August 15, 2018 by Melissa Rau

This month we offer five resources to help your congregation with leadership. Please share this digest with new members of your vestry and extend an invitation to subscribe to ECF Vital Practices to receive Vestry Papers and the monthly digest.

1. In Leadership and Learning, Jeremiah Sierra reveals how leaders will often learn new things about their personality and behavior while in positions of leadership. The best leaders are those who are open to learn and grow themselves. What are you learning about yourself while you lead?

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Topics: Leadership
August 10, 2018 by Alan Bentrup

There is a recent surge in interest around evangelism in The Episcopal Church, in part due to inspiration and interest drawn from Bishop Curry’s royal sermon. There are wonderful resources available on TEC’s website, and a recently-launched Facebook Group allows folks to share ideas and encouragement.

I love the energy and momentum around evangelism, but I worry that we often are blurring the lines between evangelism and marketing.

Are we talking about how great our Presiding Bishop is, or how beautiful our parishes are, or how wonderful our music can be? Those are all good things, but they are marketing.

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Topics: Evangelism
August 3, 2018 by Linda Buskirk

A recent lectionary reading, Romans 16:1-16, got me thinking...

In this passage, Paul commends to the church in Rome a long list of friends in Christ. They are women and men whose faith and service Paul has witnessed, experienced, and sometimes by which he benefited.

Priscilla and Aquila “risked their lives” for Paul. He writes that he and “all the churches of the Gentiles are grateful to them.”

Epenetus was “ the first convert to Christ in the province of Asia.” Andronicus and Junias were in prison with Paul. Mary, Tryphena, Tryphosa and Persis, are all praised for their “very hard work” for Christ and the church. The mother of Rufus was like a mother to Paul.

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July 23, 2018 by Linda Buskirk

Why do you give to the church? Is it out of obligation, loyalty, gratitude, assurance that the gift will make a good impact, support for community?

It turns out that there are studies about what motivates giving. They conclude: Often your perspective is tied to your generation.

The Episcopal Church Foundation has stressed this for several years in its teaching about how to strengthen stewardship ministry. St. John’s Episcopal Church in Grand Haven, Michigan, took the lessons to heart, including differently-worded letters to parishioners of different generations. The letters are delivered in annual giving packets that include a booklet describing the impact of St. John’s ministries, and a pledge card.

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Topics: Stewardship
July 19, 2018 by Lisa Fischbeck

When I was in my late 30s, I believed I had two vocations: I was a priest, and also a wife and mother. Both of these identities engaged my heart, soul, body and mind. Each fed and nourished the other. Both gave me my greatest cause for thanksgiving and my greatest fulfillment and sense of purpose. Both also prompted my most earnest prayers for guidance and forgiveness. They sometimes, even often, came into conflict, particularly in matters of calendar and clock. I keenly felt that each vocation had been blessed by God, and I believed that by engaging in them I was being faithful in my response to God’s call.

In those years, some 25 year ago now, I self-identified as a “bi-vocational priest.” One vocation came with a cash salary, the other did not.

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July 18, 2018 by Melissa Rau

This month we offer five resources to help your congregation with hospitality. Please share this digest with new members of your vestry and extend an invitation to subscribe to ECF Vital Practices to receive Vestry Papers and the monthly digest.

1. Especially relevant in today’s political climate, Canon Stephanie Spellers paints a beautiful picture of radical welcome and hospitality in Radical Welcome: Embracing the Other. How do you and your congregation include and embrace “The Other” within your midst?

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Topics: Hospitality
July 16, 2018 by Alan Bentrup
July 10, 2018 by Linda Buskirk

“Why should I support this?” “Why will this make a difference?” “Why should I care?”

These are questions people process as they consider whether they should get involved or invest in a project, ministry, or annual giving. Oh, perhaps those who have been faithful participants in a congregation for 30 or 40 years do not need an explanation. Their “why” is because they love their church and believe they should support it. Younger generations may require reasons why something is worthy of their participation.

When it comes to special or new needs or ministries, people of all ages generally want to understand “the why.” St. Dunstan’s Episcopal Church in Madison, Wisconsin, developed a fun way to communicate why projects to be accomplished in their capital campaign were important.

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July 3, 2018 by Annette Buchanan

One of the most difficult things to do in our congregations and organizations is to make a decision on when to let go. We hold onto programs, buildings and even people. We oftentimes see letting go as failure and therefore hold on to outlived, unnecessary and sometimes dysfunctional ideas.

We hold on to buildings that we cannot afford, that drain us financially and emotionally and prevent us from doing ministry in our communities.

We hold on to programs that have long outlived their usefulness. We blame each other instead of doing the strategic work to determine whether this program that was so effective in the 1980s still works for our congregation today.

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Topics: Change
July 2, 2018 by Alan Bentrup

We’ve spent some time in this space looking at what art museums can teach us about mission and innovation, and what one particular art installation reveals about how we see each other.

Today I want to talk about what an art installation reveals about listening.

The image above is of the installation, “Terrain,” by Julianne Swartz. This piece is made up of a delicate net of wires and speakers that alternately rise and fall, resembling the swells of a landscape. The speakers suspended from the wires emit whispering voices, differing in intensity throughout the room and creating what Swartz describes as “a landscape of gentle sound.”

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Topics: Mission, Outreach
June 27, 2018 by Melissa Rau

This month we offer five resources on discipleship. Please share this digest with new members of your vestry and extend an invitation to subscribe to ECF Vital Practices to receive Vestry Papers and the monthly digest.

1. What is discipleship? In Discipleship Matters, Richelle Thompson explains what the word means to her and challenges her readers to consider what it could mean to them. Are you growing as a follower of Jesus Christ?

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June 26, 2018 by Anna Olson

Three months into St. Mary’s commitment to the Safe Parking project, I have a few observations.

One is that it is going well. None of the big problems that people imagine have come to pass. Our vehicle-dwelling neighbors report sleeping better and seem to coexist peacefully and happily with the many other folks who overlap with them at church, including lots of programs for kids and families.

Another is that the concept is very popular. There are lots of people in lots of congregations that think it’s a great idea. There are people working really hard to get the idea through their congregational decision making processes. But so far no other congregation in greater Los Angeles has actually gotten to the starting line. Besides St. Mary’s the other lots run by Safe Parking LA are all on public land.

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June 22, 2018 by Linda Buskirk

How we Episcopalians love to experience a thundering organ and rousing choral music, complete with hand bells and chimes and sunshine beaming through the stained glass, wait… why is that family leaving?

This article is the third in a series about improving inclusion for people with disabilities in our faith communities. Some disabilities are invisible. Those who have particular sensitivity to noise and lights may not be able to enjoy a typical worship service.

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June 20, 2018 by Lisa Fischbeck

The local public radio station allows sponsors 24 words for each ad. The name of the sponsor counts as one word. But if a website is given, “dot” is one word, and “org” is another. 24 words.

Like a tweet on Twitter, the word limit makes us consider what is most important to communicate and to whom. A good exercise. It is similar to articulating a mission statement. But a mission statement is meant to guide and inspire the people who are already part of the congregation. This was for those beyond our walls.

So, how do we describe ourselves in 24 words or less?

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Topics: Communications
June 14, 2018 by Alan Bentrup

James Turrell is perhaps my favorite artist. He uses light and space in new ways to help people see new things. Or, rather, he helps people see things in a new way. During our recent visit to Newfield in Indianapolis, a docent invite my wife and me into a room to see one of his works, Acton. I’ve only ever been to his skyspaces before, so I didn’t know what to expect.

As we stood at the back of the room, we looked ahead at a white wall with a dark painting hung in the center. Or so I thought. Acton is one of his “space division” series, which “consists of a large, horizontal aperture which appears to be a flat painting...but is a light-emitting opening to a seemingly infinite, light filled room beyond.”

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Topics: Mission, Outreach
June 11, 2018 by Linda Buskirk

In my city, Fort Wayne, Indiana, AWS Foundation works to educate all of us about how to be graciously, respectfully, inclusive. The Foundation is where I first learned about “people first language” – words that move hearts from marginalizing others to including them (learn more here).

AWS Foundation CEO Patti Hays recalls as a child being taught, “It’s not polite to stare,” at someone with a disability. Today, she encourages parents to suggest, “Let’s go meet this person.”

Hays reminds us that the Americans with Disabilities Act provides minimum guidelines for removing barriers. Engaging people with varying abilities in the life of our faith communities may require some intentional learning and understanding.

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Topics: Outreach
June 9, 2018 by Annette Buchanan

We all watched and reflected with pride as Presiding Bishop Michael Curry delivered his sermon at the royal wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. Much has been written and spoken about the impact that sermon portends for the Episcopal Church and Christians today.

One area worth exploring again for our congregations and ourselves is the impact of an invitation. Specifically how often do we extend an invitation to family, friends, colleagues or even strangers to join us at our worship service and our outreach ministries.

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Topics: Outreach
June 1, 2018 by Linda Buskirk

Projects to improve accessibility are often included in church capital campaigns. In my work as a capital campaign consultant with ECF, I witness congregations choosing ramps, restrooms large enough for caregivers to enter with their adult loved one, hearing loops, wider doorways, lowering the altar rail to the main level of the nave, and other changes to make it clear that all are welcome.

As our awareness of physical barriers increases, let us also consider whether our language and behavior send messages of, “You are truly welcome.” Consider the differences between these sentences:

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May 30, 2018 by Anna Olson

There was a time when I would have been frustrated with the small scale of our offering. Ten parking spaces when nearly one percent of the population of Los Angeles lives on the streets? I easily count more than ten tent encampments just on my 1.5 mile walk from home to church. Things are bad.

Ten spaces will definitely not solve the problem. However, I have been amazed to discover once again how God can take a small offering and multiply its impact. You might think that the mustard seed parable or the feeding of the 5000 (not counting women and children?!) would have been enough to convince me. Maybe it was growing up in Missouri, the oddly named “show me state”. I have to see things with my own eyes, hear them with my own ears.

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Topics: Outreach, Mission
May 22, 2018 by Jerry Campbell

As a college student majoring in Music at Arizona State University I was a part of the Choral Union which presented Handel’s Messiah at Christmastime.

I sold tickets to people at my church, loaded everyone into the church’s bus and drove them to the auditorium through streets clogged with the cars of Christmas shoppers. By the time I unloaded my concertgoers at the main entrance and parked the bus at the far, far end of the parking lot, I was too late to join my fellow tenors as they marched onto the stage. So, I decided to enter through the lobby, make my way down a side aisle and climb onto the stage to take my place in the choir.

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