- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 23, 2021

Three D.C. churches, including the District’s oldest Black congregation, have won six figures in grant funds for preserving their buildings.

The Lilly Endowment Inc., an Indiana-based charitable foundation, announced the grants Thursday for the Washington National Cathedral, St. John’s Episcopal Church and Mount Zion United Methodist Church, the oldest Black church in the District.

The Lilly Endowment said it was providing more than $2 million for 15 U.S. churches — including the three D.C. churches — as part of the National Fund for Sacred Places, a grant program for preserving houses of worship.

Mount Zion, organized 205 years ago and located in Georgetown, will receive $100,000 from the fund.

“I’m just very very thankful to the National Fund, and just excited to be a part of this program,” said Mount Zion’s pastor, the Rev. Selena Johnson, who noted that the announcement came on her birthday. “I’m very grateful to all the team members who have put in so much work and are excited about the whole process.”

Mount Zion hopes to raise a total of $200,000 for this phase of its renovation project, titled “A Safer, Greener Space,” Ms. Johnson said. The project includes fixing safety railings for the balcony, repairing the balcony and choir loft floors, and refurbishing the building’s rear steps.

“We’re trying to make things more energy efficient, and then look at the places where things are hazards and dangerous,” Ms. Johnson said.

The grant will cover half the project’s costs, and Mount Zion will raise the other half, working with a fundraising consultant and volunteers among the congregation.

Kevin Eckstrom, a spokesman for the Washington National Cathedral, said the Episcopal church will receive $250,000 from the grant program.

That money “will be paired with a $500,000 match that will be raised by the Cathedral,” Mr. Eckstrom said in an email. “All funds will go to ongoing earthquake repair. This particular grant will go toward work along the south side of the Cathedral nave (the long stretch that faces the city). In particular, it will be used to repair a tall buttress that is directly above a handicapped-accessible entrance. That entrance has been mostly off-limits since the earthquake, and this repair will allow us to re-open to visitors and parishioners who need ADA [disability] access.”

St. John’s Episcopal Church, located in Lafayette Square, suffered arson damage last year amid protests against police brutality and racial injustice that became violent. The church will receive $100,000 of a $150,000 request to help restore its historic bell tower.

Other grant recipients include: 

• Amana Church Society, Middle Amana, Iowa

• Arch Street United Methodist Church, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

• Calvary United Methodist Church, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

• First Christian Church, Columbus, Indiana

• First Indian Presbyterian Church, Kamiah, Idaho

• First Presbyterian Church of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

• Grace Episcopal Church, Newton Corner, Massachusetts

• Let Freedom Ring Foundation/First Baptist Church, Williamsburg, Virginia

• Sacred Heart Parish, El Paso, Texas

• St. Stephen United Methodist Church, Mesquite, Texas 

• St. Ann & the Holy Trinity Church, Brooklyn, New York 

• Tabernacle Baptist Church, Beaufort, South Carolina

• Mark A. Kellner can be reached at mkellner@washingtontimes.com.

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