GA NEWS: Walton Award winners announced, Four new church developments honored for innovative ministry

SAN JOSE — Four Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) new church developments — two in California and one each in Pennsylvania and Oregon — have been named winners of the 2008 Sam and Helen Walton Awards, it was announced June 21.


Each congregation, selected for its innovative approach to new church ministry, will receive $50,000 to further advance its mission.

The Walton Awards were established in 1991 as part of a $6 million gift from the late Sam and Helen Walton — founders of Wal-Mart — through the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Foundation. Half of the gift created an endowment, the interest on which funds the awards.

Since 1993, there have been 84 Walton Awards totaling $3.3 million presented to exemplary new church developments from nearly 60 presbyteries in all 16 synods.

The 2008 Walton Award recipients:

Sherwood (Ore.) Church, Synod of the Pacific, Cascades Presbytery: The mission of Sherwood Church is to lead unchurched people into Christ-centered community and beyond. The church is in one of the fastest growing cities in the least-churched state in the country. They currently average 170 adults and children in worship.

It is a vital congregation that is sharing the good news through many creative avenues, such as, “Kidz ROCK” for K-5th graders, Bible 101, Agnostics Anonymous, Friendship Sundays, Fall Festival and Concert, eleven small groups led by trained leaders, and support of 57 orphaned AIDS victims in Zambia.

The church will use the award to acquire additional property to serve the estimated 500-600 members they hope to have in attendance in the future.

First United Presbyterian Church of Lackawanna Valley, Olyphant, Pa., Synod of the Trinity, Lackawanna Presbytery: The buildings for First United Presbyterian Church of Peckville and Calvin United Presbyterian Church of Olyphant were both built more than a century ago when the needs of older adults and those with disabilities were not taken into consideration. First United Presbyterian Church of Lackawanna began by accepting a challenge from their members for the two congregations to join together as a new congregation to reach out to those who needed a barrier-free place to worship.

The new site is a former restaurant and is located in the center of the community they serve. The building will provide access for the worshiping community, as well as provide a location for civic and social activities and will also include space for skilled nursing and personal care services in the area. They intend to make the kitchen space available to other non-profit organizations and specifically to Meals on Wheels, which is currently looking for a base of operations.

They will use the Walton Award to adapt the restaurant for worship and meeting space, and for a new sanctuary that will be built on this site in the future.

Nuevo Amanacer Hispanic New Church Development, Bakersfield, Calif., Synod of the Pacific, San Joaquin Presbytery: The declared vision of Nuevo Amanacer is “to reach families and people for Jesus Christ that they may discover the joy of living in communion with God and the necessity of loving ourselves and others.” The congregation applies the teachings of Jesus through programs such as health insurance for children of migrant families and praying for their salvation, their health, their work, their security, and their families.

This congregation has been nesting within Church of Bakersfield since 2001, and members share that they have been blessed with generosity, but they long for a place and identity of their own.

Even though the members have little material wealth, they have managed to raise $6,000 in their capital budget building fund for their dream of a church home to call their own. They have raised these funds through donations, tamale and garage sales, and rededicating their few resources, faithfully believing that Jesus Christ will multiply the loaves once again.

Mission Bay Community Church, San Francisco, Synod of the Pacific, San Francisco Presbytery: Mission Bay Community Church members believe that Presbyterians have a role to play in transforming the lives of the emerging generation. Their mission is to be a community that lives out God’s love and intentions for humanity revealed in Jesus Christ by inviting people to explore a journey with Christ, welcoming those new to the journey, nurturing those on the journey and throughout the journey transforming lives, community and the world.

Their pastor, Bruce Reyes-Chow is an active leader in the community’s organizations, serving labor unions and public schools. (See the article on this Web site on Bruce Reyes-Chow’s election as moderator of this GA.)

Having moved eight times during its seven-year existence, Mission Bay Community Church needs a permanent home. They will use the award to leverage contributions and investments from sister churches and members. A permanent site will enable Mission Bay Community Church to reach maturity as a congregation and ultimately will allow them to fulfill their potential as an exciting and viable model of an urban church in the 21st century.