Assisting Church Workers Impacted by the Pandemic

Across the Synod, 334 workers had received a Soldiers of the Cross—Amplified grant as of May 31, 2020.

A teacher at a Lutheran school who was unexpectedly furloughed. A school secretary struggling to afford groceries now that the office is closed. A pastor who can’t quite make the mortgage payment this month.

These are a few examples of the ordained, commissioned and lay church workers who could receive a special Soldiers of the Cross—Amplified grant from The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) to help cover their expenses amid the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. As of May 31, $492,402 had been distributed in 334 grants to workers across the Synod.

Since 2004, the Soldiers of the Cross program has delivered emergency financial support and pastoral care to rostered professional church workers in crisis. In early April, as churches and schools across the country were shutting down to help stem the spread of the coronavirus, the program’s scope was expanded. Now any employee of an LCMS church, school, Recognized Service Organization or institution can request a one-time Soldiers grant through their district.

A pastor in Florida who received a grant shared the impact it had on his life: “With the funds from Soldiers of the Cross, we were able to pay for our mortgage and utilities for a month, which took some of the stress off me [and allowed me] to regroup and focus on productive measures to sustain our ministry … . Thank you again for your support.”

Initially, $2.5 million was earmarked for this COVID-19 response — $1 million from Lutheran Church Extension Fund and $1.5 million from the LCMS, pulled from contributions previously given for Soldiers of the Cross, LCMS World Relief and Human Care, and LCMS Disaster Response.

The LCMS also is encouraging ongoing donations to help even more workers. Through the end of May, God’s people have already responded to that call by providing $400,000 in additional funding for more grants, with another $438,570 to coordinate “after care” services likely to be needed by exhausted LCMS clergy when the pandemic is over.

In addition, some districts are underwriting at least 20 percent of each grant given to its workers. For example, the Minnesota South District is drawing from its Worker Wellness fund to supplement the grants — many of which have gone to its preschool and day care teachers, who have been among those hit hardest by furloughs and layoffs.

“In this tumultuous time that we’re going through as a country, we’re also seeing that affecting our church workers in very tangible, financial ways,” said the Rev. Dr. Ross Johnson, director of LCMS Disaster Response, who is currently overseeing the grant program. “This is a way that we can help our church workers who are going through a financial hardship.”

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Megan K. Mertz

Managing editor of Lutherans Engage the World and chief copy editor for LCMS Communications.

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