Can a Starbucks Barista Find a Place in The Episcopal Church

by Jesse Zink on September 1, 2014

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.

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Permalink  |  0 Comments Outreach, Vision & Planning

The Other Way to Renovate

by Greg Syler on August 29, 2014

Like every other church, St. George’s deals with deferred maintenance on our buildings and grounds. We try to keep up with as many projects as we can, but our forebears gave us a lot of stuff and, today, the funds and the personnel are limited. But even more limited than the money or the volunteer core has been the vision to do something and the will to carry it out.

For the life of me, I could never figure out why we couldn’t get a properly organized Buildings & Grounds Committee at St. George’s, despite the fact that there are lots of handy and capable crafts-people in this congregation and community. In part, that was the problem: the do-ers wouldn’t come to the table because they just wanted to get a project done, and the planners would slow down the process and frustrate the former group.

Over the course of this past year, that heavy dysfunction has begun to change. It changed when one person came on board, gifted with a calm, straightforward, clear, and balanced leadership capacity. She has convened meetings and made the meetings – not to mention the agenda and overall process – quite clear and transparent. She has massaged egos and calmed nerves and clarified points of disagreement. She has her own thoughts about what should happen and what something should look like, but she leads with her experience and gifts as a group facilitator.

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Permalink  |  0 Comments Buildings and Grounds, Leadership, Stewardship

Leading from the Side: Authority and Power

by Elizabeth M. Magill on August 28, 2014

Part 2 of 4. Read Part 1 here.

When you begin to lead from the side in your church, I have found that people will question your authority, question your power, and question your ability to be a leader. To stand firm in my commitment to lead from the side it has helped me to be able to explain why I am allowed to do this, why I am encouraged to do this, why I am called to do this. You can do this, and while you are at it, you can explain to your fellow congregants that they are called, too.

Calling is a big word, and the authority to lead is a big idea. How can I so broadly claim that you have this authority? Quite simply, baptism is a call to ministry, Church is a gathering of ministers, ministers lead both in the church and in the world. Ordained leadership is a good and powerful thing, but it is not the only thing, nor even the primary thing, that keeps a church gathered together discerning God’s ministry. The primary thing is the people of the church listening for God’s guidance for being in the world. It would be great if every church was developing programs to help you discern your calling, and was empowering you to lead ministries both within your church and in the world. But whether or not your local congregation is helping you with your calling, God is calling all baptized Christians to ministries of leadership. If you wish your congregation would change, you have the authority to be one of the leaders of that change.

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Permalink  |  0 Comments Change, Leadership

Hybrid Faith Formation: The Story so Far...

by Kyle Matthew Oliver on August 27, 2014

"What do we do with the people who say they want to learn but can’t come to a weekly Bible study, or even Sunday school?"

Over the past eighteen months, I’ve learned a lot about how new ministry models emerge: Collaboratively. In fits and starts. Through a creative combination of need and excitement. With more failures than successes. And by the power of the Spirit of God who never fails to make her presence known when we’re on the right track.

The story of hybrid faith formation began at the 2013 Forma Conference.  My friend and colleague Day Smith Pritchartt had read an article I wrote about “faith formation networks,”  eporting on work by John Roberto as part of the Faith Formation 2020 research project he helped lead.

I was excited because faith formation networks seemed to be a great answer to a question I get by phone, email, and social media inquiry every couple of weeks in my job in the faith formation resource center where I work:

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Permalink  |  0 Comments Change, Christian Formation

You've Been Challenged

by Richelle Thompson on August 26, 2014

Can you handle one more ALS ice-bucket challenge video? I promise. There’s a twist.
When my husband was challenged on Facebook, we talked about how to make it fun – and engage the whole congregation. This is what we came up with:


It was fun—and funny. Plus, it is, I think, a good example of being relevant and connected. Too often church isn’t a part of the world, but an insulated place of refuge and escape. Too often our priests are on pedestals, in the world but not of it. When we take ourselves too seriously, we often forget to take Jesus serious.

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Permalink  |  0 Comments Change, Christian Formation, Outreach

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