Brave Change Planning Mini-Grants

The mission of The BTS Center is “to catalyze spiritual imagination with enduring wisdom for transformative faith leadership.”
To that end, following on last spring’s Brave Change Convocation, we initiated a Brave Change Planning Mini-Grant program designed to encourage experimentation and transformation in faith communities and faith-based organizations. Last spring we issued a request for proposals — and we received an abundance of them — far more than we are able to fund!
That’s the good news, though, because it signals that faith communities and faith-based organizations in so many places are embracing brave change. We celebrate and affirm each one, giving thanks for the spirit of innovation and creativity present all around us.
With great joy, we are announcing the 15 recipients of Brave Change Planning Mini-Grants. Each of these $500 grants will help a community of faith or a faith-based organization to plan for a larger project, initiative, or transformation. We are excited about the array of projects described below, and we are grateful to partner with these faith communities and organizations by providing just a little bit of funding that may help to support and encourage their brave steps forward.
After careful review and much deliberation, we have awarded $500 grants to each of the following 15 faith communities and faith-based organizations:

Open Spirit, Framingham MA
Open Spirit: A Place of Hope, Health & Harmony is a multi-faith community-based organization founded by Edwards Church, UCC in Framingham, MA. This grant will provide resources for visioning and planning for the next phase of their Nourishing Teachers, Strengthening Classrooms Project, which works with at-risk students and their teachers in local public schools to teach mindfulness strategies that help them focus and find the calm they need to be successful in school and in life. Seven years of building trust in the school system has borne fruit, and the school system has requested resourcing for teachers, as well as increased mindfulness programs for vulnerable student populations.

St. Clare's Episcopal Church, Pleasanton CA
St. Clare’s Episcopal Church is asking an important question: "If we were to close our doors today, would anyone in the city of Pleasanton or beyond notice?” Through a process of visioning, they have discerned a new sense of calling to engage a segment of their population that is surprisingly large and mostly ignored by area churches: active duty military and veterans. This grant will provide funding for researching and planning for Warriors Church, a new ministry utilizing physical fitness and new expressions of church to better serve the population they are trying to reach.

First Church Congregational of Methuen, UCC, Methuen MA
At a defining moment in the life of their congregation, First Church Congregational of Methuen, MA is responding to an opportunity to reinvent, reimagine, and broaden their Christian Education ministry to meet the emerging needs of their church and community. Grant funds will enable a day-long planning retreat, to include new voices and perspectives, along with Sunday School teachers, parents and youth, in order to assess potential curriculum, establish a new direction for middle and high school youth ministry, and initiate the planning for a dynamic intergenerational ministry that will equip people for a lifetime of faith and service.

City Mission, Inc., Boston MA
Since 1816, City Mission has leveraged the resources, commitment, and talents of funders, congregations, community partners, and seminarians to pursue their mission to catalyze action to root out poverty in their neighborhoods, guided by the overarching principles of empowerment, engagement, and education. Following their recent relocation from Beacon Hill to Dorchester, City Mission leaders recognize that their past Community Engagement programming no longer fits their work in the new location or the people they currently serve. This grant will provide funds for a facilitated board and staff retreat as they revision their Community Engagement program.

Congregational Church of Weston, UCC, Weston MA
As the Congregational Church of Weston considers its future, they have begun some visioning with Wellesley Village Church to imagine the possibility of a brave, bold, and courageous collaborative ministry between the neighboring churches, leveraging Wellesley’s Pastoral Residents, program, and pastoral care. A WVC/CCW Collaborative Committee has begun its work, and each discussion has created new energy and excitement around the proposed partnership. This grant will fund a retreat as the two congregations explore a collaborative "dual campus" ministry, to engage and integrate the congregations and help them imagine a new life together.

Cape Elizabeth United Methodist Church, Cape Elizabeth ME
Responding to shifting demographics and a recent leadership transition, Cape Elizabeth United Methodist Church is living into to a new spiritual calling to investigate an ecologically and environmentally based ministry, utilizing their location on 12 beautiful wooded acres of land that abut the Cape Elizabeth Land Trust green trail system, within a community that values environmental stewardship. This Brave Change grant will enable a day-long planning retreat with environmental studies professor / spiritual director / consultant Dr. Susan MacKenzie, exploring woodlands as a laboratory and metaphor as they transition to this ecology-based ministry.

The Center for Women in Church & Society, Our Lady of the Lake University, San Antonio TX
The Center for Women in Church and Society at Our Lady of the Lake University has initiated a support group called Comadres, to connect Latina graduate students who are mothers. The goal of the group is to engage participants in deep sharing through pláticas (discusssions), communal meal sharing (common-union), and reflejos (reflections) to nurture healing. Rooted in liberation theology, liberatory education, and lo cotidiano (the everyday lived-lives of women), conceptualized by Ada María Isasi-Díaz, a Mujerista liberation theologian from Cuba, Comadrismo is a form of social bonding among women that engages deep friendships among women of color, particularly Latina women. This grant will provide funds or a one-day planning meeting with childcare, transportation, meals, and speakers, as they strive for improved retention of Latina grad students.

The Wild Church Network, Nationwide
The Wild Church Network connects faith leaders who have started “wild churches” in North America, offering support through online and in-person gatherings, resources, and peer-mentoring. These spiritual leaders have made bold moves to launch new expressions of church outside of buildings, to re-acquaint people with the land, creatures, and waters of their own watersheds as sacred; to re-member congregations as loving participants, belonging to a beloved community larger than our own species; and to re-cover an ancient Christian value of deep, reciprocal relationship of transformation with the natural world. This grant will enable the development and launch of a new Welcome Webinar and a series of short videos as they resource new and curious Wild Church planters.

Brooklyn Center for Sacred Activism, Brooklyn NY
The Brooklyn Center for Sacred Activism is a community of people who are dedicated to radical personal and social transformation. Comprised of interfaith / no-faith / spiritual-but-not-religious seekers, they are bound together by a shared commitment to making the world a better place, based on the understanding that working toward wholeness in the world and wholeness in ourselves are inseparable. This Brave Change grant will fund a retreat and consulting services to gain clarity on vision and mission and explore updated structure and financial sustainability.

First Congregational Church, UCC, Waterville ME
First Congregational Church of Waterville, Maine anticipates the impending sale of their church building. If all goes as planned, they will leave their building on or before December 31, 2020. As they envision new opportunities for ministry and engage the many changes that come with the sale of a physical property, they will host a "Music That Makes Community" training, connecting with a worldwide network of practitioners and leaders who share a practice of paperless song leading. This grant will partially fund the training, allowing the congregation to partner with others to teach the practice and to build a repertoire of songs as they live into this new approach to community singing.

Reservoir Church, The Center for Whole Life Flourishing, Cambridge MA
Reservoir Church is developing a brave new initiative called The Center for Whole Life Flourishing, now in the early stages of imagination. The idea is to put two of Reservoir’s buildings, which are highly trafficked on Sundays, to better use Monday-Saturday, animating their campus as a hub of energy, activity, and resource for the flourishing of people in their congregation, neighborhood, and city. This grant will enable a 1-2 day design session with practitioners of emotional, spiritual, mental, and bodily health — therapists, spiritual directors, financial advisors, life coaches, and movement instructors — who might be part of this new Center.

Arise Portland, Portland ME
Arise Portland is a newly emerging faith community engaging young adults, spiritual-but-not-religious types, and members of the LGBTQ community in Portland, Maine, “bringing people together to celebrate and foster wholeness.” Arise Portland is an eclectic group: some are Christian and some are not; many are in their 30s and 40s but some fall well outside that range; more than 75% are queer identified; many are educators, activists, healthcare providers and clergy — and all are seeking a community where they can expand and deepen their spiritual lives. Regrouping and revisioning following a significant leadership transition, Arise Portland's Leadership Team will utilize this grant to initiate a visioning process and coaching with visionary church planter Emily Scott.

Solomon's Porch, Jonesboro AR
Solomon's Porch of Jonesboro, Arkansas is a newly forming progressive church in a sea of conservative evangelicals, primarily comprised of LGBTQ folks and people with disabilities. With funding from this Brave Change grant, Solomon's Porch will send a team of of leaders to Kansas City, MO this October to attend the 1001 New Worshiping Communities National Gathering. They hope this experience will help to clarify and extend their vision and afford valuable connections with other like-minded leaders, as they move forward with their vision to form a drop-in youth center for marginalized adolescents and their peers, purchase a passenger van to assist low-income neighbors with transportation to doctors’ visits and grocery stores, and sponsor Northeast Arkansas’ first Pride celebration.

Echoes Bellingham, Bellingham WA
Echoes has been serving as a "Bellingham church oddity" since 2013, designed specifically for persons who have been marginalized from the Church, or who haven’t felt that they belong within the structures of traditional church. They say, "We seek wholeness, not harm. We want to make a positive difference for all forms of life in Bellingham, following the generous, inclusive patterns of Jesus." With assistance from this grant, Echoes leaders will work with a consultant and seek the training necessary to create a podcast, to extend the reach of their Hamster Church community conversations that interview local leaders, with the goal of advancing compassion, justice and kindness.

Holy Women Icons Project, Hilo HI
The Holy Women Icons Project seeks to empower marginalized women by telling the stories of revolutionary holy women through art, writing, and special events. Through folk-feminist iconography paintings of women from history and mythology — particularly queer and/or women of color — they offer a corrective to the patriarchal and racist white-washing of saints throughout nearly all the world’s spiritual traditions. Through intersectional feminist writing, they help tell the stories of these revolutionary women, offering a corrective to the strategic erasure of their narratives in the canons of the world’s wisdom traditions. Through special events, such as retreats, exhibits, workshops, lectures, and worship services, they provide tangible space for marginalized women to engage with these historical and mythological women in ways that inspire and empower. This Brave Change grant will fund a pilot retreat for marginalized women, including the purchase of art supplies that will be used on an ongoing basis.

Brave Change Resources

Our Brave Change Planning Mini-Grants initiative emerged from our planning for an April 2019 Convocation, "Brave Change: Courageous Churches," and our desire to extend the conversation and learning of that event. We hope that the information below (from the Convocation) may serve to help individuals think about the kinds of ways in which they may be wanting to pursue change in their organizations and communities. Additional information, including links to all recordings from Convocation 2019, “Brave Change: Courageous Churches,” is here.

Change and Human Systems

This 22 minute video with Callid Keefe-Perry and Jenn Macy explores differences between the cultures of stable, declining, and emerging organizations and communities. It discusses some of the challenges and opportunities that are part of organizations as they grow and decline and some of the particular leadership tasks most useful in various dynamics. The main visual from this portion of our day is available by clicking the button below, and a longer version of the video with comments about the goals of the event, some reflection on "bravery," and a Q&A section is here.

Obstacles to (and Marks of) Brave Change

This 39 minute video follows from the above and explores one way of thinking about what brave change might be. Common obstacles to change are looked at in depth and ways to overcome them are considered. A PDF of the handout from this session is available by clicking the button below, and a longer version of the video with a Q&A section is here.