In celebration of ECF Vital Practices’ eighth anniversary, we went back through our archives to bring you some of the most popular articles from our past eight years of being an online resource. Each of the following articles was among the most read during a specific year. We curated them to have a variety of topics and writers, and are happy to share them with you here. We hope you enjoy them!
As the Presiding Bishop continues to call us deeper into the Jesus Movement, especially now that we have the Way of Love as a tool to guide us deeper into relationship with Jesus and our neighbor, it’s time for us to start talking about what a Jesus Movement Leader looks like. We need leaders in this movement. Bishop Curry and Canon Spellers can’t do it all on their own!
For my part, I’ve been watching some of the emerging leaders and taking note at how intentionally they walk into their leadership roles. I’ve noticed that many of the leaders of the Jesus Movement take up less space in their leadership role. It has been eye opening for me. It has lead me to my own mantra in leading Forma these past two years: “How much space do I need to take up before I can make space for someone else?” or “Take up less space!”
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?
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.
ECF Vital Practices seeks to build online communities of Episcopalians who share their stories, experiences, and best practices, who learn from one another, and who discover support to help sustain their leadership and their ministries. Late last year, we asked the church leaders on our Facebook page a question: What do you wish you had known when you first joined the vestry?
Below are their answers supplemented with ECF Vital Practices resources to help you take concrete first steps towards effective vestry leadership.
Registration is now open for the 2018 Church Leadership Conference, March 2 - 4 at the Kanuga Conference and Retreat Center in Hendersonville, NC.
Join us for three inspiring days, designed in partnership by the Episcopal Church Foundation and Kanuga, to strengthen, equip and re-energize church leaders for ministry. View a preliminary schedule here.
Within our churches and organizations as the leadership becomes more seasoned the question arises who will take over the responsibilities they now oversee. Many believe that they are irreplaceable and refuse to train or transition to someone new. Others complain that they cannot find anyone to take on their responsibilities. Still others may believe that as seniors they have much more to offer and are being discriminated against in a youth-oriented society. Whether it is the Senior Warden with the 20 year term or the Altar Guild member who has been there for 40 years, our friendly term for some of these folks are Mama or Papa Docs that is, leaders for life.
Last week, I was honored to serve as moderator for an Episcopal Church Foundation (ECF) webinar on preaching and leadership. Basically, I hosted a conversation among three preachers and fed them some questions of my devising and some from our audience. The panelists were the Rev. Ronald Byrd, rector of St. Katherine’s in Williamston, MI; the Rev. Brenda Husson, rector of St. James, Madison Avenue in NYC; and Mr. Brendan O’Sullivan-Hale, layperson from All Saints’, Indianapolis, IN.
I’d encourage you to watch the webinar, which will be an hour well spent if you’re at all interested in preaching. Much of the focus is on sermon preparation and delivery, but there is also some valuable advice for those who listen to sermons. I know I’ll listen to preachers differently because of this conversation.
Giving and receiving positive feedback as well as negative (constructive) feedback is a prerequisite for having healthy church relationships. Positive feedback should be easy, however, we sometimes overlook these simple acts of kindness only to have long-term members leaving the church or people feeling neglected.
Negative feedback is more difficult. Some of us are so concerned about hurting someone’s feelings that we say nothing at all, allowing dysfunction to continue. On the opposite end, we may blurt out insensitive words disregarding the impact. It is often hard to find the right balance.
The reasons given for being strangers to each other are many: we are too busy; they are “high” church and we are “low” church; we didn’t know there was another Episcopal church nearby; their members are of another ethnic or cultural background; it is hard to plan logistically given worship times, etc. How can we be welcoming and inviting to non-Episcopalians when we find it so difficult to exercise that habit among ourselves?
On Christmas morning a few weeks ago, we turned from the infant in the cradle to give our worship to the mighty God who came among us as that baby. We read these words: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”
The Word: this is one of our most holy names for Christ, the second person of the Trinity, the Beloved Child of God. Christ is the Word of God. And, as John tells us, Christ the Word was present with God in the act of creation—all things came into being through the Word, just as it is written in the book of Genesis. God speaks, and worlds are created.
Words create worlds.
Among my character traits, you will not find “waits with patience.”
Whether it’s for a table at a restaurant, on hold with customer service, or anticipating a big trip, waiting is not among my virtues.
That makes Advent really hard.
My wife and I recently spent a few days of vacation in New Orleans. Jackson Square is one of my favorite places on the planet, largely because of its collective and eclectic group of artists, performers, and tourists.
This time I happened upon a street magician that had a pretty lousy show, to be honest. But one thing he said at the beginning stuck with me. “The only thing I’ll guarantee you is this: by the end of our time together, you’ll be part of a circle of strangers all hoping for the same thing.” Maybe we’ll all be hoping this ends soon, I thought…
Almost like those moments that begin sometime late at night Christmas Eve and continue the next several days, the world begins to hush during Thanksgiving week. People re-connect and spend precious time with their loved ones, and there’s not much noise or commotion. I really like this time of year. I like it for so many reasons – great feasts among them – but I also like this pause, this hush.
A harvest festival, such as what we’re doing this week, does that to us – gives us pause to consider, encourages us to take stock, provides a moment to focus, even strategize about how we can best invest in what really matters. It’s significant that the Thanksgiving holiday and our own stewardship/fundraising practices in the church fall in the same timeframe. For one, they’re both connected to ancient harvest practices. On another level, though, they’re both about healthy practices of looking back and going forward, a dynamic, communal motion that is really one and the same – giving thanks for what God has already provided and, based on God’s good generosity, making sure we’ve put those resources toward where God is leading.
Annual meetings are being held in many of our congregations in the next few months. We will have the opportunity to elect leaders to include wardens, vestry members and delegates to diocesan conventions.
It is important for us to reflect on how we select leaders within our churches.
For many the criteria is to have someone from the “inner circle”, which may mean being from the right family or having the right status in the community. For others selection is by default, they are the last person standing, no one else wants the position or they do not want to give it up and others are afraid to wrestle it away from them. For some their names were selected while absent, others were pressured into taking the position even though their hearts were not in it, and for a few their egos were stroked – you are the only one that can do this job.
Like most of the country, I had never heard of Bean Blossom (also spelled Beanblossom) Indiana, before this weekend. It’s honestly the kind of name someone on the blue parts of the coasts might make up to mock the perceived backwardness or hokey-ness of the center of the country. Bean Blossom.
Last Sunday, the members of St. David’s Episcopal Church in Bean Blossom arrived at their church to find it painted with a swastika, the phrase “Heil Trump” and the phrase “Fag Church.”
I want to be like Bean Blossom.
I planned to be a gracious winner the week after the election.
I wasn’t going to rub it in the faces of folks who had been Donald Trump supporters. My social media presence would be demure, and while I expected to dance a little jig inside, my public persona would call for unity and broad arms to encircle the disenfranchised.
I didn’t expect to be the one needing the arms.
Walk back in time with me when you were new to the vestry, as I was. Like a deer-in-the-headlights, I was paralyzed by the information overload and I began asking myself the proverbial question: “What did I get myself involved in”?
I recognized if I was going to be a member of the vestry, involved in this important ministry, I needed some facts — pertinent facts. I was looking for answers to “where have we been over the past 10 or 15 years”, and “are we growing, are we stagnant, or are we withering?” The three-ring binder of do’s and don’ts for vestry members didn’t include this. I needed a one page or two page of “factoids” that immediately painted a picture of our church and how those facts could relate to current and previous rectors’ tenures, our congregational numbers, and, very importantly, stewardship and pledges over the years.
The message heard loud and clear at our monthly UBE (Union of Black Episcopalians) meetings at different congregations throughout the Diocese of New Jersey was how difficult it was to fill all Sunday services with a clergy person. The reasons were varied; the congregation may have been in transition, or the full time clergy was on vacation, on sabbatical, or even ill.
One idea stood out from all of our discussions. A clergy person suggested we re-embrace layperson led Morning Prayer as a legitimate form of Sunday morning worship. Response was mixed. Anglicans from the Caribbean or Africa experienced Morning Prayer often, due to less frequent clergy availability due to the number of congregations to be served. Older members had positively experienced Morning Prayer as common practice in times past. For others it was a harder pill to swallow, as they believed if there was no Communion then we didn’t really have a Service. There was also feedback that Morning Prayer was unfulfilling and it some cases even boring.
Our youth group’s revival started with a half-century old confirmation bulletin.
A member of the church brought in his confirmation bulletin to share with the priest. As he looked at it, he noticed an interesting addition. In the listing of clergy and staff members and congregational leadership, there was another line: the president of the Episcopal Young Churchmen. That’s right: the leader of the church’s youth group was listed (and in this case, leader meant the young person, not the paid or volunteer adult).