Presbytery Partners with Creative New Congregational Ministries: Covenant Fund Grant Program

By Rev. Greg Klimovitz

When churches and related ministries in the Greater Philadelphia region dream about new initiatives in their communities, the Presbytery of Philadelphia aims to be a primary partner of empowerment. This is the framework in which the Covenant Fund grant program has existed since 2008.

The Covenant Fund was inaugurated nearly ten years ago, after the sale of the former Church of the Covenant building in Bala Cynwyd. While many assumed assets would be rolled into either capital funds or the regular operating budget, leadership of the Presbytery of Philadelphia knew our call was to birth resurrection hope out of narratives of decline and closure. “With the proceeds of over $2 million from the sale, the Trustees of the Presbytery saw an opportunity to support areas beyond bricks & mortar,” said Larry Davis, Business Administrator of the Presbytery of Philadelphia. “Our call as a presbytery is to walk alongside our congregations and ministries, strengthening and equipping them to further this witness both individually and collectively as the Body of Christ.”

As a primary partner in mission and ministry, the Covenant Fund annually makes available to our churches upwards of $25,000 to each applicant who outlines a faithful, intentional, sustainable, and creative new ministry possibility within their neighborhood. Executive Presbyter, Rev. Ruth Santana-Grace, noted, “The Covenant Fund Grants not only serves a particular congregation and ministry but also encourages others to think in new ways about where God might be calling them at this time and place in their history.” Since 2009, the Covenant Fund has awarded 113 grants to 65 unique initiatives totaling over $1.35 million. These ministries have ranged from preschools for low-income families to ESL programs in neighborhoods of new arrivals, mentoring programs for young black males in West Philadelphia to worshipping communities alongside people experiencing homelessness, art studios for children to social enterprises. As ministry leaders, congregants, pastors, and local neighbors collaborate together to embody the Good News of Jesus Christ in ways not previously considered, these unique initiatives exemplify the central theme and theological underpin of the Covenant Fund- cast your net to the other side of the boat (John 21:3-6).

Rev. Bill Caraher, moderator of the Commission on Resources and Communications (CRC) that oversees the promotion and organization of the program, commented, “Effective ministry in our changing contexts often calls for thinking creatively and attempting a ‘new thing,’ not just for the sake of novelty but rather for a more effective incarnation the Gospel.”

Diane Fitch, who served as moderator of CRC in 2015 and has been a part of the grant application review process, added, “The Covenant Fund has allowed our churches to live out the gospel in new and exciting ways…to reach beyond their own walls, trusting that God will bless them as they seek to bless others.”

In the midst of numerous conversations about the form, function, and relevance of mid-council ministry in the twenty-first century, the Covenant Fund is a reminder that our call is to collaborate and equip the faithful of our nearly 130 churches and worshipping communities. As our Presbytery continues to steward the resources we have been given and our creative ministry leaders leverage innovative witnesses to what it truly means to be the church, we celebrate the reality that our mission is intricately woven within the fabric of our congregations. We give thanks for the faithful saints gathered and scattered throughout the Greater Philadelphia region and look forward to the possibilities ahead as together we launch yet another Covenant Fund grant program.