In the months since the coronavirus pandemic began imposing restrictions on churches, affecting everything from how they conduct worship services to how they meet their financial obligations, the Virginia Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) has been offering special pandemic-related assistance. The Synod, which has offices in Norfolk and Salem, and which represents some 145 ELCA congregations, has been producing congregational resources ranging from tutorials on conducting virtual worship services to grants enabling ministry programs to continue.
In late May, the Synod announced its Daily Bread Matching Grant challenge, through which it would offer a $250 grant to 20 ELCA congregations for support of local feeding ministries. Congregations that wished to participate would have to submit an online application, stating how they would use the money. Then, if selected by the Synod, congregations would have about a month to raise their own $250.
Living Water Lutheran Church in Kilmarnock, a congregation with about 35 active members, decided to apply for the challenge grant in order to help the Healthy Harvest Food Bank in Warsaw. For years, the congregation has collected non-perishable food items at Sunday worship services, and delivered the items on a monthly basis to the Food Bank. However, when in-person worship services stopped suddenly in mid-March, the collection of food items came to a halt. Yet with the unemployment and business losses brought about by the COVID-19 crisis, the number of local people turning to the Food Bank for assistance was increasing.
Then the Synod announced the Daily Bread Matching Grant. The church’s Treasurer, Cathy Heacock, Financial Secretary, Frank Richard, and Outreach Committee Chairperson, Nancy Mower, realized Living Water could continue to support the Food Bank through a monetary contribution.
The leaders applied for the grant, and the church was selected by the Synod to be one of the 20 challenge grant recipients. The congregation was notified, and within days—far in advance of the Synod’s deadline for raising funds—congregants had donated several hundred dollars more than the required minimum of $250.
With time remaining in the fund-raising period, the church leaders decided to issue their own challenge to the congregation. They wanted to be able to give a check for $1,000, rather than $500, to the Food Bank, and so would need contributions from the congregation totaling $750. The response from the congregation again was swift, and the requested additional funds were pledged.
Combining the Synod funds with congregational donations, Living Water Lutheran Church was able to send a check for $1,000 to the Healthy Harvest Food Bank.