Ministry After November 8

by Greg Syler on September 28, 2016

“Almighty God, to whom we must account for all our powers and privileges: Guide the people of the United States in the election of officials and representatives; that, by faithful administration and wise laws, the rights of all may be protected and our nation be enabled to fulfill your purposes; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”

- For an Election, Book of Common Prayer p.822

Election Day is Tuesday, November 8. Our Episcopal Church has done a fine job to remind us of the awesome privilege and responsibility of voting. The resources available online, the Election Engagment Toolkit from Episcopal Public Policy Network, as well as the prayers in the Prayer Book itself, including the collect quoted above, have been useful tools in my own prayer life as I get ready.

For the most part, however, I’ve heard, if I can call it that, an uneasy silence. Occasionally, someone in my community will speak up about a particular candidate or issue, but more often than not there’s not much additional dialogue. Perhaps the easiest thing to say goes something like “Well, they’re both terrible, and I don’t like either of them,” even though national polls seem to suggest that in spite of that statement, and the ease of making it, the speaker probably does have his/her mind made up, and it’s not moving from that preconceived place. Just the other day at our monthly pub theology, for instance, my ministry colleague led a discussion about the ethical ‘goods’ contained in both the Republican and Democratic party platforms, and she encouraged us to understand that certain ‘goods’ often compete with one another. It was one of the most thoughtful and prayerful gatherings of Christians talking about politics I had attended in a long, long time – and yet some in attendance were uncomfortable; frankly, they said, they didn’t want anyone telling them what to think!

There’s a lot of anxiety and anger, fear and frustration bottled up in our nation right now. To the degree that it’s impacting my local community – and mostly, as I said, it’s pushed dangerously below the surface – it’s not at all helping us to think about, let alone pray for the common good.

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Your Pledge Dollars at Work

by Nancy Davidge on September 27, 2016

...Or, going forth into the world to love and serve with joy.

The letter was from Commonwealth Shakespeare Company. Another solicitation from an organization my husband and I support. I added it to his pile of mail. Then forgot about it.

Later that day, in our shared office, Bill said, “Hey look at this! You’ll want to see what we got from Commonwealth Shakespeare,” then added, “I bet you’ll want to share this on your website.”Now curious, I looked at the sheet of paper in his hand. Readers of Vestry Papers – especially my article in our current issue – might smile, as I did, at what I saw.

Here’s a photo:

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Permalink  |  0 Comments Stewardship

Stewardship Beyond Obligation

by Linda Buskirk on September 26, 2016

“Stewardship” is a topic about which I’ve heard and prayed throughout my Christian journey. Having grown up in the church, at first I became aware that “stewardship happens in the fall” so we have enough money to operate next year. Mom and Dad received pledge envelopes, put money in them, and placed them in the offering plate on Sunday. It’s what you do when you’re a responsible member of a church. (I don’t remember them telling me that; it’s just what I came to assume).   

When I became a capital campaign consultant with the Episcopal Church Foundation (ECF), I soon realized my understanding of stewardship as a ministry was limited around the concept of obligation.   

I began searching for how to better express the meaning and benefits of stewardship. I also prayed for my own response to God’s abundance to be more significant. One of my favorite authors on this subject is priest and fellow ECF consultant Gerald W. Keucher who encourages church leaders “to move from the language of obligation” in our stewardship ministries.

In his book, Remember the Future: Financial Leadership and Asset Management for Congregations (2006), Keucher discusses how the practice of proportional giving actually frees us from the idea of obligation:

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Reclaiming Morning Prayer

by Annette Buchanan on September 23, 2016

The message heard loud and clear at our monthly UBE (Union of Black Episcopalians) meetings at different congregations throughout the Diocese of New Jersey was how difficult it was to fill all Sunday services with a clergy person. The reasons were varied; the congregation may have been in transition, or the full time clergy was on vacation, on sabbatical, or even ill.   

One idea stood out from all of our discussions. A clergy person suggested we re-embrace layperson led Morning Prayer as a legitimate form of Sunday morning worship. Response was mixed. Anglicans from the Caribbean or Africa experienced Morning Prayer often, due to less frequent clergy availability due to the number of congregations to be served. Older members had positively experienced Morning Prayer as common practice in times past. For others it was a harder pill to swallow, as they believed if there was no Communion then we didn’t really have a Service. There was also feedback that Morning Prayer was unfulfilling and it some cases even boring.   

As a group we agreed to wholeheartedly embrace layperson led Morning Prayer as an option for Sunday worship. The Rev. Canon Martin Oguike, who initially introduced this idea, agreed to lead a full day workshop on how to do Morning Prayer well.  

Here are some of the key take-aways from the workshop. They may seen obvious yet I believe they are worth sharing: 

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Permalink  |  0 Comments Christian Formation, Leadership, Small Churches, Worship

Stuff We Can’t Fix

by Anna Olson on September 22, 2016

The fall equinox is here. Days are growing shorter, and even drought-scorched Los Angeles is showing signs of cooling down.

It’s been an overwhelming summer. The unrelenting violence around the nation and the world has gotten to me. Police shooting people. People shooting police. People on trains, in airports and hospitals, celebrating at weddings, seeing their lives turned suddenly to carnage. Earlier this summer, a mom and her 4-year-old daughter shot to death on the way home from the grocery store two blocks from a church I served. Today, news of four people shot, two killed, a block from another church I served. Trouble here, there, everywhere.

Los Angeles has also seen an enormous upsurge in homelessness. In the mile and a half between my home and my church, I pass dozens of people living in tents on the sidewalks, dozens more living in their cars and vans and rundown campers. Mountains of trash grow near each small encampment. It’s like that all over the city. Many of my homeless neighbors get up and go to work every morning. In LA, a job is no match for the cost of housing, especially for anyone whose credit has ever been compromised.

How do we pray about huge, horrible things that we can’t easily stop or control? How do we pray when there is nothing we can do to fix what is wrong? How can we pray when we are mired in systems and history that are not easily undone, even by long hours of advocacy and heartfelt desires on the part of many?

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