Friendship Beyond Language

by Anna Olson on June 22, 2016

Editor’s Note: Summer, with its longer days and relaxed schedule, can be a time of exploration or trying new things. In today’s summer ‘rerun,’ first posted July 31, 2014, Anna Olson uses a childhood memory as a springboard for action…

I have been doing something recently that I had not done in a ridiculously long time. I am making friends without the help of a fluent common language. Given that I live in one of the most immigrant-dominated cities in the world, it's really nothing short of embarrassing. But some combination of laziness, sin, and over-reliance on my fluency in LA's two most-spoken languages had convinced me that without easy language, there was no point in trying.

I once knew the skills and rewards of friendship beyond language. Some of the most important people in my adolescence were students at the ESL school for refugees where my mother taught and I volunteered. As a shy teenager unsure of my place in the world, I found welcome and understanding in relationship with newly-arrived beginning English speakers from Laos, Ethiopia, Cambodia, and Viet Nam.

As a kid, I learned that shared food and shared laughter and small gifts could make up for many deficits in communication. I learned that speaking a little slowly and very clearly (but not extra LOUDLY) is a big help. I learned that distilling complicated thoughts and feelings into very simple words is possible, even powerful. I learned that beginnings are awkward, but that the very act of hanging in there together forges trust, and eventually mutual comfort.

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Permalink  |  0 Comments Diversity, Outreach

Building Community -- at a Campground -- and Church

by Richelle Thompson on June 21, 2016

Summer camping is one of the joys of summer.Richelle Thompson is vacationing with her family. While she’s away, ECF Vital Practices is offering ‘reruns’ of some of her more popular posts, this one from May 31, 2011.

Campers could share a lot with parishioners when it comes to building community.

We travel frequently with our children – my son was seven weeks old when I flew to New York City for a business trip. I wasn’t ready to leave him yet, so we packed the Baby Bjorn and gave him an early taste of Times Square. The kids have been to Disney (World and Land), San Francisco, Niagara Falls, and lots of places in between.

But invariably, when we ask their favorite vacation, the reply is instant and unanimous: camping.

I thought about this over the Memorial Day weekend, as we rented our small slice of the outdoors for a three-day retreat.

Campers build community quickly. After all, they’re only around for a couple of nights – there’s no time to put out tentative feelers. It’s jump-in and take-a-risk community-building. The folks at the next campsite run out of dishwashing soap and instead of making a run to Wal-Mart, they cross five feet into the next site and ask if they can borrow some. When another driver is struggling to back into a site, fellow campers hop up and start guiding him. During the outdoor movie, people sit together and laugh; they share popcorn and mosquito spray.

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Permalink  |  0 Comments Christian Formation, Hospitality

When He Heard About Jesus

by Linda Buskirk on June 20, 2016

The first acts of Christian evangelism occurred while Jesus was still with us in human form. For example, consider the centurion in Capernaum, as told in Luke 7. He was a representative of an oppressive force that often terrorized people. Yet he was kind to those who lived under his control, building them a synagogue. Perhaps he was simply shrewd, showing calculated mercy to keep the peace.   

Can you imagine approaching someone who has the authority to kill you to talk about your faith? Yet someone did tell the centurion about Jesus. I wonder how that conversation went…   

“Centurion, I was at a synagogue in another town last Sabbath, and I saw Jesus heal a man with a shriveled hand! Maybe Jesus can heal your servant.”   

“Why would this Jesus do that for me?”   

“Well, I heard Jesus preaching too. He said we should love our enemies, do good to them, without expecting to get anything back. He said if people do this, our reward will be great, because we are children of God who is kind even to the ungrateful and wicked. He said we should be merciful, just as our Father God is merciful.”   

What stirred in the centurion’s heart that made him understand the power and mercy of Jesus? I don’t know. But I do know that his faith came after someone told him about Jesus.   

Today we have grown complacent about evangelism. Sure, if someone comes into our church, we’ll welcome her.   

But what if that person lives next door and has a foreign sounding name and different color skin? Should we be politically correct and not risk offending him by sharing our faith story?   

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Permalink  |  0 Comments Evangelism

God Mission And The Church’s Organization

by Greg Syler on June 16, 2016

A title like this should go with a longer, more comprehensive and sufficiently nuanced piece, or perhaps a book. Be forewarned: this is not that contribution. It isn’t even close.

Here’s what I want to share: St. George’s in Valley Lee, Maryland just adopted a Collaborative Ministry Covenant with our neighbor congregation, Church of the Ascension in Lexington Park, Maryland. Both are congregations of approximately the same size, only a few miles away from each other in St. Mary’s County, a growing, fascinating and rapidly changing place to do ministry. St. George’s and I have been talking for a long, long time about serious, significant and intentional institutional collaboration with neighbor Episcopal congregations. The trends aren’t pleasant, the long-term challenges even less so, but the opportunities for ministry could be pretty abundant. Seven years ago, together with our Diocese of Washington, congregations in our region started talking about “The Episcopal Church in Southern Maryland, 10 Years Out,” even as the official timer on that ‘10 Year’ clock never began. We didn’t pull off a grand collaborative vision on a regional scale, but it is growing in pockets – the four-year long process between St. George’s and Ascension which has gotten us to this point being one such sign.

The Covenant is a broad statement which, now, enables two separate congregations to figure out the details, together: how to work together, call one shared rector, empower greater degrees of lay ministry, and more fully serve our immediate community, let alone God’s Kingdom. The Covenant isn’t a ‘contract’, and all the business-stuff is yet to come.

Which brings me to the point where I should end this post, or at least this part of this post.

For we should discuss the best ways to set up a functioning, operational, reasonably healthy and well-endowed congregation. The opportunity for Ascension and St. George’s, I think, is that everything, for the first time in a long time, is on the table.

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Permalink  |  0 Comments Leadership, Vision & Planning

Vital Practices Digest: 5 Resources on Re-Thinking Buildings

by Brendon Hunter on June 15, 2016


In the June Vital Practices Digest, we offer 5 resources for re-thinking the purpose and use of your church buildings, with the 5th a resource to help in developing year-round stewardship in your congregation.

It’s easy and free to connect with more great resources for your congregation. Subscribe to ECF Vital Practices to receive Vestry Papers and this Vital Practices Digest in your inbox each month.


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Permalink  |  0 Comments Buildings and Grounds, Change

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