Ministry by the Book
by Anna Olson on September 3, 2015
I had to do a bit of Biblical ministry this past Sunday.
I arrived at my final Sunday service (a Spanish service that has been going for about a year) to discover that almost no one was there. It was (or at least seemed in the moment) actually worse than having no one there at all. There was one lovely family, newish in the church, stalwarts of this new thing we are trying to build. They had gotten themselves there and were all ready to have church. They were looking around a little nervously, a little hopefully, waiting to see when the others were going to show up.
I greeted them, and retreated to the sacristy. I put on my vestments and had an irritable conversation with Jesus, who was, as usual, unflappable in the face of ecclesiastical catastrophe. He drew my attention to the fact that there were some perfectly serviceable people outside in the parking lot. They had come to talk to me about planning a special-occasion service. They had arrived just at the time mass was supposed to start. When I explained that mass was happening, and we could talk after, they retreated affably to wait for me. I had hoped they would come in, but they hadn’t.
Jesus made me walk outside, in my vestments, and tell the people in the parking lot that I was about to do mass with one single small family, and that I would really like them to come inside and be with us. It was humiliating. Successful priests, I seem to believe, get to put on their vestments and emerge triumphantly from the sacristy in all their fabulousness to a full house that gathers just because everyone already knows that they are fabulous. Sweating in my vestments in the parking lot, I felt like a visible failure, the priest who threw a party and nobody came.
September 2015 Editor’s Letter: Rethinking Stewardship
by Nancy Davidge on September 2, 2015
It’s September. The program year is kicking off, soon followed by annual campaigns, budgeting, and diocesan convocations or conventions. It’s a busy time and I’m about to suggest adding something else to this mix: Plan time this program year to rethink your congregation’s stewardship programs.
Our September articles and resources share how others are thinking about stewardship. Perhaps some of their experiences will spark a conversation at a vestry or other leadership meeting and provide a catalyst for looking at your own situation in a different way.
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A Ministry of Encouragement
by Richelle Thompson on September 1, 2015
Folded between faded newspapers and birthday cards were the notes I had written.
My husband and his family found them as they were cleaning out his grandmother’s house. I didn’t remember writing them.
But apparently I did. The notes didn’t contain anything monumental. Updates on a job search, plans for vacations, comments about the weather or an upcoming visit. In themselves, they weren’t anything special but, as with many gestures, it wasn’t the content that mattered as much as the effort.
I hardly ever write notes now. I dash off a lot of emails. A lot. I comment on Facebook posts and send invites by texts. But no one will tuck those into a dresser drawer for safekeeping. No one will pull out Facebook Messenger and hold the words in their hands on a sorrow-filled day.
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Christian Formation, Hospitality, Pastoral Care
Holy Trinity, Holy Seeds, Part 2
by Linda Buskirk on August 31, 2015
This is the second of a 3-part series about the relationship ministry of Holy Trinity Episcopal Church in South Bend, Indiana. Read part 1 here.
In 2011, in the midst of “mayhem” in inner city South Bend, Indiana, Holy Trinity Episcopal Church hosted a community meeting. Rather than retreating into the fortress of the church in the wake of violence, the people of Holy Trinity invited neighbors to join with them in activism, calling on authorities to pay attention, and calling on each other to live in peace. It was the planting of a Kingdom seed.
In the four years since that time, Holy Trinity has continued planting seeds, and now celebrates how the seeds, and the congregation, are firmly rooted.
Through open listening sessions, the people of Holy Trinity learned that what neighbors wanted most was relationship – to be in community with the church. Current priest-in-charge, Mother Terri Bays, says the process helped the congregation “become more attuned to the blessings of the neighborhood.”
This mutual respect is reflected in Holy Trinity’s responses to ministry opportunities. For instance, Mother Terri explains: “We had children wandering into church during services. They gobbled up snacks. We talked about that. One man said, ‘I just want to make them some soup.’ But none of us wanted a ‘soup kitchen.’
Rather, Holy Trinity began hosting community suppers – not for their neighbors, but for members of the church and neighbors, so everyone could sit and talk with each other.
“Our ministry is to walk with our neighbors and to notice the work of God already going on in their lives,” explains Mother Terri. “It’s not just us who are holy. Part of our job is to help people recognize their own gifts.”
Walking with neighbors is quite literal for Holy Trinity. On Rogation Days, instead of praying for the work inside the church, Holy Trinity processes down sidewalks, stopping to pray for people who work in the neighborhood. Mother Terri explains the church asked store owners in advance for permission to come on their property and pray. She then wrote special prayers for each place.
“We started with our own community garden, then the convenience store across the street, then we kept going. Along the route was a business that washing cars out front, but was suspected of selling drugs out back. We noticed a group of people sitting out in front of the business, and they were watching us. We went into a gas station where people thanked us for our prayers, and we kept walking. Suddenly one of the people from the group watching us came running up to us. I left the front of the procession and circled back to meet him. As the man approached he asked, ‘Are you praying only for the good people? Aren’t we good enough?’’
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Matthew Nickoloff: Take It and Tweet It
by Faith & Leadership on August 28, 2015
If St. Augustine were alive today, you could follow him on Twitter @BishopofHippo.
It wasn’t quite St. Augustine’s famous “take it and read it” conversion moment in his “Confessions.” But hearing the Rev. Keith Anderson discuss social media and pastoral practice at the Rocky Mountain Synod’s Theological Convocation was a kind of repentance for me.
Because now, I’m officially a believer in the gospel of “digital ministry.”
I’ve long been a skeptic of the salvation promised by the story social media tells. Looking around the conference room at dozens of pastors unable to listen to such a compelling presenter without burying their heads in their iPhones every five minutes only provided grist for the mills. I’ve always felt (feared?) that Facebook and “friends” were gateway drugs, the use of which would precipitate a rapid decline into gnosticism and narcissism.
But just as St. Ambrose unlocked the creative potential of new readings of Scripture for Augustine, Keith presented us with a radically different vision of digital media as a vehicle for digital ministry.
Keith reminded us that “people are not looking for information, but relationship,” and that “your website/sermon blog/Facebook profile -- that you never use! -- cannot love somebody.” He flipped the script on a broadcast mentality of social media, challenging us to consider the question: “How do we love people via social media? How do we extend grace and share Christ’s gospel through it?”
Now that’s a query Augustine would relish: challenging our disordered desire for the false “enjoyment” of media by considering the “use” -- in love -- to which we might put it.
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