Recognized for excellence in their local communities, two worshiping communities have been named winners of the 2014 Sam and Helen R. Walton Awards.
The winning communities in Texas and South Carolina will each receive $50,000.
Community Fellowship Presbyterian Church in New Braunfels, Texas, became a chartered congregation in the PC(USA) in 2013, baptizing one infant and 21 teens/adults the same year. Community Fellowship began as a new church start in Mission Presbytery in 2008. Now, some 250 participate in weekly discipleship and worship. The average age in the community is 34, and nearly half of the congregation is made of people who were unchurched or had been disillusioned by church. The congregation, located in a historically white town with strong German roots, is nearly 50 percent white/Anglo. The other half includes Mexican Hispanic, African American, Chinese, Japanese, Native American, Eskimo and Colombian members.
The Walton Award will be used to help the church install handicapped-accessible bathrooms to further support its diverse missional outreach.
Launched in 2010, New Faith Presbyterian baptized two adults and 11 children last year. More than 250 people visited New Faith for the first time in 2013, including a woman we’ll call Melissa, who was one of the new believers baptized, along with her 10-year-old daughter. 71-year-old James Wharton was the other adult baptized, alongside his two granddaughters. Wharton — who had never been actively involved or interested in church — had been invited to worship by his wife.
New Faith has been challenged by a lack of adequate space that does not allow it to accommodate more than 150 in weekly worship. The Walton Award will be used to purchase five acres of land where the congregation plans to build a new facility.
The Mission Development Resource Committee selected each community for its excellent work, and the Presbyterian Mission Agency endorsed the committee’s recommendations at its recent board meeting. The Walton Awards were established in 1991 as part of a $6 million gift from the late Sam and Helen R. Walton through the Presbyterian Foundation. This gift included an endowment of $3 million. The earned interest is to be used by outstanding new church starts for site acquisition and capital improvements.