate!?

Pastor Danielle and Pastor Gary began conversation around this grant in March 2018, prior to the the building conversations and visioning process, with the intention of securing potential resources should the congregation decide to go forward with renovations.

The grant opportunity was written by the synod’s Director of Evangelical Mission, Rev. Lamont Wells, with the intention of supporting larger ministry initiatives through building-based grants. Advent Lutheran Church was contacted to apply. The grant was capped at $125,000. We were awarded $200,000. All of this money is for building usage — not for personnel or programmatic needs.

Obviously, a large sum of money would be greatly helpful should the congregation decide to go forward with renovations. However the nature of the grant is not for “business as usual.” The pastoral staff did not want to commit the congregation to a largely new project/direction, so the grant was written to strengthen our existing ministry, with the potential to grow.

Folding together our Immigration Ministries (like ESOL, Legal Counseling, After-School) and Hunger Ministries (Food Pantry, Community Lunch, Community Dinner), we proposed an Immigration Welcome Center. A plan was put forward to more intentionally yoke our various outreach ministries that would benefit from the egress/firecode/reconfiguring basement work that we have been discussing.

This plan was shared with Council and the congregation. When we started the process, it was announced in worship and we asked for anyone who would like to help write the grant. It was also brought up during our September meetings, and discussed in the FAQ Binder put together after the September meetings and made available (located in the office) and advertised for numerous weeks in the e-letter and in worship.

When the visioning process was launched, this application had already been sent. In Fall of 2018, there was consideration around withdrawing our application until our visioning process was completed.

However, another factor around this process is that a few weeks prior to the initial contact with Rev. Lamont Wells, Bishop Rimbo resigned. These grants are linked to administrations. Next weekend we are finally electing a new bishop at Synod Assembly. No staff, program, or grant is guaranteed under a new administration. We were informed that there was no guarantee the funds/grant would continue to be there in the future.

Therefore, we decided to let the application go through to secure a potential large asset for implementing the mission that comes out of this visioning process, the work of the Vision Team, and strategic planning teams.

To honor the work of this visioning process, we have asked the synod to hold the funds for us.

If we decide that missionally this is not the direction we want to go, we can forgo the grant. If we decide that the mission and vision we land on does not require renovation or requires more than renovation, we can forgo the grant.

We are serious and sincere about every decision we make coming out of this visioning process we are in together, and our resulting mission and vision.

In the meantime, we have secured a great resource available to us in relation to the building when it comes time to make financial/spacial choices around how we implement our mission. This is an amazing accomplishment, gift to our ministry, and affirmation of our ministry from the synod!

More Background on Immigration Ministry

Our immigration counseling and advocacy work, coordinated till now by Pastor Gary and supported by several partners, has been a seldom seen but important part of our social justice ministry over the past several years.

Among our Spanish-speaking members, the awareness is slightly greater. We have Advent members who have received immigration counseling, support, advocacy from Advent. We have Advent members who have been deported. We have Advent members who we are continuing to walk with through the immigration process.

In the past 4 years, this ministry has grown with a variety of weekday programs at Advent that support immigrants: our After-School Program serving children of first-generation immigrants on Mondays; Spanish Classes for Advent members and visitors on Mondays; English as a Second or Other Language classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays; and single-run programs and workshops with organizations like IDNYC and Her Justice. All these programs draw volunteers from Advent and the community. And all these programs are serving the real needs of immigrant families and individuals in our community.

Our long-standing food ministries like Community Lunch and Food Pantry also support the immigrant community, who disproportionately experience food insecurity due to access to fewer jobs and public services.

More About the Grant Process

The process involved not only writing this grant, but also getting letters of support from the community, including elected officials, and engaging other Immigration Welcome Centers/Immigration Service Providers.

The closest Immigration Welcome Centers to Advent are the African Services Committee on 127th and the Harlem New American Welcome Center on 135th. The majority of services in Manhattan are offered downtown. In conversation with other Immigration Centers and service providers, one of the main gaps in service is holistic care such as counseling, support groups, and arts therapies.

Included in our application are maps showing the current breakdown of foreign-born New Yorkers per neighborhood using the 2011 Census data. Advent draws community participation for our current immigration programs from the Upper West Side, Morningside Heights, Washington Heights, the Bronx and Queens.

The Immigration Welcome Center offers the opportunity to increase community engagement both to those who need services and also to those seeking to volunteer, advocate, and strengthen community bonds. Both our English and Spanish-speaking members are involved with our current programming and we are hoping to solidify their involvement and increase outreach for volunteers to the community.

A Question for You: What do you think of this grant, and how might this grant support our mission & vision? Let me know your thoughts >