See how grants are fueling innovation in Wisconsin churches

The Catalyst Team’s mission is to resource and encourage vital and innovative ministries that transform lives. Read more about Catalyst.  Proposals for funding consideration are due as follows:  October 8, 2018, April 1, 2019 and October 7, 2019.  Click these links for the grant guidelines and grant proposal form. Contact Tisha Brown with questions or for more information.

Here are some of the projects that have received Catalyst Grants:

  • Creating a Healthier Multicultural Community, First Congregational UCC, LaCrosse

How does a predominately white congregation work for racial justice? That question is what started First Congregational Church (FCC) in La Crosse on their recent social justice journey. The church has undertaken a multi-year effort in the congregation and with the community, one which continues still.

According to a project member, “The catalyst grant helped the community beyond our church walls to recognize that many FCC members are co-conspirators in the ‘commitment to rebinding our community, not by ignoring the realities of race, but by facing it together, honestly.'”

As a result of FCC’s integral work on Creating a Healthier Multicultural Community the congregation has realized several significant accomplishments. Read the full story to gain insights into how this initiative was undertaken, why it has been successful and what has been accomplished for the congregation and community.

  • Lighthouse Ecumenical Youth Ministry

Rev. Kelly Nieman Anderson

Five congregations from three denominations in Port Washington and Saukville joined forces to create a truly welcoming and affirming Christian youth ministry, which welcomes and celebrates all youth and all types of families. In January 2020, with help from Catalyst Team funds, they will launch “Teen Café,” an after school opportunity for youth to gather for homework help, tutoring, snacks, music lessons, board games and relationship building. Through this ecumenical partnership and commitment to providing a radically welcoming place to gather, connect and explore, these five congregations are experimenting with a new thing God is doing in their midst.

  • Rock County Composers Lab
    JP Merz
    First Congregational UCC, JanesvilleJP Merz is a Los Angeles-based, Janesville-born composer whose music has been featured everywhere from Carnegie Hall to Netflix. JP grew up in First Congregational Janesville and is excited about this opportunity to give back to his home community in celebration of the congregation’s upcoming 175th anniversary. In partnership with the congregation, Janesville Craig High School and the Else/If Else trio from Lawrence University in Appleton, the Composers Lab will provide 8-10 high school musicians with instruction and support in the art of music composition as they work toward a concert of their own music to be shared in May 2020. This concert will be an integral part of the congregation’s 175th anniversary celebration. Through this project, JP and the people at First Congregational are committed to joining with the Spirit of inclusivity as they lift up the voices of young people who might not otherwise have an opportunity to share their gifts in this way.
  • Radical Hospitality – Lake Edge, UCC, Madison
    Lex Liberatore, Pastor, Lake Edge UCCAs of this fall, Lake Edge UCC and Christ the Solid Rock Baptist Church are following the spirit of hope and healing by joining together under one roof. (Read more about this in this Wisconsin State Journal article). A key commitment of Lake Edge UCC is to ensure that the sanctuary is a space where both congregations feel welcomed and at home. To fulfill this commitment they are undertaking a sanctuary renovation project which will remove the pews to make room for the chairs from Christ the Solid Rock’s previous building. The hope is that this gesture of hospitality will build a strong foundation for this newly forming community as these two congregations join together in ministry with one another and the surrounding community.
  • The Interfaith Ministries Project
    Jeanne Williams,
    First Congregational UCC, Ripon. Ripon College and First Congregational UCC in Ripon collaborate on this project, which provides “Home Away Families” to students attending Ripon College from all over the world. This effort extends radical hospitality to students from a range of cultures and traditions. They have identified two needs they will seek to fill in the coming year:

    1. opportunities for students to celebrate their home cultures with appreciative participants, and
    2. safe, comfortable space for religious practice and comradery.

    An inviting, religiously-neutral space will be created in First Congregational UCC’s chapel where students will be invited to practice their own religious traditions and gather to study and socialize. Three cross-cultural celebrations are also being planned. The Spirit of unity in the midst of diversity is alive and well in and through this project.

  • Arts and Science Literacy Camp
    James Wick
    Christ Church UCC, Milwaukee
    The Arts and Science Literacy Camp is an innovative summer camp integrating arts, literacy, and science educational experiences targeting children of low and low-middle income families from Milwaukee. The camp brings summer literacy and educational assistance to an underserved population in the heart of the city.  Seven congregations partner to support this educational opportunity demonstrating the UCC’s love of children. Catalyst grant funds will provide scholarship support to students and ensure that teachers and other staff are paid a just and equitable wage.
  • Hope in Action Task Force
    Dawnette Cigrand
    Hope UCC, Cochrane
    Hope UCC has initiated an effort entitled “Embracing all People” that is intended to reach a variety of people and a variety of ages in and around Buffalo County. In three words, Hope intends to Connect, Nurture and Practice. The biggest challenge to fulfilling this mission is a lack of accessibility to their building. Therefore, they are undertaking a building campaign effort to make their building fully accessible to all people so that they might connect with their neighbors, nurture relationships and practice inclusivity. God rejoices when we work together to create safe, accessible, welcoming spaces.
  • Creating a Healthier Multicultural Community is an initiative taking place in the city of LaCrosse. The members of First Congregational in LaCrosse, along with other congregations and community groups have been involved in the planning of this effort. Creating a Healthier Multicultural Community is a program that responds to the desire of many residents of the predominantly white LaCrosse region to widen their awareness, understanding, respect and empathy for the lived realities of people with a wide range of racial, cultural and ethnic backgrounds.  The Catalyst grant is helping to fund this community wide initiative.
  • St. John’s UCC, La Pointe/Madeline Island received Catalyst funds in support of a variety of Community Outreach Projects it will conduct this summer. The desire with these projects is to build partnerships with key community organizations and to engage residents and visitors to Madeline Island around their spiritual longing. The people of St. John’s envision creating new and transformative relationships between themselves and the wider community to expand spiritual development, repair relationships with people who feel disconnected from the church and heal the effects of inequity and marginalization in their region.
  • The UCC Ministry Co-op of Southwest Wisconsin is a partnership of First Congregational UCC, Platteville, Mt. Zion UCC, Cornelia and Davies UCC, Potosi. Its mission is to “create a network of congregations who cooperate and support one another in the mutual work of “being church,” creating an atmosphere of creativity and growth for the United Church of Christ in Southwest Wisconsin. Catalyst funds will be used to support a position for a seminary intern or a newly ordained part-time pastor.
  • A Community Concert Series sponsored by Congregational UCC in Barneveld will take place this winter and spring. Catalyst funds will be used to underwrite a portion of the expenses of this series which will feature a mix of spiritual and secular music and provide wholesome entertainment. Concert proceeds will be donated in support of local causes such as the free clinic and the town’s food pantry.
  • An Incubator Space is under development at Union Congregational UCC in Green Bay. Catalyst funds will be used to renovate a portion of the building to provide space for two new ministries being launched by the congregation. “On the Mark” Dyslexia Clinic and “The Brain Center of Green Bay” will find their new homes in the church’s building and an opportunity to develop and thrive in the community.
  • Food Collection at a Community Concert Series is how Christ Church UCC in Milwaukee is hoping to re-engage with its neighborhood. A very popular concert series takes place every summer in their community and the folks at Christ Church want to engage the neighbors who attend that concert series in support of hunger in their community. Catalyst funds will be used for a banner and other promotional efforts as part of this community engagement effort.
  • A Lenten Speaker Series on Racial Justice will be held at First Congregational, UCC in Port Washington. Catalyst funds will be used to offset the expenses associated with this collaborative effort of the Southeast Wisconsin Racial Justice Consortium. The Consortium is made up of two urban and three suburban UCC congregations who have come together for mutual support in a desire to raise awareness of systemic racism and to speak up as faith communities on racial justice issues.
  • Congregational, UCC in Brodhead: Congregational UCC in Brodhead is developing a plan to use some of their land to provide senior housing in their community. This housing will be available to members of the congregation and others to enable them to remain in the community during their retirement years. The vision includes the development of additional ministries of engagement between the residents of the housing and the congregation. Contact Cynthia Strealy for more information.
  • Congregational, UCC in Whitewater: The people of Congregational UCC in Whitewater are developing a worship service geared toward college students in their community. GLOW (Gathering in Loving Open Worship) launches in September with a monthly Saturday evening service followed by a home cooked, locally sourced, organic meal. College students in Whitewater have shared the lack of activities that don’t involve drinking and the congregation is responding with this opportunity to nourish both the body and the soul. GLOW meets for the first time on Saturday, September 22 starting at 4:00 pm. Contact Rev. Blair Hull for more information.
  • Alphabet Soup, Student Group at Lakeland University: Alphabet Soup is Lakeland University’s LGBT+ and Allies Student Organization. This grant supported their attendance and their presentation of their work at Lakeland at the Midwest Bisexual, Lesbian, Gay and Transgender Ally College Conference in February, 2018. Students offered a workshop at the Wisconsin Conference annual meeting and are available to visit congregations to present what they learned at this conference. Contact Rev. Alex Cade-White for more information.
  • Baking Buddies at Evangelical and Reformed UCC, Waukesha: Baking Buddies is a program that was initiated by youth group members as a school project. Baking Buddies provides opportunities for kids with special needs to bake yummy treats with a youth peer or adult buddy. All baked goods are taken home by the child or youth who baked them and great fun is had by all. Catalyst funds were used to expand this program to reach more people. For more information contact Mary Ann Proffitt.
  • Rural Ministry Conference: We provided partial scholarships to six individuals from Wisconsin, both clergy and lay to attend this annual conference. The topic was ministry partnership and options for rural and small congregations to partner together in ministry. Every year Catalyst will continue to support continuing education events like this where we believe innovative and entrepreneurial approaches to ministry will be nurtured.
  • Grace UCC in Wausau’s Neighborhood Outreach Ministry: Grace UCC in Wausau is engaged in learning about and reaching into their neighborhood. This grant funded an outdoor movie night so that neighbors could meet one another and engage with the church community in a welcoming, low-risk situation. Other initiatives will arise from listening and identifying strengths and needs in their community. For more information contact Rev. Julie Goranson.
  • UCC Ministry Co-op of Southwest Wisconsin: This is a cooperative ministry partnership between First Congregational, Platteville, Mt. Zion, UCC in Cornelia and Davies Memorial UCC in Potosi. You can find out more about this innovative approach to shared ministry here. Contact Rev. Zayna Thompson for more information.
  • Picture the Bible Student Pages: Picture the Bible is a project of First Congregational UCC in River Falls. It is a curriculum centered around 36 images depicting Bible stories. This curriculum is now available to congregations throughout the Wisconsin Conference and beyond. To find out more about this project visit or contact Rev. Stacy Myers.
  • Wisconsin Expo (Expanding Pastoral Opportunities): This is a partnership between the Northwest Association, United Theological Seminary, the Wisconsin Conference Lay Academy and NWA churches to provide supervised placement in a local church for persons exploring movement into authorized ministry. Placement will be open to seminary students and Lay Academy participants and will include a modest stipend. For more information on this partnership contact Rob MacDougall.
  • Film and Faith on Tap: This is an outreach initiative of St. Paul’s UCC in Ellsworth in partnership with Common Man Brewing, a local tap house in Ellsworth to offer food and free movies along with conversation around faith, values and God. You can check out Adam’s Faith and Film on Tap Manual outlining his approach to this film series and what he is learning. For more information contact Rev. Adam Westrich.
  • Weird Church Camp Scholarships: We provided partial scholarships to six Wisconsin Conference pastors to attend Weird Church Camp at the end of August 2017 in Estes Park, Colorado. This was a first-of-its-kind gathering of leaders seeking inspiration and ideas for ways to connect the gospel with a post-Christian culture. For more on this event go to: Pastors from the Wisconsin Conference who attended were Jacoba Koppert, Colleen Kwong, Brad Brookins, Tanya Sadagopan, Becky Johnston and Deborah Tyler. Every year Catalyst will consider supporting continuing education events like this where we believe innovative and entrepreneurial approaches to ministry will be nurtured.
  • Readiness 360 Pilot Project: The Catalyst Team is funding a small pilot project impacting a specific cohort of congregations to determine if the Readiness 360 survey tool is something we would like to offer more broadly. Congregations that attended the Thursday, June 8, 2017, workshop with Paul Nixon are eligible for this pilot project. For more information contact Tisha Brown.


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