By Neva Rae Fox

Recognizing that the pandemic affects all people in all places, the Fund for the Diaconate is stepping up with emergency grants for Episcopal Church deacons. In a ground-breaking move, the Fund has created a special Emergency Grant Program to aid deacons affected by the Covid-19.

“This is the first new grant program we have created,” said fund president the Rev. W. Keith McCoy.  “For more than 90 years, we have only given out grants to support aged and infirm deacons who were in financial need. But we have been reconsidering our mission and our resources lately, and the board agreed that this was a special time and that we had the resources to do something.”

McCoy added that the pandemic jump-started the new initiative. “In 2014, the Fund board went on a two-day planning retreat, and developed a 10-year road map.  Our ultimate goal was to become more engaged with, and to do more for, the TEC deacon community. The first few years were about infrastructure (revised bylaws and incorporation, new IRS status, new staff and board leadership, new branding, and website, etc.).  Lately, our discussions have turned to ‘how can we help deacons beyond our current grants?’  And then the pandemic hit – and we knew what we could do.”

The grants are designed for all deacons in good standing in the Episcopal Church — vocational deacons as well as deacons transitioning to the priesthood — who have been laid off, furloughed, or otherwise had their employment hours cut back or eliminated. McCoy reported that, as of last August, deacons number 3,100 in the Church, with half 72 years old or older.

The Rev. Theresa Lewallen, grants administrator, said the application process for the emergency grant is simplified.  “When we add a deacon to our list of grantees, it’s for on-going monthly support usually, which ends when the person dies,” she said. “This new grant is to help deacons who may be going through a difficult stretch.  For that reason, we simplified the application process, so we can get help to people faster.”

Grants will cover the time-period of March 1, 2020 to September 30, 2020. Application deadline is October 15. Grants of $525 per month will be made for a three-month period, with each grant being reviewed monthly. Grants may be renewable, upon provision of updated documentation. Only the initial application will be required. Recommendations and/or approvals from the deacon’s priest or bishop are not needed for this grant. Also, the grants are unrestricted and can be used at the recipient’s discretion.

Looking to the future, McCoy said this offering, which is scheduled to end in September, will be reviewed by the Fund board at its October meeting for continuation if the economy has not recovered sufficiently by then.

McCoy said this innovative move aligns with the mission of the fund. “Our mission is to be a channel of God’s grace by enabling the financial well-being of deacons — one person at a time,” he stated.

The Fund for the Diaconate was created in 1927 as “The Retiring Fund for Deaconesses in the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America.”  While originally created as a pension fund for deaconesses, the fund has since evolved into a support system for any deacon in the Episcopal Church who does not have sufficient financial support for living expenses.

The application and more information is accessible at the Fund’s website at www.fundfordiaconate.org. McCoy is available at president@fundfordiaconate.org

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