Apples and Oranges

by Anna Olson on November 25, 2014

I was intrigued by the Lutheran blog that asked “Do we have Nadia problem?” reposted in part on Episcopal Cafe. Episcopal responses included an amusing retort: Would that we had a Nadia problem! We don’t even have a Nadia.

The Nadia in question is Nadia Bolz-Weber, possibly the only celebrity pastor out there from mainline/liberal Christianity these days. She’s tattooed, foul-mouthed, in recovery, and pastors a congregation that was founded to serve people disaffected and abused by more traditional forms of church. She’s a strong writer, inspiring preacher, and seemingly effective pastor. She’s also a bit of a rock star these days.

I’m skeptical enough of our culture’s love of making rock stars that I’m not sure we need an Episcopal rock star. I’m also a little tired of hearing about how excited certain staid Episcopalians get every time they hear about a young green-haired priest out there stirring things up. I’d love to have dozens of Nadias: gifted writers, pastors, theologians, preachers. By that definition there are arguably a number of Episcopal Nadias, just not the rock star variety. But in none of those cases (including that of the original Nadia) is the hair color or the skin decoration the substance of the ministry.

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Listening Campaign

by Linda Buskirk on November 24, 2014

It may seem odd to think about listening as a way to engage more people in the life of your congregation. We are used to teaching, preaching, singing, worshiping, setting up web sites, posting on Facebook, tweeting, for heaven’s sake. But listening?

A “listening campaign” started as a project for a small team within Saint Michael and All Angels Episcopal Church in South Bend, Indiana. These folks were participants in the Diocese of Northern Indiana’s Diocesan Congregational Development Institute. As a DCDI assignment, they were to interview a few people in their parish and report on what they learned by listening. But the Saint Michael’s team wanted to take that to a whole new level.

It took four or five meetings, but eventually the vestry committed to interviewing the entire congregation. Names were assigned for one-on-one discussions based on four revealing questions:

  1. What brought you to Saint Michael’s?
  2. What keeps you at Saint Michael’s?
  3. What are the greatest strengths of our parish?
  4. What do you see as the greatest challenges facing our parish?

Rector Matthew Cowden explains that the interviews were NOT all about the data.

“We knew the data would be important, but we knew it would be more important to build relationships, beginning with the interviewer and interviewee. It took a while for the vestry to understand the value of such an enormous undertaking, involving the whole congregation. It was one vestry member, a successful, no-nonsense banker, who simply stated that the listening campaign was exactly what his bank does to enhance customer satisfaction. When he said, ‘it’s about building relationships,’ the rest of the vestry got on board,” Father Cowden recalls.

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Permalink  |  0 Comments Stewardship, Vision & Planning

Using the Internet to Help People Pray

by Jamie Coats on November 21, 2014

Our phones, we love them and we hate them. Can we pray with them?

I work for the Brothers of the Society of Saint the Evangelist who in their Rule of Life talk about being “Men of the moment, up to the mark of the day.” This Advent the Brothers are inviting people worldwide to celebrate Advent through prayer, meditation and by contributing to a global Advent calendar.

Each day for Advent the Brothers are sending out by email a daily word, meditation and beautiful image. The emails are “time warped” so that they arrive at 5am wherever a person is on the planet. To subscribe visit

“5:00 am is about the time we get up to pray. Of course you can look at your email after 5:00 am,” said Brother Jim Woodrum, SSJE, “People maybe surprised to know that monks have cameraphones too and we are showing people how to pray with their phones this Advent. If you are inspired please snap a picture and Instagram it.”

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Permalink  |  0 Comments Prayer & Reflection, Worship

Faith Connections

by Janine Hand on November 20, 2014

Most Friday afternoons the office at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, Del Mar, California, is a quiet place. Locals head out of work early to hit the beach, but get stuck in a jam on the freeways. Though we staff the front desk lest the phone ring or an email comes in, no calls come through; no emails pop up. It’s warm, sunny, and breezy, on a Friday Del Mar day.

This particular Friday was no different. The busyness of the workweek was over. Bulletins were printed; updated announcements were posted to the web site. St. Peter’s was ready for weekend worship. I sat quietly wondering what I could do next.

Fairly new to California, missing home, friends, family, and my home congregation, it dawned on me if I familiarized myself with the church’s pictorial directory, I might recognize a friendly face in my new community if I ran into someone here or there. I could put names and faces together, and make connections.

What seemed like a lot of time that passed was really not. Done with the directory, I thought I’d see if our web pages were user-friendly, eye-catching, and chock-full-of-information. I decided they flowed logically one to the next, were accurate, and timely. You could learn where the church is located, when we hold worship services, and all particulars for upcoming special events. You can browse photos, old newsletters, and select a sermon or two to hear. You can even choose how you’d like to serve the church and surrounding community. Why would the phone need to ring or an email be sent with such an effective tool? It wouldn’t!

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Permalink  |  0 Comments Hospitality, Pastoral Care

Outreach 101: Relationships and Transformation

by Brendon Hunter on November 19, 2014

“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

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Permalink  |  0 Comments Outreach

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