Rhems UMC in New Bern is one of seven United Methodist groups that received nearly $98,000 in grants from the General Commission on Religion and Race (GCORR) in 2013. GCORR awarded CCORR Action Fund Grants for UMC projects that support or replicate culturally diverse, relevant and vital congregations; develop culturally competent leadership and ministries; or promote institutional equity.
The $14,650 grant to Rhems is being used to expand the Raising Refugees as Leaders program. This ministry assists non-English speaking refugees who are members of the congregation in obtaining citizenship and learning conversational English in order to become leaders in the church.
Rhems UMC is a multi-cultural, multi-ethnic congregation. Over the past 10 years, refugees from Cambodia, Vietnam, and at least three different states in Burma have worshipped at the church.
“Currently more than half of the people worshipping at Rhems are ethnic Karen and Kareni from Burma,” said Rev. Connie Stutts, church pastor.
Many refugees are interested in learning English but have difficulty finding the time to take classes because of employment obligations. For them to become US citizens, they must have some mastery of the English language.
“We plan to use the grant money to purchase laptop computers and software for self-paced English as a Second Language (ESL) training,” said Rev. Stutts. She pointed out that the church is a safe and familiar environment for learning.
“We are also beginning to assimilate this population into leadership positions in the church. The computer lab will help provide training for leadership in the church and in the community,” said Rev. Stutts.
Plans call for the labs to be open to the general public for basic computer skills and internet usage.
Two conferences, one jurisdiction, one seminary, and three local United Methodist churches received grants to fund their projects over a 12-month period.
Rhems was the only local church in the Southeastern Jurisdiction to be awarded a grant.
GCORR will follow the work of each grant recipient over the next year and provide updates and progress reports via the website, blog and through the creation of case studies.
Reprinted with permission from the North Carolina Conference Christian Advocate (October 2013). Want to subscribe to the Advocate? Subscribe today and stay informed about the North Carolina Conference of The United Methodist Church.