The Episcopal Diocese of the Central Gulf Coast has been awarded its 25th grant from United Thank Offering. The grant of $30,000 has been awarded to the Pensacola Area Interfaith Justice Ministry. This project is an ecumenical ministry that will bring together 10 faith traditions to tackle community problems such as affordable housing, failing schools and the criminalization of childhood. The UTO grant provides salary for a lead organizer. The lead organizer will help train members of the 20 member congregations to become effective at living out what God requires of us: the biblical mandate of Micah 6:8 “to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God.”
Pensacola area Episcopal churches are providing a large amount of support to this new organization and 25% of the board is comprised of leaders from those 20 congregations. The co-presidents are the Rev. Michael Hoffman (Christ Episcopal Church) and the Rev. Clifton Riley (Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church). “Churches spend a lot of effort helping people in need, but very little on addressing the causes of those needs. A justice ministry brings people together to make our community look more like the Kingdom of God,” says Rev. Michael Hoffman of Christ Church, Pensacola. Pastor CIifton Riley of Bethel AME Church shared, “I am excited about what God is already doing and what he is going to do through the Pensacola Interfaith Justice Ministry. Our congregations individually engage in mercy ministry and we love God. Pastors and leaders of different faiths are uniting to do Justice Ministry for all people. The results of us uniting and fellowshipping will impact the Kingdom of God. I am grateful for the financial assistance from UTO. God’s grace and provisions are supported of our vision for Pensacola Interfaith Justice Ministry. We are planning our work and working our plan.”
The focus for the UTO grants this year was: Go: crossing boundaries created by race, culture and economics to create communities that listen deeply and learn to live like Jesus. This new community project in Pensacola exemplifies the focus which comes from the Way of Love initiative presented by Presiding Bishop Curry in Austin last year.
This new Justice Ministry Organization will provide a way for congregations in the Pensacola area to come together and witness to the love, justice, and truth of God, successfully transforming unjust structures as part of God’s healing and reconciling mission. While congregations do reasonably well in showing mercy to individual victims of injustice through charitable ministries, they fail at doing justice because it requires power to hold large systems accountable. The 20 congregations currently committed have the potential to send 4,021 people into the world witnessing to the power of God’s love and potential for accomplishing God’s dream - and that’s good news for those who have been marginalized in the Pensacola area and all of us!
The United Thank Offering is a ministry of The Episcopal Church for the mission of the whole church. Through UTO, individuals are invited to embrace and deepen a personal daily spiritual discipline of gratitude. UTO encourages people to notice the good things that happen each day, give thanks to God for those blessings and make an offering for each blessing using a UTO Blue Box. UTO is entrusted to receive the offerings, and to distribute the 100% of what is collected to support innovative mission and ministry throughout The Episcopal Church and provinces of the Anglican Communion.
I am truly excited to see how the people of Pensacola will cross boundaries and come together to serve their neighbors. Congratulations, our prayers are with you!
CGC Diocesan UTO Co-Coordiantor
UTO Vice President