The Center for the Study of Religion and the City in Baltimore recently teamed up with the Plantation Park Heights Urban Farm team to build an outdoor kitchen. The effort is just one example of how an ongoing Henry Luce Foundation program is supporting religious groups and non-profits eager to address COVID-19 challenges.

Early on in the pandemic, the Luce Foundation focused on providing aid to long-time partners and their communities. The Foundation’s Religion and Theology Program more recently selected a number of grantees whose work engages and supports at risk communities. 

The program supported over 130 local organizations across the U.S. and has two core pieces. Firstly, is offers direct support to community-based partners responding to the pandemic. And secondly, officials back efforts to document the experiences of the communities they assist.

One example is the Borderlands Institute, which is housed at Brite Divinity School in Fort Worth, Texas.  Bright distributed grant funds to established nonprofits and religious organizations that serve immigrant communities alongside both sides of the U.S. and Mexico border. 

“These individuals were at greater risk of infection of COVID-19, and thus, losing their jobs and in many cases being detained in or deported out of the country while possible carrying the virus,” said Dr. Francisco Lozada, director of the Borderlands Institute. 

The Public Religion Research Institute provided a space and framework for program grantees to share best practices and discuss the challenges they encountered. 

In terms of bringing awareness, the Center for the Study of Religion and Conflict at Arizona State University supported partnerships between media mentors and journalism students who lost internships and jobs as the economy shut down. Together, they raised the public profile of communities whose stories aren’t often told in the press, such as agricultural workers, Native Americans, incarcerated individuals and migrants. The group created a multi-media archive that documents the impact of COVID-19.

According to Robert Jones, CEO of the Public Religion Research Institute, the emergency grants helped laid the groundwork for a new ‘Religion and Renewing Democracy Initiative’ that is supported by the Henry Luce Foundation and The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. 

Susan Barreto
Susan Barreto

Susan is an author with a long-time interest in religion and science. She currently edits Covalence, the Lutheran Alliance for Faith, Science and Technology’s online magazine. She has written articles in The Lutheran and the Zygon Center for Religion and Science newsletter. Susan is a board member for the Center for Advanced Study of Religion and Science, the supporting organization for the Zygon Center and the Zygon Journal. She also co-wrote Our Bodies Are Selves with Dr. Philip Hefner and Dr. Ann Pederson.

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