As evidenced by the response of The Larger Life Foundation to applications by Moravian congregations for financial aid in the COVID era, the Foundation is more than willing to move beyond more traditional categories of assistance in an effort to support unique needs of a number of Moravian churches during the first pandemic our country has suffered in over 100 years.
The Foundation’s policy and procedures for making discretionary grants have been summarized in previous articles in The Moravian. Last year marked the 11th year of operation of the Foundation’s discretionary grant program, which, through 2021, has benefited 184 recipients with an allocation of over $1,000,000 for church and agency projects. The Foundation receives grant applications in the Fall with a submission date not later than Sept. 1, and in the Spring with a submission date not later than March 1. Approved funds are made available within one week following Nov. 1 and May 1 respectively.
Because the longer-term impacts of COVID were not well known in the Spring of 2020, the first opportunity to seek financial support in dealing with the pandemic was not available until the Fall of 2020. There were two applications which were COVID related, and both received partial funding for their projects. The congregations were Advent Moravian (Bethlehem, Pa.) and Lititz Moravian (Lititz, Pa.). Advent’s request related to technology upgrades to worship spaces in order to satisfy COVID safety requirements; Lititz looked to install campus-wide wi-fi and add an outdoor worship pavilion.
As the Year of COVID continued to unfold, it became clearer that the country was in for the long haul, and modifications to the way in which church services were conducted, as well as other church-related activities, continued to rise on the priority list. This was reflected in the Spring 2021 grant applications – out of a total of 14 applications, six were COVID related. Of the approximately $53,000 available for grants, 45 percent was allocated to congregations seeking COVID related assistance.
These included the following:
- enhanced audio-visual system in the sanctuary [Christ Moravian – Calgary, Alberta]
- a non-COVID project, but one for which funding was lacking due to a severe shortfall in income directly the result of COVID [Linden Hall – Pa.]
- local Wi-Fi upgrade [Sister Bay Moravian – Wis.]
- equipment necessary for the integration of full audio and video presentations into the worship service [United Moravian – N.Y.]
- equipment and technology rights to make more permanent ways of including congregation members in worship services even after in-person, unrestricted attendance is allowed, in particular older members and young families [Wisconsin Rapids Moravian – Wis.]
Seth Habhegger, a member of the newly formed “Tech Team” which hosts the online component of worship [on Zoom and YouTube live] at Wisconsin Rapids Moravian, states: “The tech grant has really opened new opportunities to share God’s love over greater distances and with more people. ‘Church’ as a concept is kind of in a state of change right now and I believe that the challenge going forward will be to find new avenues of fellowship and ‘congregation.’ Using technology is just one way to do that.”
“We are quite appreciative of the grant that was received from Larger Life Foundation to upgrade the audio-visual system here at United in New York,” says Rev. Desna A. Henry Goulbourne, pastor. “The process has started and we are at the installation stage. It is going a little slower than expected because of the need to integrate some of our older equipment with what is being acquired. Several microphones, two additional cameras, and the necessary computer software and other equipment necessary for their efficient functioning were also bought. This is all in an effort to enhance the audio-visual experience for our members and friends who worship with us online. The aim is also to have seamless congregation meetings/presentations incorporating our members who are online and those present in the sanctuary.”
A number of Moravian congregations are finding that the adaptation of worship services to accommodate COVID related restrictions has actually opened up new avenues for reaching those who wish to participate but are prevented from doing so in person due to physical limitations, distance and other reasons. An example of this is a project being undertaken by East Hills Moravian, Bethlehem, Pa.. and for which a grant was made as part of the Fall 2021 program.
“Worship is a vital part of our Christian faith,” says Steven Thompson, worship committee technology lead at East Hills. “With the closing of our church building in March 2020 at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, East Hills Moravian Church implemented a virtual worship service that allows our congregation to safely engage in worship from remote locations. This process requires weeks of preparation for each service and was never envisioned to be sustainable for the long-term.
“We have found during this year that we are able to reach many of our members as well as those outside our congregation who are not able to join us in person due to physical disability or distance. To maintain and expand these connections, it is our hope to continue to offer opportunities for remote worship beyond the time when it is safe to resume worshiping in person.
“This grant will assist in the purchase and installation of software, cameras, video storage and controls that will enable us to generate a virtual worship experience in a sustainable fashion. It will also allow us to produce a new hybrid model for worship with in-person and virtual presences occurring concurrently. This equipment will provide the technological tools necessary to further develop our congregational ministries more broadly in our community and beyond, a vital part of our mission ‘To Know Christ and To Make Him Known.’ ”
The above descriptions of various projects from around the Northern Province underscore the fact that The Larger Life Foundation stands ready to help with COVID related projects wherever possible. Discretionary grants depend on funds available and the number of requests. Many of them are in the $5,000 to $10,000 range. It should also be noted that with respect to larger cost projects, it might be more appropriate to apply for a low interest loan from the Foundation (see past issues of the Moravian Magazine on moravian.org for articles on Larger Life loans).
For additional information on applying for a grant, visit the Foundation’s website at www.largerlifefoundation.org for grant guidelines and an application. We also recommend that potential applicants contact Tammy Curcio, Treasurer, at [email protected] or [email protected]. It is a good idea for any congregation or agency contemplating seeking a grant, particularly for the first time, and before taking any formal steps toward seeking approval, to communicate first on an informal basis with Tammy to make the process as smooth as possible. Tammy will respond promptly to any e-mail inquiry.
Jim McMahan, a member of Calvary Moravian Church in Allentown, Pa., serves on the board of the Larger Life Foundation.