McCormick Theological Seminary and the Center for Innovative Ministry are pleased to announce the winning entries of the 2017 McCormick Prize for Innovation. The Annual Prize recognizes “impactful use of innovation in ministry,” and this year will award $7,000 in prizes to the winners.
“The quality of this year’s entries was very strong,” said Center for Innovative Ministry Director Dr. Thomas Dickelman. “We received entries from throughout the country reflecting a wide range of ministries. In most cases, the innovations began with a single idea that ultimately had multiple impacts. Choosing three winners from among all the outstanding entries was a sizeable challenge.”
The First Prize of $5,000 is awarded to St. Mark Lutheran Church in Lacey, Washington, led by Pastors Eric and Beth Utto-Galarneau. In 2016, the North Thurston Public Schools had nearly 800 homeless children, with at least one homeless child in virtually every classroom. When the church went to the schools to see how they could help, they were told the greatest need beside housing was clean clothes. Students with dirty clothes were bullied, embarrassed, suffered from low self-esteem, and don’t want to go to school. The St. Mark innovation was creating a free laundry facility by converting a Sunday School classroom in their church for local homeless families. The laundry also includes a food pantry, and during harvest, guests receive fresh produce from the church’s organic garden. Additionally, St, Mark is actively working to address the larger issue – housing – with plans to build 5 tiny houses on church property for unaccompanied, homeless female teens. “We applaud Co-Pastors Pastors Eric and Beth Utto-Galarneau for their dynamic leadership, and the creative use of church resources to positively impact homeless children,” offered Dickelman.
The Second Prize of $1,500 goes to Steel Lake Presbyterian Church in Federal Way, Washington where Rev. Dr. Will Mason is the minister. “Steel Lake is an example of how innovation is ultimately about solving problems and creating opportunities,” Dickelman said. The leaders of the church did a thoughtful assessment of their congregation and community, and felt called to dramatically change their ministry from an inward to an outward focus. They made multiple courageous decisions, including right-sizing by selling their campus and targeting ministry to the rapidly-growing local senior segment by partnering with numerous care facilities in their community.
The Third Prize winner of $500 goes to Lincoln Park Presbyterian Church in Chicago, Illinois. After many years of declining membership and community impact, in 2016 the church adopted “The Compassion Project” as its future vision. “Lincoln Park led by the Rev. Dr. Beth Brown is yet another example of a church that focuses on serving others outside it doors, and in the process, comes alive itself,” Dickelman offered. “The range of innovative programs they are developing is significant, from creating a way to engage people of all faiths and no faith in addressing some of the critical justice issues of our time, to developing a mechanism to generate ongoing income.”
Two additional ministries were recognized, receiving Honorable Mention. ROC SALT Center (Rev. Dr. John Wilkinson) is a collaborative ministry that serves people in a high-poverty Rochester, New York neighborhood and invites mission groups to be transformed spiritually as they serve in the community. The Joyful Feast (Rev. Dr. John Vest) in Richmond, Virginia uses meals to allow people to reconnect with each other, with the natural world, and with the divine. Both ROC SALT and The Joyful Feast are relatively new, innovative ministries, and show great promise to have powerful impact in their communities.