Catalyst at Work: Grant supports racial healing series in Port Washington

New relationships. Connections with social justice groups outside the congregation. Potential collaborations with other churches.

Those are among the fruits of an eight-week study series this fall called “Sacred Conversations to End Racism,” hosted by First Congregational Church in Port Washington. The project was made possible in part by a $1,500 Catalyst Grant provided by the Wisconsin Conference. An additional $1,000 was provided by private contributors and in-kind donors. The sessions were led by the Rev. Laura McLeod, pastor of Brookfield Congregational Church and the wife of First Congregational Pastor Scott McLeod.

First Congregational was among six recipients of Catalyst grants awarded in May. Grants ranged from 1,500 to $5,000.

“We didn’t have a budget, and the price tag was pretty significant,” said the Rev. Don Neiderfrank, a retired pastor who is a member of the congregation’s Friends for Justice team. The team pursued a Catalyst Grant. “When that came through, the arrangement with the council was if we could secure 20 registrants, they would match the grant.”

In the end, 29 people registered for the series, and 23 of them attended at least one session, according to the grant report submitted to the Wisconsin Conference. About two-thirds of attendees were First Congregational members, with the rest coming from churches in neighboring communities.

Neiderfrank expects the eight-week series to produce some lasting results. He is collecting names and contact information from people of faith in surrounding Ozaukee County, with the idea that the group will “get together regularly and share what we’re doing and share encouragement.”

            Is your congregation considering an innovative project that could use support from a Catalyst Grant? Contact grant coordinator Mary Kuenning Gross.

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