Midnight Evangelism

by Robert Hendrickson on July 22, 2016

So this will be a short post as we are in the throes of packing and the movers come later this morning – but I had one of those experiences that puts a few things in perspective. At 11:30 in the evening I ran to Walgreen’s to get some last minute essentials for our trip to Tucson. I have spent the day packing, cleaning out the garage, cleaning off lawn furniture, throwing away lots of trash, and more. So after 15 hours of that, I was not looking my Sunday best.

When I went in to the store, a young woman was at the counter. She was in soccer shorts and a t-shirt and seemed to be having a pretty animated though convivial conversation with the man working the counter. I got my few items and went to stand in line while wondering why her transaction was taking so long. I overheard her say, “It’s a great church!” It turns out she had been telling him all about her church – that’s what was taking so long. When she noticed that I was listening in – she asked me “Do you want to know more?”

I was taken in by her energy and said that I would. She explained that she goes to the Upper Room Church which was started in Dallas but has branched out to Denver. She loves it because it is focused on “The work Jesus did.” When I asked what that meant, she said, “Well, for example, we’ve all been out tonight going to places where the homeless gather at night and inviting them to breakfast tomorrow morning. No strings, just a meal and a conversation partner.”

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When Things Don’t Go According to Plan

by Anna Olson on July 21, 2016

What do you do when things don’t go according to plan?

Episcopalians are planners. We like things to be decent and in order, and we like to know who’s doing what well in advance of the liturgy or event we are planning. We make a rota, order the correct number of bulletins, set the correct number of chairs.

Except life isn’t really predictable, is it? I was recently at a very well planned conference, serving as chaplain. A family tragedy meant that the musician who was to have been with us couldn’t come at the last minute. The day before the conference, Orlando happened. Our well-laid plans no longer made the kind of sense they had just the week before.

I am neither a musician nor a fabulous creator of prayer space. But I knew we needed music and a place of remembrance and prayer. So I sang, mostly on key. I asked for a dedicated corner of space and some candles. I printed out the names and pictures of victims. Most importantly, I invited the gathered community to add to my efforts.

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Vital Practices Digest: 5 Resources on Spirituality and Leadership

by Brendon Hunter on July 20, 2016

In the July Vital Practices Digest, we offer 5 resources centered on spiritual aspects of leadership in congregations, 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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Travel Dreams Compete with Terrorism Fears

by Richelle Thompson on July 19, 2016

People warned us not to go. With the Euro soccer tournament and the wounds still fresh from last November’s terror attack in Paris, France was on high alert. Belgium was reeling from the bombing at the Brussels airport. Germany is flooded with refugees. Maybe, concerned friends and family members suggested, we should postpone our trip to Europe.

But we forged ahead, two decades of saving and dreaming unwilling to be daunted by possible threats. Eight days after our flight home to Cincinnati from Paris, a man turned celebration into terror. He transformed a truck into a weapon to mow over crowds of people who had just finished watching fireworks in honor of Bastille Day — akin to our Fourth of July.

If our trip was tomorrow instead of a month ago, I wonder if we would go. Among the 84 dead are a father and 11-year-old boy from Texas. Our son is 11. Although we didn’t visit Nice and the south of France, we ascended the Eiffel Tower, explored the city center of Munich, walked cobblestone streets in Belgium, and put miles on our pedometers in London. I can’t imagine the whiplash of emotions, from a longed-for family vacation to murder on the street. As I mourn with this family and with all of those killed in the attack, I turn inward, wanting to create a safe space for all those I love and to push away all the unknowns, to fear the stranger.

And yet there is Dean.

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Fruit by Committee?

by Linda Buskirk on July 18, 2016

We come to our churches with many gifts. One spirit supplies our gifts. Diverse as we are, we are one in this spirit. This is lovely, Biblical reality. So why do the fruits of our gifts sometimes seem a little sparse?

In many congregations, the fruits are organized by committees. That’s great - many hands make light work, etc. However sometimes the organization itself may block ministries from their full harvest potential.

In his book, Governance and Ministry: Rethinking Board Leadership (2009, The Alban Institute), Dan Hotchkiss reminds us that committees may not be the right structure for vital ministries. Lumping all aspects of a certain ministry into one committee’s lap may overwhelm and make the committee members wary of new ideas or initiatives. Hotchkiss encourages us to separate governance from ministry: 

"…there is no reason why someone with a heart for child care needs to attend meetings to interpret the insurance company requirements about child safety – or vice versa." (pg. 76)

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