VALLEY FORGE, PA (ABNS 10/21/21)—Six creative individuals seeking support for six unique visions. That was the scene when the second cohort of American Baptist Home Mission Societies’ (ABHMS) Co-Creators Incubator gathered yesterday at the Leadership and Mission Building in King of Prussia, Pa., for “Demo Day,” where they pitched their ideas to an audience watching via livestream.
“The Home Mission Societies is incredibly excited to invest in the talent and the furtherance of these individuals,” said ABHMS Executive Director Dr. Jeffrey Haggray. “We’re excited because we continue to see our God doing great things in the lives of talented persons.”
Each “missional entrepreneur” was given five minutes to present his or her idea and five minutes to take questions, which online viewers asked via Zoom’s chat function.
“The Co-Creators are equipped to incubate and hatch their ideas into the world,” said the Rev. Lauren Lisa Ng, ABHMS’ director of Leadership Empowerment. “We invite you to support their endeavors.”
Meet the Co-Creators
Monique C. Harrington: Way Club
Way Club is a faith-based club for teenagers in the Philadelphia area. With three current members, limited in part due to the pandemic, Harrington’s goal is to grow the organization to 100 teens over the next three years.
“Way Club is more than a teen center and more than a social club,” said Harrington. “It’s a movement to change the narrative of not only what teenagers are but what they can accomplish.”
Harrington asked for $500,000 to provide a physical location with a lounge, game room and café at which Way Club members could meet for recreational, developmental and spiritual activities.
Dr. Ruth Alerte Jones: Healing Extension Maternal Network
The H.E.M. Network seeks to offer spiritual wellness resources and a network to women who experience pregnancy loss. Having experienced such a loss herself, Jones confessed, “I was angry at God for quite some time as to why he would let my child die.” Noting that 1 in 4 pregnancies ends in miscarriage, she reminded the audience that the healing process varies and that the changes are emotional as well as physical.
Jones asked for $15,000 to build a resource library and a website through which she will connect mothers who often feel isolated in their grief.
Jonathan Malone: Wilderness Journeys
“In our world today, we’re not really living—we’re running from thing to thing, trying to find more power, more money and more likes,” said Malone. “We’re losing our sense of self. We’re burning out and getting angry.” To pause, reconnect and restore a sense of awe, he believes in turning to nature, taking individuals and groups on scheduled or customized trips through Wilderness Journeys.
Through the Incubator program, Malone sought donations and support to make these experiences available to youth and church groups.
Rev. Yolanda M. Norton: Global Arts and Theology Experience (GATE)
Norton’s organization seeks to enlighten Black girls and women, offer positive identity formation and, she says, “create a global network of Black girls who know they are more than an afterthought of creation.” Having successfully established a Beyoncé Mass—a womanist worship service that centers on the experiences of Black women—Norton hopes to now expand her Black Girl Magic Academy, a program for 13–17-year-old girls.
She asked for $750,000 to fund GATE staff and build organizational infrastructure, and to launch five sites for her academy—three in the United States, one in Mozambique and one in Portugal. Norton also sought donations of sneakers, software and laptops to help build a holistic curriculum that would include a physical fitness component and engage participants in a variety of creative media.
Dria Price: Justevia
Justevia makes and sells tea sweetened with stevia, a sugar substitute made from the leaves of the stevia plant, as part of an effort to combat the adverse health effects of consuming too much sugar.
“We’re becoming heavier and we’re lacking energy,” Price says. “Obesity is on the rise, and the pandemic has exacerbated the effects.”
Justevia handles every part of the tea’s processing “from seed to sale.” Local restaurants have featured the teas, she says, which sell for $7 per bag.
Price asked for $8,000 to start a community-staffed agricultural program and to hire an intern. She asked for an additional $50,000 to buy a farm, where she would host groups interested in experiencing farm life.
Seeking to scale up, Price said she wants to start bottling the teas and selling them to restaurants.
Alex Zarecki: Our Common Viscera
Describing a loss/lack of imagination in churches because they’re disconnected from the arts, Zarecki seeks to start a collective in which four artists—visual, lyrical, musical and kinetic—would be videotaped while discussing difficult subjects and creating art twice monthly over five months. The project would include visits by guest mentors, artists and ministers. The ultimate goal would be to create visual podcasts and share them in what he calls “corporate worship spaces.”
About the Co-Creators Incubator
The Co-Creators Incubator is a two-year integrative program for missional entrepreneurs that helps grow ministry ideas into viable ventures with a Christ-centered mission. The Incubator fosters a spirit of collegiality and collaboration amongst a cohort of Co-Creators, while providing them with resources to enhance and grow their ministries. In pursuit of partnership and sustainability, the Co-Creators Incubator engages both the missional entrepreneurs as well as Creative Partners who may invest in the work of Co-Creators via financial or other means. Competitively selected, each Co-Creator received an initial seed grant and the opportunity to meet with the Co-Creator Cohort for two summits within the first year. The program culminates in Demo Day, where participants pitch their ideas.
For more information about the Co-Creators Incubator, including the first cohort, visit abhms.org/ministries/developing-leaders/co-creators-incubator/.
American Baptist Home Mission Societies partners with American Baptists to promote Christian faith, cultivate Christ-centered leaders and disciples, and bring healing and transformation to communities across the United States and Puerto Rico.
American Baptist Churches USA is one of the most diverse Christian denominations today, with approximately 5,000 congregations comprised of 1.3 million members, across the United States and Puerto Rico, all engaged in God’s mission around the world.