Two churches have received the first matching grants from the Van Sickle Small Rural Church Fund.
With a vision to revitalize small rural churches, the Fund was established in 2012. The Oklahoma United Methodist Foundation worked with Marjorie Van Sickle to create this fund that will live out her love for the small rural church.
Under the Fund’s provisions, small rural churches can seek grants either for ministry projects that will help revitalize their congregations or for capital projects. The church is required to provide an equal amount of money for the project if it is for capital improvements.
More than 10 applications were submitted in the initial grant year. For the selection process, the Foundation worked with the Oklahoma Conference Board of Laity, the bishop, and district superintendents.
Grants totaling $5,000 were awarded to Fairfax and Bethany United Methodist Churches.
Fairfax UMC is in the Stillwater District. In a facility built in the 1920s, the original electrical system was outdated, unreliable, and not functioning in some areas of the building. In addition, the ceiling lights and fans, also from that time period, were unsafe to use. The Van Sickle grant will be used for much-needed electrical repairs to ensure outlets and lighting are safe and reliable.
The second church to receive a grant, Bethany UMC in Enid, is located in the poorest section of that city. The church, with an average worship attendance of 40 people, feeds 500 families a month through its pantry program. But the building experienced substantial water damage, which highly limited its ministries. They desperately needed repairs to sustain the food pantry and maintain worship services. This small church celebrates the food pantry program and the opportunity to serve its neighbors even more because of the facility improvements that the Van Sickle grant will make possible.
"Through our work at the Foundation, we have the honor of providing ways for donors to live out or support their passions in ministry," said David Battles, executive vice president of the Foundation. "We also celebrate the ministry made possible because of these grants."
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