Ash Wednesday is coming. For at least one day out of the year, we’re going to be reminded that we are dust, and that we’re going to die some day. Fun times!
Over the past several years, this solemn fast day has been infused with a missional fervor in the popular Ashes to Go outings. Part of a church-wide movement, Ashes to Go moves this imposing act from the confines of church buildings to the people in their daily lives. Interested passers-by are marked with the sign of the cross and invited to seek forgiveness and renewal (and hopefully be prayed for!). Locations to receive ashes are designed to meet people wherever they are, including train stations, bus stops, coffee shops, church parking lots, street corners, and more.
For many, their only worship experience or connection with other Episcopalians are in their home congregations. There are churches that are less than a mile apart and as individuals or congregations we have never visited or seen the inside of our neighboring churches.
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?
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This month, our digest features 5 ways to help your vestry hit the ground running.
I’m a simple man, really. I like gadgets and such, but when it comes down to it I do most of my thinking with a paper journal and a ballpoint pen. So when I ran out of pens the other day, I walked into the store to buy my favorite brand.
That’s when it hit me. There, on the package of Bic Crystal pens (the brand I’ve been using since high school, and which was first made in the 1950s) I saw those big, bold words: NEW & IMPROVED.
Why on earth (and how on earth) could you make a simple, plastic, ballpoint pen “new” or “improved”?
In the social profit sector, the leadership role of the board of directors is so important it is considered a “capacity factor” for the organization. If the board is weak in its knowledge, governance and engagement, that weakness will hold back the agency, no matter how dynamic and productive the chief executive and the rest of the staff are.
As a consultant to not-for-profits, I created a list of “ten traits of a terrific board member” for use in governance training. For your consideration, I’ve amended the list for Vestry members:
In the last three months I've had the opportunity to attend three retreats. The first was a two-day spiritual retreat at Holy Cross Monastery in upstate New York. This was a time for prayer, worship, guided reflections and, most important, silence. All the participants relished the time together to unplug.
The second retreat was a board and conference planning meeting for two groups that meet primarily by conference call. We met at the Maritime Institute in Baltimore, Maryland from noon on Friday to noon on Saturday.
Discussions of crowd size have blanketed the news this past month. Friday’s crowd was small, and Saturday’s crowd was bigger, so we judge the value of these two ideas based solely on audience participation.
The Episcopal Church knows a thing or two about decreasing crowd sizes. Too often, our “success” and significance as parishes (and as a national church) are measured by large numbers and our average Sunday attendance. The average ASA for parishes across the country dropped from 60 in 2014 to 58 in 2015. We can’t dispute those facts. But what if we could provide more meaningful information, by asking alternative questions?