From Taos UCC:
Dear Rev. Bill Lyons and Friends in the Southwest Conference,
Thank you for your second quarterly installment of our New Church Start Matching Funds Grant. Your very generous grant is helping us build a progressive, social-justice-oriented community of faith in Taos, NM. Our mission is simple: A Just World for All. Together we believe another world is possible, and somehow, in God, it is already here. Your grant will be used to support a community that works to create a healthy, more just world, through our work in climate justice, economic justice, and immigration justice.
Here is a brief update on what we’ve been doing:
September Celebration Service: Immigration Justice Sunday
Our community collected new clothing, shoes, and backpacks for over 50 men being deported from Stewart Detention Center in Georgia. Our friends from United Church of Angel Fire, NM, joined us in solidarity by donating a carload of clothing. Twenty-one people joined us for our Sunday Service.
October Celebration Service: Earth Justice Sunday
Author and Mennonite Minister for Earth Justice, Todd Wynward, spoke about ways we can work to make a better planet for all people. The community was invited to join in several Earth Justice events. The next, “We’re Still In,” is a Taos community-wide event to celebrate what local government, our electric co-op, and individual Taosenos are doing to recommit to the Paris Climate Accords. Twenty-six people joined us for our Sunday Service.
November Celebration Service: Desert Spiritual Practices in a Time of Weirdness
Our service focused on what we can learn from the desert mystics of ancient Israel, Christianity, and Islam in order to heal and align our hearts so that we can serve the Sacred in the world. Thirty-one people joined us for the Sunday Service.
In addition to our Sunday Celebration Services, we have a weekly Wednesday evening bible study, A Contemplative Encounter with The Sermon on the Mount. Our attendance is ranging from 7-14.
In addition to providing these weekly and monthly opportunities for a worshiping community, we have been busy working on our 501(c)(3) application with the IRS and with creating the governance and organizational and financial structures our church needs to grow and be healthy. Our small Leadership Council, a volunteer CPA, and two volunteer lawyers are helping us create healthy systems that will serve this faith community in the years to come.
On the good news side of our finances, we have raised over $20,000 locally, and we have received a $9,000 per year three-year commitment from the UCC Pension Board to cover the cost of the pastor’s benefits and pension. This is a relief to me personally, and brings us closer to our projected first-year budget.
We sent out a fundraising letter to all SWC-UCC churches, asking for their help as a one-time gift during our launch year. Four churches responded:
• First Congregational UCC-Albuquerque $1,000
• United Church of Sun City $500
• Rincon Congregational UCC $500
• United Churches Fellowship-Nogales $200
We are especially grateful for their solidarity and support.
The good news is we are growing. But our low-cost, welcoming meeting space can only seat about 45 people, so we are already looking for a larger space. Of course we are grateful for such a high-quality problem.
We were disappointed not to receive a grant from the national UCC New Church Start Fund. As we applied for a matching grant of $40,000 over two years, this was a big disappointment. But we are being thrifty with the money we have and believe we are in good enough shape as we figure out next steps and try to find other grant possibilities.
Our church launch plan estimate is that in three to five years we will be a fully self-supporting congregation. Between now and then we will continue to look for, and ask for, help from outside of Taos. The SWC-UCC’s early and generous commitment of a $10,000 start-up grant, followed by a matching fund grant of $20,000 per year for three years, has given us a strong foundation on which to build.
Thank you again for your support. Without the incredible generosity of the Southwest Conference none of this would be possible. We invite each of you to come and see what you and all our friends in the Southwest Conference are helping to create.
Yours on the Journey,
Rev. Pamela Shepherd