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The Department of Evangelization of the Orthodox Church in America announces the 2023 Mission Planting Grant recipients:
Saint Ambrose of Milan Mission in Roanoke, VA is awarded a first-year grant of $40,000. A rebooted mission which was originally established in 1979, the Orthodox community is on track to grow by 75% through the duration of the program. Located in the Blue Ridge Mountains of southwest Virginia, the area has seen steady population and job growth. Father Jeremy McKemy is the priest-in-charge of the mission located in the Appalachian Deanery of the Diocese of the South.
Archangel Gabriel Mission in Hickory, NC is awarded a first-year grant of $40,000. Located in the rapidly growing area near both Charlotte and Greensboro, the growing mission established in 2014 is seeking to purchase property in the near future for a permanent home. Father Paul Schellbach is the priest-in-charge of the mission within the Carolina Deanery of the Diocese of the South.
Saint John the Merciful Mission in Kissimmee, FL is awarded a third-year matching grant of $16,000. Established in 2018, the city of Kissimmee is poised to see unprecedented growth over the next decade.
Archangel Gabriel Mission in Azle, TX is awarded a third-year matching grant of $16,000. Established in 2019, Azle is one of the fastest-growing cities in the Greater Fort Worth TX area and the job growth rate is projected to be 40% within the next ten years.
This year, the Metropolitan Council, with the blessing of the Holy Synod of Bishops, established new grant amounts, raising the first-year grant amount to $40,000, the second-year grant to $32,000, and the third-year grant to $24,000. The increase gave consideration to the updated OCA Clergy Salary Guidelines, rising inflation since 2010, and the rising cost of healthcare. However, 2023’s third-year grant recipients will continue with the previous award amounts.
“Each mission must submit to a rigorous application and review process as well as ongoing support provided by the Department of Evangelization. To make the evaluation process as objective as possible, missions are evaluated in the areas of geographic factors, evangelistic outreach efforts, vision, projected growth, the vibrancy of their liturgical, educational, and social life, leadership, and need. Our goal is to ensure that missions are actively reaching out to all those who are seeking Christ in the Orthodox Christian Church.” said Archpriest Thomas Soroka, Project Manager for the Orthodox Church in America.
Grant applications are reviewed and approved by each mission’s respective diocesan bishop before they are submitted. After a review by the Department, recommendations for qualified missions are submitted first to the Metropolitan Council and then to the Holy Synod of Bishops for final approval. The Metropolitan Council approved these grants during a special meeting on February 3, 2023, and the Holy Synod confirmed this decision soon after. The grant money must be used solely to assist in providing a salary for a full-time resident priest and must be matched by the qualifying mission, deanery, or diocese. Grants may be renewed for a maximum of three years. Over $1,000,000 in Church Planting Grants has been awarded to missions since the program was initiated two decades ago
Archpriest Alexander Rentel, Chancellor of the Orthodox Church in America, stated, “This year we were presented with several outstanding candidates for consideration. The Metropolitan Council wanted to affirm the commitment of the Orthodox Church in America to broad mission work bringing the fullness of gospel of Christ to this land. We encourage the faithful to continue to give prayerful financial support to programs like the Mission Planting Grant through the Stewards of the Orthodox Church in America. Additionally, we are deeply grateful for a generous anonymous gift which supports the overall goals of this program.”
The generous gifts of Stewards of the OCA fund the development of programs and resources to assist parishes, missions, and faithful thrive in effective ministry. Consider becoming a Steward today!