April 26, 2017 by Alan Bentrup

We hear a lot about quiet time for reflection. This weekend, rather than quiet, I overheard a cacophony of reflection. This past weekend was our second Missional Voices National Gathering, and more than 200 clergy, laity, and seminarians from around the country gathered to discuss the mission of God and our neighborhoods.

I could tell you all about the wonderful presenters (videos available soon!), or about the worship, or any other of the planned and programmed activities. But this isn’t a sales pitch, so I won’t. Instead I want to tell you about the trouble we had in getting people to stop talking.

Topics: Mission
April 25, 2017 by Maurice Seaton

Ever thought of a capital campaign as a form of 'evangelism'? No, a campaign is not just about money, it's about cultivating new and existing relationships that nurture the vitality and growth of your congregation. A capital campaign offers a variety of creative ways for parishioners to interact both inside and outside the parish. Building relationships is as important for the future of your church as receiving monetary gifts in a campaign. Here are three groups you should intentionally reach out to in your capital campaign.

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April 20, 2017 by Brendon Hunter

April is financial literacy month and to help your congregation, we offer five resources to help get you started with the basics. Please share this digest with your parish leadership and extend an invitation to subscribe to ECF Vital Practices to receive Vestry Papers and the monthly digest.

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April 18, 2017 by Linda Buskirk

Five years ago in a small city on the Ohio River, an Episcopal faith community began to explore the gifts of its people, and what God was calling them to do with those gifts. Several people had a passion for the arts – many were artists themselves. They began to envision the arts as central to their ministry.

St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in New Albany, Indiana, has taken ministry outreach through the arts to an exciting new level – even for us artsy Episcopalians.

With an eye “to build relationship with artists, patrons, and guests through the ministries of hospitality and the arts,” St. Paul’s started with something small and manageable: a reader’s theatre called “Parlor Stories.” Actors and others from the community were welcome to participate.

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April 14, 2017 by Lisa Fischbeck

The day after my grandmother died, my family gathered in from near and far. Late afternoon, into the evening, sitting in her kitchen and living room, we talked. Coffee was plenteous, a bottle of wine, one platter overflowing with cold cuts, and another with Entenmanns coffee cake. We planned for the funeral, started thinking about distribution of her worldly possessions. Mostly, we shared memories and stories. We laughed about her personality quirks, we sighed about our experiences of her support and care, and we reminded ourselves of the wisdom she had given us. The body of the deceased wasn’t with us in the house, but her spirit sure was there.

Decades later, I was priest of the Advocate when a beloved parishioner died on a Thursday afternoon. A meeting was scheduled at the Church that night. But we knew that our sorrow would prevail, so we announced that we would gather in the Chapel and hold vigil instead. We used Evening Prayer as our guide, read scripture, prayed the Litany at the Time of Death, and shared memories and stories of our friend who had died. We laughed at turns of phrase he had used, reminded ourselves of the ways he had inspired us. We mourned together, and were comforted by our shared memories and shared loss.

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April 13, 2017 by Annette Buchanan

As we commemorate Easter in April and Mother’s Day in May we are expecting many more visitors to our churches, some returning and some new. So it is worthwhile reflecting on what our current practices are towards visitors.

Many of us acknowledge visitors at the halfway point during the service whether during the peace or at announcements where the general practice is to ask the visitors to stand and tell us who they are. In the past there has been a debate about this practice, whether we are outing people unnecessarily especially those terrified of public speaking and as a result may not return to our churches. For the itinerant member who may want to be obscure they instead get called out and is reluctant to again go through that scrutiny.

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Topics: Hospitality
April 6, 2017 by Scott Gunn

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.

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Topics: Leadership
April 3, 2017 by Annette Buchanan

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.

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Topics: Conflict, Leadership