Decoding Dinner Church

by Bob Leopold on October 30, 2014

I'd like to start this post with a joke.

Q: How many Episcopalians does it take to change a light bulb?
A: Change!?! Why should we change? We like the old light bulb. The Edison family donated it in 1886. See the wall plaque beneath the old bulb?

This little humor is to prepare you for the reality that we do the liturgy a little differently at Southside Abbey. Having said that, there is much about our liturgy that will be familiar, even to those who are change-phobic. We follow the four-fold shape of Gathering, Word, Table, and Sending, but we change it up just a little bit.

One of the great gifts we have been given as followers of Jesus is this sacred meal where Christ has promised to be present in, through, and with us. We celebrate this reality with bread, wine, and a meal, but in the Church we have so stylized that meal that many of our guests and sojourners can scarcely recognize the meal aspect of it.

At Southside Abbey, we are trying to reclaim that sense of a true meal in a very real way.

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Permalink  |  0 Comments Change, Worship

Bag of Marbles

by Anna Olson on October 29, 2014

I keep getting in trouble with my snarky rejoinders to the endless blogs and advice columns exhorting me to keep my church website up to date. Some people dismiss careless website management as inexcusable sloppiness. Others patiently explain once again that they are not asking for that much, just accurate service times and directions.

Let me clarify. I would love to have a website that is up to date. I even understand why it is important. When I was working in a non-parochial job, I once walked twenty blocks with a three-year-old only to discover that the church “wasn’t doing the family service at 9” anymore. I look for information on the web all the time. I get it.

Here are the points I am trying to make. One, for many struggling churches, the resources at hand are simply insufficient to do even all the things that are clearly important and urgent. Website maintenance is an ongoing thing. It requires the continuous presence of someone who knows how this particular website works, remembers to check it, and has the right information to put on it. If that sounds simple, you don’t live in my world.

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Permalink  |  2 Comments Communications, Small Churches

Ten-Minute Fundraiser

by Richelle Thompson on October 28, 2014

Okay, so I might be underestimating a tad, but here’s an idea for a quick-and-easy fundraiser.

Think about upcoming church-wide events. Hymn sing? Thanksgiving gathering? Wreath making? You want an event that will attract a significant proportion of your congregation—and maybe even one that people from outside of the church already attend. I also suggest an early evening event and one with time and space for people to meander. After you’ve picked the likely candidate, add in a Christmas boutique.

The idea is simple: Announce during church and in your newsletters (print and electronic) that you’re inviting vendors to exhibit during the selected event. There’s no charge (or you can charge—your call) but you invite the vendors to donate 10 percent of their sales to the church (or specified ministry). Your role is to do some basic coordination and promotion: How many tables needed, communicate date and times to the vendors, and advertise in different venues.
Other than setting up and tearing down the tables, the onus is on the vendors to prepare their space. If they don’t sell anything, no harm, no foul. If they do, then it’s a win-win. The small or home business vendor earns a little money, and the church receives a donation. And add a third win in there: church members have an opportunity to do some low-key holiday shopping while supporting local merchants/vendors. 

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Permalink  |  0 Comments Finance, Small Churches, Stewardship


by Jeremiah Sierra on October 27, 2014

I went on a ghost tour a few years ago in Lower Manhattan . We walked by old buildings and parks and our guide told us about the people who had died there and also about the occasional hauntings that had been reported. It was more of a history and local folklore tour than a ghost tour. I would argue that the things that haunt us are not spirits of the dead but memories of the past.

We can often feel these “ghosts” of the past in old church buildings and in our communities. In the churchyard of Trinity Wall Street, where I work, more than 11,000 people are buried, from extremely wealthy people and founding fathers to the poorest of New York’s residents. I’ve heard no reports of ghost sightings on the grounds, yet Trinity’s long history affects what Trinity does and how it understands itself.

We can often feel these ghosts in our relationships. A parishioner who has had a bad experience at another church may be extra-sensitive to what the priest says or does, for example. That parishioner might not be responding simply to the individual, but to the ghosts of past priests.

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Permalink  |  0 Comments Leadership, Pastoral Care

Sunday Morning Funeral

by Lisa Fischbeck on October 24, 2014

"A funeral can be a profound expression of what we believe and what we hope. It can form or reinforce that hope where it may have grown thin. Not only does the Sunday morning context strengthen the experience of the funeral, then, but the funeral can strengthen the experience of Sunday morning as well."

Sunday morning funerals are rare.Last Sunday morning, the congregation of The Advocate gathered to say goodbye to one of our own. We commended him to God’s loving hands, and committed his ashes to the ground in the churchyard. It was our primary liturgy of the day.

While baptisms take place in the context of principal liturgies more often than not, and weddings occasionally do, Sunday morning funerals are rare. There are good reasons. A funeral is usually a gathering of those who knew the deceased, who want to express condolences to the family, or to show their respect for the one who died. If the funeral is on a Sunday morning, not everyone gathered will have that intent; the liturgy may feel unwelcoming. Newcomers and visitors could feel left out of the congregation’s corporate grief. Parents might be challenged to know what to say to their children. In short, hospitality can be compromised.

A Sunday funeral could establish an unwanted precedent. Others may want their own funeral, or that of their beloved, on a Sunday morning as well. That could get out of hand fast. There could soon be more Sundays with funerals than Sundays without. We might then have to designate funeral Sundays, the way we designate certain Sundays as more appropriate for baptism. With cremation gaining traction in the society around us, it could certainly be possible. But it would be weird.

The main reason, perhaps, to avoid Sunday morning funerals, is that funerals can be a downer. For the most part, people don’t go to church on Sunday morning to see a box containing the remains of someone we knew or did not know perched before the altar. It is one thing to be reminded of Jesus’ death, quite another to have to think about our own.

All of these are reasonable objections to a Sunday morning funeral. But there are times when it is just the right thing to do.

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Permalink  |  0 Comments Pastoral Care, Worship

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