Damascus Project receives Thriving Congregations grant

Who will lead us? And where are we going?

Those questions aren’t new to our congregations, though the pandemic made the answers even more elusive as churches changed course on the fly. New circumstances demanded that leaders tap veins of creativity, flexibility and inspiration that even they didn’t know they had.

Fortunately, we confronted these questions with a great resource: the Damascus Project, which builds the leadership capacity of lay people and pastors through online education. The project is the collaborative educational ministry of the UCC’s Minnesota and Wisconsin conferences.

Now, the Damascus Project is poised to take a giant step forward, thanks to a $500,000 grant to the Wisconsin Foundation UCC from Lilly Endowment through its Thriving Congregations Initiative. The aim of the national initiative is to encourage the flourishing of congregations by helping them deepen their relationships with God, enhance their connections with one another, and contribute to the vitality of their communities and the world.

Over a five-year period, the UCC’s Minnesota and Wisconsin Conferences will support the development of two Damascus learning tracks: Thriving Congregations and Living Faith.
“We received this news just days before Thanksgiving, so the week was filled with extra gratitude for the generosity of Lilly Endowment, and the opportunity to expand the reach of the Damascus Project,” said the Rev. Dr. Stephanie Perdew, director of the Damascus Project and author of the grant proposal. “2024 will be a happily busy year as we create new courses, and invite laity, clergy and young people to learn with us toward the thriving of their congregations and our witness in the world.”

Thriving Congregations courses will be geared toward lay leaders and clergy who can learn together about good congregational governance, healthy communication and community missional assessment. The Living Faith learning track will offer a two-year online Confirmation curriculum that draws young people from small congregations into sizable learning cohorts.

The Wisconsin Foundation UCC also works to support the Damascus Project through Leadership Forward, a $2 million fundraising campaign that aims to equip laypeople, clergy and congregations with the wisdom and skills needed in today’s church.

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