How or what is your congregation known for in your community? In my town, the two Episcopal Churches may be best known for their fundraisers.
Both St. Michael’s and St. Andrew’s Episcopal churches in Marblehead, Mass have long established fundraisers that have become part of the fabric of the community.
St. Michael’s annual lobster luncheon is on many people’s ‘must do’ list for the July 4th weekend, including mine. Beginning on Saturday and continuing through July 4th, the lobster luncheon fundraiser coincides with the Marblehead Festival of Arts, taking advantage of St. Michael’s location in the midst of the festivities. My friends Joe and Jill became engaged while eating lobster rolls on the St. Michael’s lawn and return each year to celebrate this milestone.
All proceeds support the Church’s community and world ministries and information about these ministries is visible to people purchasing lobster rolls, clam chowder, hot dogs, and watermelon. Tours of St. Michael’s historic building and an organ concert are typically offered during this event.
St. Michaels also provides space to the Festival for their printmaking and sculpture displays, ensuring a steady stream of visitors to the building and past their food tent.
Festival season is gearing up, and hopefully congregations are spending some serious creative time thinking about how to make the most of these evangelism opportunities.
St. James Episcopal Church in Piqua, Ohio, has one idea: Invite folks to make a joyful noise. On a newly decoupaged piano.
Reading between posts on their Facebook page (the small congregation has limited office hours), it appears that the church received a generous gift of a grand piano. So what to do with the trusty, but no longer needed upright piano? Members decoupaged it with brightly colored pieces of paper and wheeled it out onto the sidewalk.
The city held its annual Taste of the Arts festival this past weekend, and the good people of St. James invited folks to tickle the ivories, plunk out a turn, make a joyful noise.
I’m sure the piano was a sight on the sidewalk, with one green leg, one purple, and pinks, blues, and yellows all over. (Feels like there should be a joke in there. What’s green and purple and decoupaged all over??)
It’s a simple question that can have a surprisingly complicated answer.
This year, I’ve decided to devote more time to my parish, particularly to our various outreach ministries. After years of fretting about whether I truly had the time and energy to take on what can sometimes feel like yet another project, I’ve been inspired - indeed, moved by faith - to just dive right in. But now I’m facing the more practical question of just how, exactly, I plug in.
I’m convinced that my experience is not unique in Episcopal congregations. Consider your own parish. Are there obvious ways for an inspired soul to take the few first steps into a deeper life of service? Or to be more specific, does the Sunday bulletin and website list the relevant ministries that people can join? Are there names and contact information associated with these ministries so people can learn more? Will there be opportunities either during the announcements or during a parish ministries fair for parishioners to meet the lay leaders running the program? What other opportunities are there to encourage one-on-one conversations about how individuals can join in and help?
These are all basic questions, of course, but one helpful exercise would be to imagine, step-by-step, the practical pathway for a newcomer to go from inspiration to action.
When one learns about the tremendous outreach ministries of Trinity Episcopal Church in Logansport, Indiana, a natural question might be, “How do they afford it?” As it turns out, many years ago, the church invested a large estate gift at the Cass County Community Foundation, and determined that half of the annual proceeds of the fund would go to outreach ministry and half to building maintenance. But if you conclude that THAT is how Trinity Logansport “affords” its apostolic outreach ministry, you are not realizing the full power of being a joyful giver.
Clark Miller, rector of Trinity Logansport, explains: “When we started looking outside our walls, we started to grow. When you start giving things, things come back to you. The people of Trinity give willingly of their money and time. People don’t say, ‘let the endowment take care of it’ – they jump in to help.”
Trinity’s largest outreach ministry is its annual school backpack project, which has grown to an amazing 1,200 backpacks a year! Children and their families line up around the block on the day the backpacks are available at Trinity. Kids choose the backpack they want from grade-appropriate selections. This day has evolved into a back-to-school event – even free haircuts are provided.
While Trinity’s endowment certainly helps, members of congregation personally purchase backpacks and supplies all year long. People may be reimbursed from the Fund, but most don't ask.
Holy Trinity, Manistee recently completed month 8 of its Laundry Love ministry. We learned about this idea last summer from a video sent out by The Episcopal Church. We hadn’t thought of this as a ministry opportunity until then, but it was immediately apparent to us that this was an unaddressed need in our community.
Our town of approximately 7,000 in rural Northwest Michigan has few people who are homeless but many people live on fixed incomes or get by on low-paying jobs. Of our town's two laundromats, one is located closer to the residents we were looking serve and, as it happened, charges considerably less for their machines and provides free soap for those who need it. The owner of that laundromat thought Laundry Love was a wonderful idea. Working with her we decided the best time to do this would be a four hour window on the fourth Friday afternoon of each month.
Our first month, publicized only by a poster at thee laundromat and a couple of writeups in the newspaper, we served 11 people or "family units." In the months since we've numbered 15 to 20 family units. With the low cost of the machines at this laundromat, we spend around $250 each month. Some of the people who come are regulars, such as the older woman who lives on $715 a month and the family with both parents on disability and four children at home. Others have come only a time or two due to circumstances such as their washer at home being broken or their pipes at home being frozen. (It's been a very cold winter here.) Some people have vehicles they can drive to the laundromat, some catch rides with friends, and some use the very limited bus service in our town. All have been quite grateful to us for doing this and there's been more than a little wonderment that people are willing to help in this way.
The owner of the laundromat, Eve, and her assistant, Wanda, have been beyond helpful in this ministry. Eve definitely performs her own unsung ministry in treating the patrons of her laundromat with respect and kindness. She has built relationships with most of our regulars. During Laundry Love, she is invaluable in helping keep the laundry flowing through the machines in the most efficient manner.
Last night my family was invited over to our friends’ house for supper. With kids similar in age, this meant we had four kids at or under 6 years of age. It was fun and boisterous. In the midst of our roasted chicken, laughter, and interrupted conversation (Mama!! I`m really done, can I puhlease be excused?!), I found myself enveloped into a conversation about God’s abundance.
During our time there, we started talking about stories of transformational giving. Our friend, who works for a social service organization of a partnering denomination, described how a local church had given its end of the year Christmas offering to a local social service organization. This was extraordinary as many churches rely on end of the year gifts to ensure they are able to make all budget needs. This is especially true as sometimes parishioners pledge but aren’t able to complete their pledge or unexpected expenses arise that require additional giving.
This Church was willing to look beyond its own needs. Instead they believed they had enough and collectively gave their resources to a social service organization that impacted the lives of many in their local community.
A few years ago I was part of a large staff that afforded me a big, cushy office. I had lots of wall space for posters – Jesus Died to Take Away Your Sins, Not Your Minds – and the like.
Beyond the standard fare, I also had a reprint of a poster produced by the Diocese of Ohio from 1938. The poster depicts Mary, with the baby Jesus clutched in her arms, mounted atop a donkey. Joseph looks behind to see if he is being followed. It bears the phrase: “In the Name of These Refugees . . . Aid All Refugees: Through Interest – Friendship – Gifts.” This reprint came from Episcopal Migration Ministries
and – while we may not use words like Refugee anymore – I love the sentiment. This is a time of year to treasure the vulnerability of God as the baby Jesus in our hearts.
These days, whenever I see a baby, I marvel. We were all once that size. We were all dependent upon someone to feed us and bathe us and change us and make sure we didn't suffocate or get sick or throw up too much. We were all completely dependent upon others for care and love. We were all that small. . . and through the Mystery of the Incarnation, so was God.
“Christ has no body but yours, No hands, no feet on earth but yours, Yours are the eyes with which he looks Compassion on this world,
This month in the ECF Vital Practices mid-month digest, we share articles and resources focused on how outreach can be a catalyst for relationships and transformation.
“Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good, Yours are the hands, with which he blesses all the world. Yours are the hands, yours are the feet, Yours are the eyes, you are his body.
Are these resources helpful in your ministry? If so, we invite you to share ECF Vital Practices with others in your congregation and diocese. Please forward this email to your church colleagues and friends and invite them to subscribe to ECF Vital Practices.
“Christ has no body now but yours, No hands, no feet on earth but yours, Yours are the eyes with which he looks compassion on this world. Christ has no body now on earth but yours.”
– Teresa of Avila
Oversized spiders hanging on front porches and cobwebs strewn across shopping aisles remind me that Halloween is just around the corner. I’ve never been a big fan of this holiday, myself, although I’m equally keen to re-claim it as a Christian thing, or at least something that has – or had – roots in the Christian experience.
That’s why the Episcopal churches in St. Mary’s County are planning an All Hallow’s Eve gathering. We want to re-claim it as ours, so to speak, and we think it’s a pretty good evangelical offering to local kids and families. Even better, this year Halloween falls on a Friday night. We can really do something fun and festive and not worry about getting the kiddos back home at such an early hour. And even though Halloween is just over one week away, the good news is that every congregation can plan to pull off something – and there’s still one Sunday in which you can make the announcement and drum up attendance!
Here are a few thoughts you may wish to incorporate in a church-based Halloween party.
Note: This blog post is also available in English here.
Diez mujeres episcopales de origen afro-caribeño van y vienen a través del salón comunitario de la iglesia de sus ancestros.
Hoy se muestran más sonrientes que nunca. Sus rostros de maestras jubiladas le comunican su alegría y regocijo espiritual a la comunidad reunida para la hora del café. Esta congregación lleva varios años deseando, hablando y sobre todo orándole a Dios para que se dé el momento propicio en que puedan abrazar a la creciente comunidad latina que ahora vive a su alrededor y cuyos hijos e hijas reciben los cuidados de un programa de apoyo para después de sus clases escolares en los salones de esta iglesia. Esta comunidad no sale de su asombro. Atendiendo a la urgente necesidad de aprender inglés existente en muchas de las madres y los padres de estos niños y niñas, por fin, y en menos de dos meses todo ya está casi listo para darle comienzo a un programa piloto que ofrecerá clases de inglés a veinte madres latinas junto con un programa de actividades para sus hijos e hijas mientras que las madres están en clase.
Ustedes se preguntarán ¿cómo es que se ha logrado realizar este sueño?
Nota - Este artículo es disponible en español aquí.
Ten Episcopal women of Afro-Caribbean descent are moving quickly back and forth in the community room of the church of their ancestors. Today they’re smiling more than ever. The glowing faces of these mostly retired teachers project a certain spiritual rejoicing.
For years this congregation has been wishing, talking, and above all praying to God for the moment when they could finally embrace not only the children, but also the mothers and fathers of the growing local Latino community—many of whose sons and daughters already attend an after school program at their church. In less than two months they have answered one of the community’s most urgent needs by launching a pilot program that will offer ESL classes to twenty Latino mothers while offering child care while they’re in class.
You may wonder how this dream became a reality.
It’s no secret that the Episcopal Church has historically been associated with a particular stratum of society—white, educated, socially connected, middle- to upper-class. The Presiding Bishop used to live in Greenwich, Connecticut—and now lives (or could live) in a Manhattan penthouse. We are a church that can count the number of presidents who have been members and can cite the large number of elected officials who belong. There has always been a number of African-Americans in the Episcopal Church but by and large in majority-black congregations. Power—thanks to the church’s abysmal history of race relations — has remained with the church’s white (and usually male) members.
In recent years and decades, this has begun to change. There are now several African-American bishops, including two of dioceses south of the Mason-Dixon line. There is a growing interest in Spanish-language ministry. We ordain priests from immigrant and Native American communities. Above all, there is the recognition that simply being the church of the white elite is no longer an option—not if we are serious about thriving in the wonderful hetereogeneity of 21st-century America nor, for that matter, if we are serious about being the body of Christ.
At the same time, the church has come to be dominated by a theology that centres [sic] on the “mission of God.” There is much to admire about this emphasis—indeed, I wrote a book about it. But I want to highlight one aspect of this emphasis. In the current theology of the church, the word mission is, as I have written at length elsewhere, often associated with a constellation of other words: task, job, do, work, labour, obligation. I once called this the Nike theology of mission: just do it. Get out there and do the work of God.
Nota - Este artículo es disponible en español aquí.
Daily reports from the US-Mexican border are truly devastating. Despite numerous documentaries and endless footage showing the tortuous trails Latinos are forced to take as a means of protecting their lives—or to somehow provide sustenance to their loved ones—nothing, absolutely nothing, compares to the heartrending experience of personally hearing the profoundly moving and miraculous testimony of a child who has survived that unimaginable exodus. Their stories are heartbreaking in their realism and their truthfulness.
I have had the opportunity, as many others have, to hear, with my heart in my hand and holding back tears, one of the thousands of stories of that often fateful crossing that brings men, women, and children to this country. Firmly holding the hand of a father or a mother, and in the case I had before me, a young man and an eight year old girl with no family, crossing through unknown worlds, surrounded by languages and cultures similar and dissimilar to theirs and feeling completely alone. A bit like Moses, miraculously saved from the waters.
Note: This blog post is also available in English here.
Las noticias que oímos a diario provenientes de la frontera entre México y Estados Unidos son verdaderamente asoladoras. Aunque hemos visto documentales y muchos vídeos mostrándonos los recorridos de esa humanidad latina que se ve forzada a dejarlo todo como única posible solución que proteja ya sea su propia vida o las de sus familiares, o para de alguna manera proveer el sustento necesario a sus seres queridos, nada, absolutamente nada se compara con la conmovedora experiencia de oír testimonios conmovedores y milagrosos mirando a los ojos de un joven o de un niño o niña sobrevivientes de ese éxodo de miles de millas, inimaginable al pensarlo, y al oírlo, desgarrador en su realismo y veracidad.
Debo decir que tuve la oportunidad, como muchas personas la han tenido, de poder escuchar con el corazón en la mano y reteniendo las lágrimas, una de las miles y miles de historias de esta travesía muchas veces fatídica, que trae y deposita en este país a hombres y mujeres, a jóvenes y a niños y niñas de la mano firme de un padre o de una madre, y en el caso que tenía enfrente, a un joven y a una niña de ocho años sin familiares, recorriendo esos mundos desconocidos, rodeados de personas, lenguas y culturas parecidas y no, sintiéndose completamente solos, y a la vez algo así como Moisés, milagrosamente salvados de la aguas.
For the past couple Fridays I've been volunteering with Hour Children, an organization that serves formerly incarcerated women and their families. Trinity Wall Street has been partnering with the organization for several years now, and each year I've tagged along on workshops to help the women with their resumes or talk about how to fill out a job application with a criminal conviction on your record.
One Friday I helped do a couple of mock interviews with women and the next Friday I mingled with them and other staff members so that the women could practice their networking skills. I find interviews very unpleasant and mingling is one of my least favorite activities. I imagine that when you have recently spent time in prison, these activities become even scarier. Many of the women have been practicing for a long time with the help of the Hour Children staff, and were more prepared to network than I've ever been. Others were clearly still adjusting to their lives outside prison. They seemed scared and embarrassed.
“As you are outwardly anointed with this holy oil, so may our heavenly Father grant you the inward anointing of the Holy Spirit. Of his great mercy, may he forgive you your sins, release you from suffering, and restore you to wholeness and strength. May he deliver you from all evil, preserve you in all goodness, and bring you to everlasting life; through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
From the Book of Common Prayer, p.456
Every Wednesday afternoon in our humble parish church in the quiet village of Valley Lee, Maryland, folks come forward, one by one, to receive the laying on of hands, anointing with oil, and prayers for God’s healing. Sometimes they ask healing for themselves. Sometimes it’s for someone they love. Even then, prayers are still offered for the one who is kneeling at the altar rail – that they, too, may be a vessel of God’s healing for their friend who is facing illness in body or mind or spirit. The celebration of Holy Communion follows those prayers, a sign of the ultimate healing we are granted through Christ.
This ritual happens so many times in so many parish churches and hospital rooms and bedrooms and living rooms. It happens so often that it may seem like just one more piece of church programming, like one more thing clergy or congregations do. But these moments of grace are no ordinary outward and visible sign; like every sacrament, they literally transform churches that seem quiet or hospital rooms which are eerily sterile into settings which are abuzz with God’s power.
Telling the truth and asking for help have been the best and hardest things I have learned in ministry.
I was ordained into a highly consumerist moment in the church. Watching suburban megachurches boom, the struggling mainline was under pressure to put out a more attractive product. The message to my generation of clergy and the lay leaders of our congregations was that it was our job to turn out programs and worship that would attract more paying customers. People, we were told, were church-shopping. They would evaluate us on the breadth and depth of our menu, the gracious welcome we were able to provide, and the polish of our website. We might get only one chance to make a winning impression, so we had better be ready.
The problem is that my call is to scrappy, historic churches. Try as we might, the parishes I have served can’t hope to compete with the suburbs and the well-heeled on convenience, facilities, programming, options for kids and families, and so on. Our websites are chronically out of date, and our menus are limited.
A few years ago, I stopped trying to put out a product and started asking for help. I started sharing my own and my parish’s hopes and dreams with total strangers. I told neighbors that we wanted to be a neighborhood church again, and I confessed how hard it was to turn around years of disconnection between church and neighborhood. I told my parishioners that I was going to generate a lot of ideas about things we might try, and that I really didn’t know which things would work. I told anyone who would listen what we did have to offer, without apologizing for what we didn’t have.
Good Shepherd Episcopal
church is a little church in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin, the northern most suburb of Madison, Wisconsin. Its average weekly attendance is around 125.
The 1st weekend of May this year marked a significant turning point for the parish. Mike Tess, Good Shepherd’s rector, writes:
“Our church partnered with The Sunshine Place, a local nonprofit, and hosted The Sunshine Ball which 200 people attended and cleared $15,000 after expenses. We split the profits with Sunshine Place 90/10.
“As you can imagine, this was a stretch for some of our members to understand. ‘Why when we do all the work and our budget is upside down don’t we get at least half?’
“Here in lies the secret to making your church indispensible to your community. The Sunshine Place brought their entire support network to our event. What’s that worth in PR and marketing?
On a cold March morning I joined the City of Biddeford’s General Assistance Director to visit the home of one of our neighbors. I had contacted the neighbor the week prior to inquire about his sister, a regular at Seeds of Hope Neighborhood Center. He confirmed the rumor that his sister had been given a terminal cancer diagnosis and that she had just weeks to live. I asked if I and the GA Director could visit. He gladly welcomed us.
Even after making many home visits over the years, I always feel sadness when I enter the living spaces of some apartments in our neighborhood. I am reminded that it is hard to feel hopeful when one’s surroundings are so dark and marginal. I gave a brief thanks for the space we have been able to create at our neighborhood center, offering a “hang out” which is bright and welcoming.
The beautiful young woman we were visiting had a life so abusive and damaging, I have often wondered at her resilience. When she was 15 her mother said she would “give” her daughter to a man 20 years her senior for $500. To this day her brother cries when he tells the story, knowing that he was too young at the time to intervene. She was physically abused by this man until she finally had enough and left.
Note: This article is available in both English and Spanish. Click here to read this post in English.
La pregunta del eunuco etíope estaba formulada perfectamente. ¿Qué impedía que lo bautizaran? Acababa de llegar de Jerusalén, donde le habían dado un motivo tras otro para que no entrara a esa comunidad. Era todo tipo de “afuerino”: étnico, financiero, educativo, sexual, religioso, de vestimenta… y esas manifestaciones de ser de afuera impedían que se convirtiera en miembro pleno de la comunidad. Desilusionado, paró en la tienda de regalos, compró el rollo de Isaías y lo leyó en el largo viaje en coche de caballos hasta su casa. Felipe ofrece interpretarle el rollo, diciéndole sobre Jesús, el movimiento y el bautismo como entrada a él. El eunuco etíope ve agua y pregunta: “¿Qué impide que me bauticen?”
Nada. Guiado por el Espíritu Santo, esa es la respuesta de Felipe. Nada.
Estoy endeudado con mi amigo [el ahora Reverendísimo] Rob Wright, que me estimuló con una interpretación litúrgica de este pasaje de Hechos 8. Siempre que realiza un bautismo ofrece las aguas del bautismo a todos los que todavía no las recibieron, independientemente de si su nombre aparece en un boletín. Sugiere que no podemos saber quién ha estado esperando una invitación, que necesita ver que todas las barreras que pudo haber habido han sido retiradas.