Civil Discourse

by Richelle Thompson on October 21, 2014

The shrill, my-opinion-is-the-only-opinion way of talking, isn't working. 

As a society at large and in the wider church as well as our local congregations, we too often divide into like-minded factions, erecting barricades and resentments against those with different positions on certain issues. 

I wonder if we've become hunkered down so much with like-minded people that we've lost the muscle tone to do the heavy-lifting of engaged, respectful conversation. 

The Episcopal Church is offering a personal trainer--or at least some thoughtful, reflective discussion -- about how we can talk with one another and build relationships even with people who have differing opinions. 

On Oct. 22, The Episcopal Church is hosting and producing a groundbreaking forum: Civil Discourse in America: Finding Common Ground for the Greater Good. Well-respected leaders from differing backgrounds will serve as panelists with a focus on two key areas: Civil Discourse and Faith in America and Civil Discourse in Politics and Policy. The goal is to model civil discourse, to show by example that difficult issues such as faith and politics can--and should--be explored. Done with care and consideration, these conversations can strengthen our relationships and communities, helping us to live and love one another as Jesus commanded. 

The forum and webcast begins at 2 p.m. EST on Oct. 22 and can be viewed at http://www.episcopalchurch.org/page/civil-discourse-event

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Dealing with Anger

by Jeremiah Sierra on October 20, 2014

Sometimes I swear at my computer. When, for example, it freezes up while I am rushing to get something done, I say things to it I would not want anyone else to hear. I don’t feel too bad about this, however (in fact, there is some evidence that swearing can reduce stress).

When is it appropriate to express anger? Anger is a legitimate emotion, and inevitably it will surface from time to time in any community. Anyone who has been a part of a church for a long time or worked with other human beings has experienced this. While I don’t think we should swear at each other, anger is something that must be dealt with. This is something I am learning with my wife. An occasional fight can be painful, but helpful and even necessary. We need to recognize anger when it pops up in our community and deal with it in appropriate ways. Not doing so can lead to resentment, which is a more insidious emotion that can tear relationships apart.

How do we deal with anger?

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Leadership From the Side: Follow Other Leaders

by Elizabeth M. Magill on October 17, 2014

Part 4 of 4. (Read Part 1, Part 2, Part 3)

Maybe this blog should have been the first, but as we close this series, I must remind you that there is no such thing as solo leadership. You can't lead without followers, you can’t lead well without other leaders, and you are often called to follow different leaders. The decision to lead from the side is a decision to engage with other leaders in your congregation.

At the Howell family reunion my sister Marion started a back massage line with her nephew Brendan. Each person rubbed the back of the person in front of them, and had their own back rubbed by the person behind. While we recognized Marion and Brendan as leaders, we sometimes forget that success came because others followed their lead. Those who joined the line were followers of the first back scratchers, but were leaders of all those who had not yet joined.

Being a leader from the side includes following good leaders. If someone in your congregation has a creative proposal, show your leadership by following. Show your following skills by joining the team, seeking out useful resources, sharing in the work, exploring frustrations, and advising. Be sure to tell your fellow leaders, and others, what a good idea it is. But be careful! You model the best leadership by following without taking over.

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There will be Trespasses!

by Anna Olson on October 16, 2014

Lately I’ve been paying attention to what Jesus asks of us in prayer and relationship. I understand the instructions not just in terms of what we are to do, but also as a sign of what God knows about the formation of human community. Sometimes we imagine that God expects churches (and families) to be perfect, but if that were so, why would we have so much instruction about what to do when things go sour?

Trespasses are my favorite thing about the traditional language version of the Lord’s Prayer. They are more colorful, more descriptive, and less loaded than sins. They encompass the large and the small -- the squashed toe as well as the midnight intruder.

Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.

The more people we have in and around church, and the more varied those people are in their ways of engaging, the more we step on one another. The longer our congregations have gone without incorporating new people, the more sensitive we become to even small incursions into “our” space.

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Critical Feedback

by Brendon Hunter on October 15, 2014

Whether we want to hear it or not, paying attention to feedback – solicited or unsolicited – is critical. When we listen for – and to - how others see us, it opens a window on how we, or our ministries, are perceived by others. This month in the ECF Vital Practices mid-month digest, we offer articles and resources for generating critical feedback, from tough conversations to audits, in practical and palatable (and, in some cases, far more affordable) ways. 

Our team at the Episcopal Church Foundation is committed to helping you develop the leadership and financial skills to carry out your congregation’s mission and ministry. Subscribe to ECF Vital Practices and get Vestry Papers and the mid-month digest delivered right to your inbox - it's simple and free! Click here or on the subscribe button on the top right side of each webpage.

Do you have feedback for us? Leave a comment below or send us an email. We look forward to hearing from you.

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