November 30, 2016 by Richelle Thompson

The news was frightening – and frighteningly familiar. An attack on students at Ohio State University. Accounts of an active shooter turned into active assailant who by all counts purposefully plowed into a group of students and professors, and then attacked them with a butcher knife. We learned soon that the attacker was from a native of Somalia and a Muslim.

Immediately, I heard calls for tighter immigration controls and see-I-told-you-so’s from people who support a mandate for the government to register (and restrict?) all Muslims.

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Topics: Conflict, Diversity
November 29, 2016 by Diana Church Empsall

If you’ve never done it before, asking someone to contribute their money for a cause, however good, can seem scary or uncomfortable. As a philanthropy and fundraising professional, I’ve made numerous “asks” and written countless grant proposals. And yet, the first time I faced the challenge of making a face-to-face, personal request for financial support of a project to which I was deeply and passionately committed – my own parish’s capital campaign – I was incredibly nervous.

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November 27, 2016 by Linda Buskirk

As sure as Santa Claus directed the crowds into Macy’s at the end of the Thanksgiving Day parade, we can expect to be swept up into the rush of the “the holidays.”

On Ash Wednesday, we are invited, “to the observance of a holy Lent, by self-examination and repentance; by prayer, fasting, and self-denial; and by reading and meditating on God's holy Word.” (BCP)

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November 25, 2016 by Greg Syler

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.

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November 23, 2016 by Annette Buchanan

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.

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Topics: Leadership, Vestry
November 21, 2016 by Alan Bentrup

At the Diocese of Texas Clergy Conference last month, Bishop Doyle opened his address to the clergy by showing a brief clip about planetary exploration of Mars. He wanted to propose a bold vision of missional work on Mars…and then jokingly said everything else he talked about would seem reasonable in comparison.

But, it got me thinking. Why not a mission to Mars? That started me down a rabbit (er, Google) hole that led to National Geographic. As a matter of fact, a new series premieres tonight on the National Geographic cable channel about a fictional (although realistic) mission to Mars in the not-too-distant future. I’ve seen the pilot episode online, and it is fascinating.

I won’t be leading any missionary journeys to Mars, but I think I am learning a thing or two about missional work from this series.

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Topics: Mission
November 17, 2016 by Brendon Hunter

In the November Vital Practices Digest, we offer 5 resources for creating and growing endowments, practicing good oversight, and establishing year-round stewardship in your congregation.

It’s easy and free to receive more great resources for your congregation. Subscribe to ECF Vital Practices to receive Vestry Papers and this Vital Practices Digest in your inbox each month.

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Topics: Endowments, Finance
November 16, 2016 by Anna Olson

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.

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November 16, 2016 by Richelle Thompson

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.

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November 11, 2016 by Andrew Pierce

In April of 2016, I put out a request for help to the Episcopal Communicators Facebook group on best practices and recommendations for electronic voting at our bishop election convention in Central New York. As a way to say ‘thank you’ to this group, here’s what worked for us. (Click here for the related photos)

A response from Patrick Stroll in the Episcopal Diocese of Central Pennsylvania shared that they had contracted with a local school district to use their electronic voting system. As luck would have it, we had a school administrator on our Bishop Search Committee. Apparently New York has changed many of the laws around school voting, and he thought it unlikely that any school district would take the chance in renting out their electronic voting systems.

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Topics: Administration
November 9, 2016 by Greg Syler

We’re investigating and working to install more energy- and, we hope, financially-efficient HVAC systems at St. George’s. The very comprehensive energy audit taught me a lot, and not just about insulation and ducts. I learned that the most effective way to adjust the temperature in a room isn’t only to force more cold/hot air into the space. “Picture a glass full of water,” our auditor told me, “you can’t get more air into that glass until you get some of the water out of it.” The HVAC principle: you can’t cool a space simply by shoving more cold air ducts into the room; you need to also find a way to get the hot air out.

I’d say that principle also applies to the organizational capacity of churches (maybe even my un-intended pun about hot air), especially now as most of us are looking at next year’s budgets. Few church leaders will be able to change the ‘temperature’, the capacity of our congregations until we also, and at the same time, move out some of the stuff which is standing in the way. Many (most?) clergy and lay leaders in The Episcopal Church are trying valiantly to straddle the line between desiring the emerging ‘new’ and maintaining, or at least not threatening, our conventional and, to date, relatively financially coherent strategy: create members of the local church and ask them to fund its operations. If funding slips, either (a) get more members or (b) get more money out of the ones you have or (c) cut expenses.

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Topics: Change, Stewardship
November 8, 2016 by Richelle Thompson

Today, we vote. And hopefully, we pray.

I have heard time and again from people that they’re so frustrated with this election season, with the vitriol and mud slinging, that the only thing that’s left to do is pray. And I agree. Except on one important point: Prayer is not the last resort in an untenable situation. It’s not what’s left when we’ve mustered all of our own strength to muscle a problem. It’s not scraping the leavings off the turkey tray.

God doesn’t say to work really hard, implement all of our own solutions, then try a few suggested by others. And when all else fails, pray.

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November 7, 2016 by Linda Buskirk

On October 11, 2016, Christian author and pastor Max Lucado posted his prediction for November 9 on his website. Lucado acknowledged that folks are “ready for this presidential election to be over,” adding, “There is a visceral fear, an angst about the result.”

More about Lucado’s prediction in a minute. For now, the election isn’t over yet. A couple of weeks ago I was asked to pray an invocation at a community meeting. I went to my go-to source and found a prayer that has been in print since at least 1928. Please join me in this prayer “For our Country” today and long after November 8:

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November 4, 2016 by Anne Weatherholt

For years I have used Vestry Papers and TENS resources at my church (St. Mark’s Episcopal in Boonsboro, Maryland) sharing them with vestry members. This year we re-focused our stewardship letter and presentation; I am sharing our letter and Tree of Life illustration* with you to show what a smaller church can accomplish.

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November 3, 2016 by Annette Buchanan

Many of us have just completed the stewardship campaigns in our congregations and, as we are in my congregation, reviewing how close we came to having 100% of the pledge cards completed. More than likely there is a shortfall from pledges and we are now looking at supplemental income streams if we are not blessed with a large endowment.

Many fundraising committees were formed to fill this shortfall gap, and hold within them the tension of raising desperately needed funds with the desire to have an event that the congregation, family, and friends will support.

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Topics: Finance, Stewardship
November 2, 2016 by Nancy Davidge

Evangelism. Sharing our stories. Being comfortable talking about Jesus and the role faith plays in our lives. Making this easier – and also more difficult – is the array of resources available to almost all of us. At our disposal are tools to make our voices, our words, and even our images, heard and seen, across the room, across our communities, across the entire world. Today we offer ideas and examples of how Episcopalians are using their voices and their gifts to share their stories and understanding of their faith, using both the oldest and the newest forms of communication.

I hope the experiences and ideas of these congregations and individuals spark a conversation in your congregation:

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November 1, 2016 by Richelle Thompson

Today we claim the song as ours, belting it out full throttle, especially today as we celebrate All Saints Day.

“I sing a song of the saints of God, patient and brave and true, who toiled and fought and lived and died for the Lord they loved and knew. And one was a doctor and one was a queen, and one was a shepherdess on the green: they were all of them saints of God—and I mean, God helping, to be one too.”

(If you’re primed to sing the rest, go ahead and turn to page 293 in the 1982 Hymnal of the Episcopal Church).

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