Should We Make Decisions Today That People Tomorrow Will Change?

by Greg Syler on August 24, 2016

For the past several weeks, I’ve snuck an hour or half-hour, here or there, on as many days as I can to clear rocks from the rectory’s front yard in Valley Lee. My late predecessor, his wife tells me, got a call one day from a friend who offered him stones – a whole assortment of large, extra-large and not-so-small rocks. He gladly accepted the gift and turned them into edges for flower beds – lovely, I imagine, in his time. Ever since his departure and throughout the decade after he left and before I arrived, the rock edges did little more than keep the weeds in and the trimming out. I thought clearing the beds and cleaning up the front yard would be an easy summer job, achievable in a just few days since, after all, the stones didn’t appear very large. Regrettably, I’ve been reminded that heavy objects sink rather well in this porous southern Maryland soil, such that I was only looking at the tip of what are, in retrospect, hundreds and hundreds of extra large boulders!

Needless to say, I’ve had plenty of ‘conversations’ with my late predecessor, a fine priest all around but whom, I wished, hadn’t set up such a labor to clean up the place. (I’ll also confess to a bit of jealousy regarding those so-called ‘good old days’ where rectors living in rectories could spend their time erecting and planting flower beds, weeding and enjoying what was, surely, a more straightforward sense of call.) “What were you thinking?!” is a phrase I’ve uttered plenty, the garden stones and churchyard being my only companions on these hot August days.

I’m reminded of wise advice a savvy parish administrator once told me. “Don’t make any decisions today that you think will impact negatively the person who comes after you,” she warned. I was a curate back then, and she had seen plenty of my kind come and go. She was right, and ever since she said that, and throughout plenty of other ministry I’ve admired how true her warning remains. We could do a much better job, we who are currently incumbents in whatever positions we hold, of travelling lightly, storing less, and creating less of a load for those who may come after us. From the physical stuff we accumulate to the stories we tell to the titles we hold dear, it may be wise to ‘lighten the ballast’, as it were, in our corporate experience, to the degree we can, even if in only small measures.

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Permalink  |  0 Comments Discernment, Small Churches, Vision & Planning

Love Always Wins

by Richelle Thompson on August 23, 2016

Sometimes, when life hands you lemons, you have a chance to show love.

Between Friday night and Saturday morning, someone (or a group of someones) tagged St. Michael the Archangel Episcopal Church with graffiti. It wasn’t pretty. The doors were covered, as well as part of the sidewalk and entrance. Some of the messages were pretty raunchy.

No sooner had the rector, the Rev. Laurie Brock, sent out a message about the vandalism than parishioners showed up, rolled their sleeves, and began scrubbing. Had the cleanup stopped there, it would have been a story about the congregation responding quickly to an unfortunate situation.

But instead, the next day, Brock invited parishioners to use sidewalk chalk to “tag” the church sidewalks and drive – but this time with expressions of God’s love.

"The vandalism is not the story. That's a part of it. The end of the story is always love in the Christian faith," Brock told the reporter. "When people send out into the world hate and violence, our responsibility is to respond with love."

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Permalink  |  0 Comments Evangelism

Perfect Isn’t Good Enough

by Alan Bentrup on August 22, 2016

Last night’s Olympic closing ceremony was a fitting end to two weeks where that saw outstanding performances, unflinching determination, and constant innovation.

One of the brightest stars of this Olympiad was Houston’s own Simone Biles, who amazed audiences as much as she challenged history. And as this NBC Sports story notes, Biles’ feat highlights just how much gymnastics has innovated since doing away with the idea of the “Perfect 10.”

The governing body of gymnastics decided that it was more interested in innovation than it was in perfection, so it changed the scoring system. The new system encourages athletes to try new things, attempt increasingly more difficult moves, and to be creative. In this world, Simone Biles is pushing the envelope and leading the way.

In the church, are we too often unwilling to try new things because we instead are striving for “perfection” in the things we already are doing? Perhaps we should be willing to try out that new idea that we think will be difficult to accomplish. Or start that new ministry that challenges us.

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Permalink  |  0 Comments Change, Vision & Planning

Vital Practices Digest: 5 Resources to Jumpstart Fundraising

by Brendon Hunter on August 17, 2016

In the August Vital Practices Digest, we offer 5 resources to help jumpstart your fall annual giving efforts, 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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Permalink  |  0 Comments Finance, Stewardship

Pray for Pirates

by Richelle Thompson on August 16, 2016

Amid the various back-to-school traditions of churches, one congregation has struck gold. They tap into the community’s strong support for the schools – and particularly for its athletics – by offering yard signs: Pray for a Pirate. Pray for a Titan. Pray for a Panther.

In the week before the special school kick-off Sunday service, the church’s front lawn is full of these signs – a powerful testament for passersby of the church’s connection to the community. Who doesn’t want to pray for young people as they return to school?
The church also invites a few student-athletes to speak during worship about the role that faith plays in their lives.

This outreach is brilliant on many levels. It shows support for students, from kindergarten to senior. It reflects the congregation’s commitment to the community, a tacit acknowledgment that life is more than just Sunday morning. I suspect the pews will be full on this Sunday – and perhaps with folks who don’t normally come and maybe a few who will decide to attend the next Sunday and beyond.

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Permalink  |  0 Comments Evangelism, Outreach

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