2020 was the biggest year ever for JoinHands, the program of Mennonite Men that provides grants to help new congregations acquire their first church building.
Grants totaling $170,000 went to five churches. All are racial-ethnic congregations serving African, Chin, Haitian and Hispanic communities.
One is African Community Church of Lancaster, which received $40,000 for its new church building in Manheim, Pa.
After renting space from other churches for several years, members recognized a need for their own space so that they could hold longer worship services, host prayer meetings and have more space for children and youth activities.
The grant enables the congregation — a member of Mennonite Church USA’s Atlantic Coast Conference — to make improvements to its property and furnish some of the rooms.
While members are taking precautions due to the pandemic, having their own space allows them to expand their congregational ministries and outreach to the community.
The congregation is made up mostly of members with roots in Eastern and Southern Africa, including Kenya, Nigeria, Tanzania, Uganda and Zimbabwe. They hold an annual summer event inviting neighbors to share African food with them. Members are exploring ways to do a safe, socially distanced version of the event this summer.
African Community Church holds a yearly conference to evangelize and make disciples, which members are looking forward to hosting at their new building.
Mennonite congregations no more than 10 years old and looking to acquire their first building can find out more about the JoinHands program at mennonitemen.org/joinhands or by contacting Mennonite Men at firstname.lastname@example.org.