May 31, 2012

Come on People, Let's Get Together

Do we really need another….?

…committee, task force… soup kitchen…, website???? Might our time, talent, and treasure be better served by looking around, seeing who is doing similar work, and joining forces?

This question came to mind after reading a Boston Globe letter to the editor. Headlined “Boston already tells its story, it just needs to be better organized,” the letter writer suggested that the people championing a new museum to tell Boston’s story might instead choose invest in ways Boston’s existing museums (of which there are many) might collaborate and cooperate to “make the existing cast of museums better known and more successful in illuminating the history of Boston and Massachusetts.” The author, Albert H. Whitaker suggested, “Rather than simply throwing millions of dollars into a new museum, more thought should be given to the possibility that such investment would be better placed in already established institutions.”

This message resonated with me. As ECF Vital Practices’ editor, I spend a lot of time looking for thriving congregations and ‘vital practices’ to share with congregational leaders. Many times, this vitality goes hand in hand with congregations and Episcopal organizations that choose to collaborate before beginning to create.

For example:

  • As president of Episcopal Communicators, I follow conversations and discussions on our listserv. I often see questions that begin, “My bishop has asked me to (insert request here) and before I reinvent the wheel, has anyone already done this and if so, would you share?” Recent posts included a request for a liturgical resource for commissioning volunteers, help in understanding copyright law as it applies to churches reprinting music and/or poetry in bulletins, and inviting other communicators to collaborate on a video project planned for General Convention. I expect this type of sharing also exists in the Church’s other professional organization.
  • The Facebook group Anglican/Episcopal Rural Churches invites other rural or small congregations within the Anglican tradition to share “common concerns and ideas about how to serve their respective communities and spread the Good News of God’s love. Recent conversations have related to ways congregations recognize our Feast Days; sharing information related to how congregations structure confirmation classes, hymns for Mother’s and other special days; and asking for others’ experience in partnering with other congregations.
  • In Buffalo, NY, the Episcopal and Presbyterian churches are in conversation about a shared building, freeing resources for mission. 
  • In Fort Lauderdale, the New River Regional Ministry offers a model for thriving churches to share resources with other congregations while maintaining their own identities. 
  • In the Diocese of Kansas, congregations large and small are helping to feed hungry children by providing them with nutritious and easy-to-prepare food to take home in a backpack on weekends and school vacations when other resources are not available. 
  • In southern Maryland Episcopal churches have come together to explore change. After meeting regularly for a time, the Collaborative Ministries Exploration Group recognized they had moved from discussing sustainability to an understanding that what was keeping them from growing “was unquestioned allegiance to the Episcopal system that keeps clergy, lay leaders, and congregations separate and independent.

In what ways is your congregation reaching out to partner with Episcopal or other communities of faith? Have you partnered with a local or national nonprofit as a way of sharing God’s abiding love for all of us? What resources would help you in these efforts?