“Get Some Hands and Feet Moving Together”

Bishop’s Advisory Group on Mission Strategy plans 2022 grant opportunities for congregations

In 2018, long before the COVID-19 pandemic upended the world, the Diocese of Indianapolis began a multi-year process of aligning its budget with the mission strategy developed by Executive Council shortly after Bishop Jennifer took office in 2017. The budget plan included what the bishop called “a significant change to how we provide direct aid to congregations.

“With the leadership of Executive Council, we will shift to a new system, by which all congregations in the diocese will be provided with the opportunity to develop new mission initiatives and apply for grant funding to support them,” she wrote.

Although the new grant funding initiative, originally scheduled to begin in 2021, was delayed by the pandemic, it is now being developed by the Bishop’s Advisory Group on Mission Strategy, appointed last year for a two-year term. Chaired by Ms. Valeria Phillips of St. Philip’s, Indianapolis, and Dean Gray Lesesne of Christ Church Cathedral, the 10-member group is charged with overseeing programming and grantmaking “that enable all of our diocesan congregations, regardless of size or location, to make faithful choices … to follow in the way of Jesus,” Lesesne said.

Members of the advisory group intend to visit every congregation in the diocese to create what Phillips calls “a robust granting process” that will “open up opportunities for change and growth for congregations and the diocese as a whole.” The goal, she says, is for group members to get to know each church and its leaders and to “go alongside congregations as they go forward with fulfilling some of their visions.”

“I think what we will find is that there is commonality in several congregations about the way they want to go or what they want to do,” she said. “I think that will lead to some wonderful collaborations—perhaps some collaborations where we can get some hands and feet moving together in the same direction.”

Although the advisory group will oversee grants for new initiatives, it will not be involved in the process of granting direct cash aid to congregations. Those payments have been gradually reduced since 2017, and now require congregations that receive aid to participate in two years of the College for Congregational Development, beginning no later than this summer. All matters related to cash aid, Lesesne said, are handled by the bishop’s staff, with Canon Brendan O’Sullivan-Hale taking the lead.

Congregations can expect the mission strategy group’s 2022 call for grant proposals, which will be available in the coming months, to focus on projects that will “make new disciples” and form “targeted strategic collaborations.” Grants will be available to congregations of all types and sizes. While the mission strategy group will recommend grant awards, Executive Council will make final funding decisions.

This is “real grant money for holy experiments,” Lesesne said. “We want to empower congregations that are ready to … try something different.”

© 2021 Episcopal Diocese of Indianapolis