Beauty For Ashes in Florida

A popular worship song praises God for making “beautiful things out of the dust,” referencing Isaiah 61 verse 3: “to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes.”

Perhaps that’s what God is doing in Classis Southeast United States, where new seeds are sprouting from the remnants of long-closed churches.

Decades ago, dwindling attendance compelled two Florida Christian Reformed churches—one in Boca Raton and another in Jacksonville—to permanently close their doors. The buildings were sold and the money invested. Now a remaining fund of about $400,000 is being used to inspire young churches to start something new.

This past January, Classis Southeast U.S. (a regional group of CRC churches) awarded “mini-grants” of $500 to $3,000 to some of its member congregations. All recipients but one are in Florida. This was the third round of grants the classis has awarded in recent years.

“We give the mini-grants to encourage the churches that we are behind them,” said Stan Workman, a retired pastor who coordinates the grants. “Most churches talk about what they would do if they had the money,” Workman said. “We’re saying, ‘Here’s the money; now show us some action!”

Workman himself spent his career working to help plant churches in central and southern Florida. He mentored interns who now pastor their own churches including congregations that worship in Spanish, Creole, and Korean. Those churches are among those now receiving these mini-grants.

Haitian CRC in Orlando is using its award of $3,000 to directly assist struggling Haitian immigrants with their needs. “They have immigrants showing up at their doorstep, and they need help,” Workman explained.

South Kendall CRC in Miami is directing its $3,000 grant toward evangelism. The funds will pay for training events, a visitation team, small group materials, and a media team.

Sunlight Grace Church in Orlando (one of several connected congregations under “Sunlight Ministries”) received $3,000, which will be used for evangelism programs including sports camps and Korean culture camps for children and cooking classes for adults.

From the archives: Korean Culture Shines at Orlando Church (Feb. 23, 2024)

Sunlight Community CRC in Miami designated its $1,500 toward its women’s ministry. Monthly meetings, materials, and food have been covered thanks to the grant, said Lourdes Garcia, who leads the Spanish-speaking ministry. “We’re very grateful for the classis support,” said Garcia.

Other churches that received the grants included Terra Ceia CRC in Pantego, N.C., and Sunlight Community Church Lake Worth (Fla.).

“We are encouraged to see that these churches are trying some new things,” said Workman. “Creativity is the No. 1 thing we’re looking for, and we’ll approve pretty much anything.”

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