June 27, 2017 by Renee McKenzie

“I know there shouldn’t be so many guns in the neighborhood, but I “get” it; I understand why people have guns. People need to protect themselves in this community.”

“Everyday we are treated like criminals when we go to schools. We have to go through metal detectors, take off our shoes and belts and be wanded. I never get into trouble; I have always been an honor student. I don’t deserve this treatment but I understand why they treat us this way. I understand but don’t agree with it.

These quotes came from 10th grade African American males as they and three adult advisors (I being one of the three) were debriefing a recent neighborhood forum organized by the youth leadership council of The Advocate Center for Culture and Education. We were debriefing one completed series of community stakeholder neighborhood forums and we were beginning to shape the next forum series.

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June 22, 2017 by Brendon Hunter

This month we offer five resources to help your congregation with vision and planning. Please share this digest with your parish leadership and extend an invitation to subscribe to ECF Vital Practices.

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June 20, 2017 by Linda Buskirk

"Then he said to his disciples, 'The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.'" (Matthew 9: 37)

Jesus asked his disciples to join him in praying for more help to reach out to the crowds of people seeking God's good news and healing. I wonder if the disciples' next prayer time was filled with asking God for workers. Because, boom, those prayers were answered in the next chapter. Jesus called his disciples together to let them know, "Hey, I found the workers! They are YOU."

He gave them the authority to do some pretty amazing things. Then he sent them out to do them.

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June 16, 2017 by Kim Hanson

“Doesn’t having a capital campaign negatively impact annual stewardship?” This question is one of the most frequently asked by churches anticipating a capital drive.

And “No!” is the most frequently given answer when ECF Capital Campaign consultants respond! In fact, we have found that annual stewardship usually goes up in tandem with capital fundraising.

“That is certainly our experience at Church of the Advent,” reports Nancy Junk, Senior Warden of this small southeast Florida congregation. “Our annual operating fund is up more than 7% since we launched our building campaign in August of 2015,” she notes.

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June 15, 2017 by Annette Buchanan

The church bulletin is arguably one of the most important documents in our congregations. Given our bibles, hymnals and Book of Common Prayer (BCP) that may sound a bit heretical. However the amount of resources that goes into producing it does give our church bulletins very high priority. The original purpose of the bulletin was to provide the order of service including references to the BCP, hymns and readings of the day. We have evolved much beyond the basics.

Bulletin content is the largest issue for us to wrestle with. Bulletins may contain some of all of the following: fundraising and social activities, meetings of church and community organizations, lists of illnesses, birthdays, anniversaries and deaths, special donations, community, diocesan and national announcements, stewardship messages as well as information on a particular saint day, others have information on voting, job posts and apartment rental. So our bulletins, have become newspapers, newsletters and journals all rolled into one. Whew!

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June 12, 2017 by Alan Bentrup

The most recent issue of the Diocese of Texas’ Dialog magazine is focused on faith, culture, and the ways that we live our faith in the midst of our daily lives. This got me thinking about some of the places I’ve seen folks serving Christ in the day-to-day.

There’s Dr. Beverly Vick, an angel on earth who is a first grade teacher in Alexandria, Va. For my oldest son, and countless other children for whom school can be challenging, Dr. Vick makes learning come alive. For my son’s birthday that year, he invited Dr. Vick to dinner, and I was amazed at the stories she shared of a life dedicated to teaching. And underpinning it all is her deep faith and love of Jesus.

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June 8, 2017 by Linda Buskirk

One of the positive features of a capital campaign that seeks extraordinary giving participation is that once the asking phase starts, it's over relatively quickly. The campaign leadership committee is engaged for about 4 months. Other Volunteers are active with specific responsibilities for relatively short periods of time. It's a project, not a lifetime commitment.

Now think about the stewardship activity of your parish. Many of us may consider that to be more of a drudgery assignment. Year after year. Over and over. While a capital campaign rolls around every 5 to 10 years and generally boasts big, compelling needs, annual giving is sometimes viewed as just the same old message about the same old budget.

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Topics: Stewardship
June 6, 2017 by Renee McKenzie

On the 2nd day of Ramadan 2017 our senior warden Evelyn and I attended the annual fundraising dinner of the American Muslims for Hunger Relief (AMFHR). We did this at the invitation of Ghani Khan, the Executive Director. The Church of the Advocate and AMFHR have shaped a partnership that fruited in Halal meals being offered monthly at our Advocate Cafe. How wonderful it was that evening of the fundraiser to be immersed in a cultural event outside of the Eurocentric, Christocentric framework, one that propelled me and Evelyn into a sea of colors, textures, tastes, hues and sounds that declared another way of being that nourished and enlightened and spoke to a powerful encounter with the sacred.

What AMFHR does for the Advocate community is less about the Halal meat made available to our patrons. What AMFHR does is remind us that the work before us as Christians is sometimes best done in relationships that cross boundaries to find places of common mission. Our relationship with AMFHR is not predicated upon removal and substitution, we have not substituted any Islamic beliefs or practice for our own, but rather is situated upon a common interest to meet a basic human need; i.e. the need for food. The shock is not in the partnership but in the need.

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June 2, 2017 by Miguel Escobar

All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them. Acts 2:4

On Sunday June 4, Christians around the globe will be celebrating Pentecost, the day in which the Holy Spirit descended on the apostles as “divided tongues, as of fire” enabling them to preach the Good News in many languages. Pentecost is oftentimes called the “Birthday of the Church” because Peter preaches his first sermon shortly afterward, urging the people to believe in Jesus Christ the Messiah and some 3,000 people were converted as a result.

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May 31, 2017 by Annette Buchanan

The discussions on the use of space in our society can sometimes be controversial, they include debates on whether to designate open spaces for parks or golf-courses, commercial spaces for industrial or retail business or housing for low-income or gated communities.

Likewise in our faith communities there are continuous discussions on how to make the best use of the spaces within our church buildings. For many, the default is to use the church for worship only and hold church committee meetings as necessary. While this internal-use model is simple, functional and more secure it does raise the issue of whether the space is being used optimally.

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May 25, 2017 by Alan Bentrup

This week marks the end of school for many families across Texas, so summer begins. Schedules go wonky, people travel, kids go to camps, family comes to visit, and either we’re out of town on Sunday, or traveling, or it’s the one day we can breathe between one trip and the next camp.

This summer, the typical Christian formation offerings at my parish are on sabbath. Because… you know, schedules.

This year, we’ve created “Church on the Go” boxes to help bring faith to life this summer. Inside each box is a variety of ways to help us (and those we love) slow down, deepen relationships with one another, and grow closer to Jesus. Inside each box are coloring books for younger Christians, prayer journals for all ages, ideas for conversation starters, suggested books for every age, and more!

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May 23, 2017 by Linda Buskirk

We Episcopalians love our liturgy and our “color coded” church year (as comedian Robin Williams so cleverly coined it). The liturgical calendar keeps us moving through the Bible, celebrates the major milestones and miracles of our faith, highlights examples of saints we might emulate, and so much more.

Better understanding of the “so much more” is found in The Liturgical Year – The Spiraling Adventures of the Spiritual Life, authored by Benedictine Sister Joan Chittister. The book is great reading for anyone desiring a deeper experience of each season and celebration. In plain terms, Chittister wakes us up to what’s going on each Sunday, explain that, “Each church year moves with measured rhythm in order to knit Jesus’ life and vision into our own personal journeys through time.”

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May 18, 2017 by Brendon Hunter

In the middle of May, the Church observes the custom of Rogation Days. In the spirit of this tradition, we offer five resources to help your congregation get outside and into your neighborhood. 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.

Topics: Evangelism
May 16, 2017 by Annette Buchanan

Our faith communities are continually concerned about how to raise income or offset expenses especially during the summer months when attendance is lower. There are many wonderful stewardship programs that have been deployed to varying levels of success. I wholeheartedly endorse trying one and staying with it for a few years and where possible customizing for the congregation’s needs. Many stewardship committees simply distribute the pledge forms on Stewardship Sunday and wonder why the same approach yields the same result which is fewer pledge forms being completed and a strained budget.

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May 12, 2017 by Linda Buskirk

In 2009, the Property Commission of Trinity Episcopal Church in Fort Wayne, Indiana, was again raising red flags about the condition of the church’s aged boiler. “It could blow any minute, and that could cause a fire… etc.”

There were many other needs at this historic downtown church – needs that were, in fundraising terms, sexier, meaning more alluring to potential donors. These included the beloved organ, which would NOT blow at any given minute. Getting into and around the church was a physical challenge for anyone physically challenged.

It had been at least twenty years since a capital campaign was conducted. Leadership decided that’s what was needed. The Episcopal Church Foundation was engaged to help.

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May 9, 2017 by Alan Bentrup

What is it about tables? We all hear the anecdotes and research about the importance of family dinner around a table. But what about dinner around a table with our church family, or even our community?

The Diocese of Texas started a project several years ago called Sharing Faith Dinners. As its website states, “Sharing Faith dinners invite people to gather around a meal and participate in life together. At each dinner, a moderator will prompt participants to share stories of their faith journey with printed questions. Sharing Faith provides a welcoming and safe way to engage one another, articulate our faith and build relationships.”

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Topics: Outreach, Evangelism
May 5, 2017 by Linda Buskirk

“Why can’t we just ask people what they want to do?”

Sounds so simple. Logical, even. Why spend months in conversation about history, gifts and values to determine “what God is calling this congregation to do to next” when you could just ask people in one parish meeting for suggestions?

Here’s why. We live in community. Think of your congregation as a microcosm of the Body of Christ, which overall is more diverse than we can imagine. People flow in and out of the microcosm. Let’s think first about those who’ve come. Some have been there a long time – decades perhaps. Others arrived ten years ago, or one year ago, or last month.

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May 2, 2017 by Annette Buchanan

As summer approaches and throughout the year, one of the major issues that church leaders face is how to find a clergy person to fill in for Sunday services if the priest is unavailable. This issue is more pervasive for congregations in transition but is equally stressful for congregations with full-time clergy when it is time for vacation, sabbatical or the clergy is ill. The stakes are even higher if the need for clergy is on a high Holy Day such as Easter or Christmas. One of the most important activity for anyone with this responsibility is to plan in advance especially with the current clergy avoiding the last minute panic.

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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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