By Megan K. Mertz
A Lutheran school teacher 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 grant from The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) to help cover their expenses amid the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. As of April 30, $321,452 had been distributed in 229 grants to workers across the Synod.
Since 2004, the Soldiers of the Cross program has traditionally 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 assistance grant through their district.
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.
“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 Soldiers of the Cross response. “This is a way that we can help our church workers who are going through a financial hardship.”
The LCMS Minnesota South District has already given out 86 grants to workers, 79 of which went to lay workers at the district’s preschools and day cares. To the money received from the Soldiers of the Cross grants, the district added 20 percent from its own Worker Wellness fund.
“Given our number of early childhood centers and preschool day cares, we anticipated that the greatest immediate need for assistance would be among our lay preschool and day care teachers. Many were furloughed, laid off or had hours greatly reduced because of the pandemic,” said the Rev. Dr. Lucas Woodford, president of the Minnesota South District.
“Recipients express their gratitude, often noting how the aid is a blessing allowing them to pay bills, rent or mortgages, or simply purchase groceries that they would otherwise be scrambling to pay without their normal income,” Woodford continued.
Johnson expects the number of requests to grow substantially in the coming months, as churches and schools make decisions about the future.
“COVID-19 is a temporary niche for Soldiers of the Cross this year, but the program has been around for years,” Johnson said, noting that he hopes the program will be around for many years to come as a way the church can continue to care for those who serve.
To learn more about Soldiers of the Cross or give a gift to support the Synod’s workers, visit lcms.org/soldiers-of-the-cross/COVID-19.
Posted May 1, 2020