Lifting up stories from across the state is critical to building connections, forging a stronger congregational community, and helping others grow. Has Center for Congregations helped you navigate a challenge or opportunity? Please share your story with us.
In the inner city of Fort Wayne, Indiana, stands a small, peach-colored building with a long history. This building, which once was a community center, is now home to Emmanuel Apostolic Church (EAC), a predominantly African American congregation with a strongly held belief in “divine design.” EAC functions under the leadership of Senior Pastor Elder DeMarkus Pennington and Teaching Pastor Faye Pennington, who are the second generation to lead the ministry.
“Elder DeMarkus’ grandfather used to be the pastor of our church,” explains Dr. Lakeya Stewart, volunteer Executive Pastor at EAC and Assistant Professor of Pastoral Counseling at Indiana Wesleyan University. “He paid off the property many years ago. So, we don’t have a mortgage, but it’s an old building.”
After lights began to randomly cut off in their sanctuary during service, and rain began to drip through the cracks in their ceilings and floors, EAC knew it was time to give their beloved building a face-lift. After all, their multi-purpose room had become too run down to use, requiring that Sunday School be run out of Pastor DeMarkus’ office. The congregation needed a change. However, there was only one problem: EAC did not have the funds they needed for reconstruction.
“We had some contractors come in and look at all of the work that needed to be done,” says Lakeya. “We didn’t have the money to pay for it. We were like, ‘Wait a minute. What are we going to do?’ That’s when we reached out to the Center for Congregations.”
EAC applied for and received a Center for Congregations equity grant. This grant, which is designed to serve congregations impacted by systemic injustice or inequality, provided EAC with funds for new electrical work and the renovation of their multi-purpose room. The Center for Congregations resource consultants helped connect the church with a contractor in the area.
“It was so nice to be able to have the space done properly by a contractor,” says Lakeya. “We got it done right and we anticipate the updated spaces are going to be used for many years to come.”
Not only did this grant help to repair the infrastructure of the church, but it encouraged the congregation to come together. Members of the church organized an “Emmanuel Apostolic Church” t-shirt sale to help raise a portion of their grant. To this day, you’ll find children and adults alike wearing their t-shirts around with pride!
“The grant relieved a big financial burden, but it also allowed us to encourage the families to give as they could,” says Lakeya. “People showed up and supported. They knew the end result was going to be great.”
Now that their building has been updated, EAC has seen an influx of parents bringing their children to church. The newly renovated multi-purpose room allows more space for Sunday School students to gather. The new room has also been a great place for hosting leadership meetings and community dinners.
“People are just so excited that we have this new space,” says Lakeya. “It’s provided a space for collaboration, and you can really see our Sunday School grow. While we still have work to do, this grant has really helped us to make our space safe and usable again. It’s been phenomenal!”
EAC hopes their story will inspire other congregations to seek help when they need it. They encourage congregational leaders not to let pride stop them from seeking resources or getting the assistance they need.
“I believe knowledge is power,” says Lakeya. “That’s why I’ve been telling everyone I can about this grant. If you don’t know, you can’t apply, right? Well, I say if the resources are there, why not apply for them? That’s what organizations like the Center for Congregations are there for.”