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Grant Allowed Church to Move Forward while Distanced

By Polly House

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Bowling was a favorite night-out activity for students from United University Church before social distancing moved most of the activities to Zoom.

As their neighborhood changed, so did United University Church in Los Angeles. As the church changed, the way it did ministry had to change too.

To help meet the costs of the new ministries UUC wanted to create, they needed additional funds.

Rev. Dr. Sunny Kang, UUC pastor, was not familiar with the grants available from Discipleship Ministries, but when West District Superintendent Mark Nakagawa made him aware of the possibility, Rev. Kang was quick to apply. The church was awarded $5,400.

UUC, a bilingual union congregation related to The United Methodist Church and The Presbyterian Church (USA), is located on the edge of the University of Southern California’s campus.

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United University is committed to being a welcoming, affirming congregation to the LGBTQI+ community, even having that commitment reflected in its church logo.

UUC is proud to be an affirming congregation for the LGBTQI+ community on the USC campus. Rev. Kang is the group’s sponsor. Over the fall semester, the church hosted game and movie nights for the students. Some of them attended the church’s services. The church made plans for ministering to the students when they returned in January.

“When we heard about the coronavirus in China, we saw the handwriting on the wall,” Rev. Kang said. “We knew our plans would have to change quickly.

“In March we started using Zoom with our campus ministry and our church,” he said. “We were determined to deepen our relationships, and we made sure we had contact info for all the students.

“In the LA area, large gatherings are not anticipated to be allowed until 2021,” Rev. Kang said. “That is true even if schools go back into session. Therefore, we foresee this to be the new normal for a while.”

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As part of its commitment to the LGBTQI+ community, they hosted a church-sponsored a movie night via Zoom, showing ‘Born to Be’, a film following the transgender and non-conforming patients who are making medical history.

The ministry will focus on maintaining relationships through virtual means and phone calls, as well as a new handwritten letter campaign to encourage human touch in the virtual world. The gatherings will focus on Zoom seminars on topics such as interfaith dialogue, LGBTQI+ affirmation, and spirituality in the virtual world.

“Funds from the grant have helped us pay part of the stipend for a student worker to help us upgrade our technology so we can stay current in our communication options. This has been a tremendous help,” he said.

UUC received a Grant for Ministries with Young People, funded by Discipleship Ministries. These grants fund innovative, creative ministries for, by, and with young people that can serve as model programs for other organizations throughout the UMC.

Grant applications are currently being accepted, and are due July 1. The value of the grants is up to $15,000.

To learn more and apply, go to the Grants and Scholarship page on the Discipleship Ministries website.

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