• What are you waiting for? ✓
    Vital Posts
    Among my character traits, you will not find “waits with patience.”  Whether it’s for a table at a restaurant, on hold with customer service, or anticipating a big trip, waiting is not among my virtues.  That makes Advent really hard.…
  • Time to be a Gracious Loser ✓
    Vital Posts
    I planned to be a gracious winner the week after the election.  I wasn’t going to rub it in the faces of folks who had been Donald Trump supporters. My social media presence would be demure, and while I expected to dance a little jig inside, …
  • Leadership in Times of Change ✓
    Vestry Papers
    This article shares a model to help leaders manage change, be aware of their own feelings, and help parishioners address their own emotions to support health, wholeness and vitality for years to come.
  • Preparing for Lay Only Leadership ✓
    Vestry Papers
    A model being used in the Episcopal Diocese of Eastern Michigan helps lay leaders make the shift from full time clergy to working with part time or supply priests.
  • Strategic Thinking for Congregations ✓
    Webinars
    How we are responding to the rapid pace of change throughout the Church and in the world around us, and how we can be proactively addressing it? With change happening at an ever increasingly rapid pace around us, congregations can no longer afford to…
  • Shared Leadership ✓
    Vestry Papers
    Several small congregations in the Diocese of Colorado are growing and thriving as a result of their adoption of a shared leadership model.
  • Vision for Impact, Not Just Change ✓
    Vestry Papers
    When Christ Church in Pensacola began to think about their future, they engaged in a process of strategic thinking. Their goal was to identify their vision and their values, as well as some priorities for strategic action. Linda Buskirk shares their…
  • A Blueprint for Change ✓
    Vestry Papers
    Our church is vibrant, alive, and very connected to our community, as well as to The Episcopal Church at the diocesan, provincial, and denominational levels. It hasn’t always been that way...
  • Building Strong Teams: A Tool for Identifying and Addressing Five Common Areas of Dysfunction ✓
    Tools
    ECF Vital Teams consultant Rosa Lindahl believes a leadership team’s capacity to move into the future depends on its ability to function effectively. What can we, as congregational leaders, do to discuss more openly and honestly the ways in which o…
  • What is church? Family? Corporation? Community?
    Vital Posts
    My daughter’s Montessori school is in transition. The dynamic husband and wife who founded the school more than twenty years ago are devoted Montessorians and have had a profound impact on our local community and, indeed, my own family. But now t…
  • What a Ballpoint Pen is Teaching Me About the Future of the Church
    Vital Posts
    I’m a simple man, really. I like gadgets and such, but when it comes down to it I do most of my thinking with a paper journal and a ballpoint pen. So when I ran out of pens the other day, I walked into the store to buy my favorite brand.  Th…
  • New Leadership for a Changing Church
    Vestry Papers
    What will our Episcopal church look like in 100 years? Numbers and trends suggest a drastic makeover is in order. In New Leadership for a Changing Church, ECF President Donald V. Romanik, alerts us to the swiftly changing landscape, and shares how ch…
  • Can Episcopalians do multisite church?
    Vital Posts
    “The first significant wave of multisite churches started coming onto the North American church scene roughly two decades ago,” writes Warren Bird, director of research for the Leadership Network, capturing the history of this recent movement. …
  • What a Transit Strike Can Teach Us About Experimenting
    Vital Posts
    For two days in February 2014, workers on the London Underground went on strike, closing several subway stations and forcing an even larger number of commuters to scramble to find a new route to work. In a study published earlier this year, researc…
  • Change is Possible
    Vital Posts
    Call the papers. This is breaking news: An Episcopal church is ending a longtime tradition without gnashing of teeth or calling in a mediator. My church has held a spring card party since at least folks in my generation (and I’m in my 40s) we…
  • Looking Back and Going Forward
    Vital Posts
    Almost like those moments that begin sometime late at night Christmas Eve and continue the next several days, the world begins to hush during Thanksgiving week. People re-connect and spend precious time with their loved ones, and there’s not much…
  • I Want to be Like Bean Blossom
    Vital Posts
    Like most of the country, I had never heard of Bean Blossom (also spelled Beanblossom) Indiana, before this weekend. It’s honestly the kind of name someone on the blue parts of the coasts might make up to mock the perceived backwardness or hokey-…
  • What Needs To Go Out, So The New Can Come In?
    Vital Posts
    We’re investigating and working to install more energy- and, we hope, financially-efficient HVAC systems at St. George’s. The very comprehensive energy audit taught me a lot, and not just about insulation and ducts. I learned that the most effe…
  • One Bulletin, Multiple Services
    Vital Posts
    This post is about efficiency, for sure, and it’s about a pretty small, seemingly insignificant part of congregational life, but I’m also a believer that paying attention to the little things – and with an eye toward greater efficiency – is…
  • Iterate, Don’t Originate.
    Vital Posts
    Or, how a remake of a remake of a song became a classic Starting from scratch is usually a bad idea. Too often, we assume innovative ideas and meaningful changes require a blank slate. When a project fails, we say, “Let’s go back to the…
  • Perfect Isn’t Good Enough
    Vital Posts
    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, wh…
  • Nostalgia and Remembering the Why Behind Change
    Vital Posts
    Facebook can stir some intense nostalgia with its memories feature. I logged on the other day to see a picture of our church’s Vacation Bible School from three years ago, the last one we held. The kids were so sweet and little, and I was awas…
  • When Things Don’t Go According to Plan
    Vital Posts
    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…
  • Vital Practices Digest: 5 Resources on Re-Thinking Buildings
    Vital Posts
    In the June Vital Practices Digest, we offer 5 resources for re-thinking the purpose and use of your church buildings, with the 5th a resource to help in developing year-round stewardship in your congregation. It’s easy and free to conne…
  • June 2016 Editor’s Letter: Transitions and Change
    Vital Posts
    Change can be difficult. For church leaders – and others in the congregation – change may be particularly difficult when we say goodbye to a beloved rector or parts of our church life we have grown accustomed to. What relationship do…
  • From Challenge to Opportunity
    Vestry Papers
    For some congregations, transition means giving up the familiar structure of full-time clergy as well as their understanding of the way authority and tasks are distributed. Susan Elliott’s “From Challenge to Opportunity” shares the wisdom and …
  • Expectations Matter: Have Faith
    Vestry Papers
    The feelings of grief and loss that may accompany a clergy transition may also heighten levels of anxiety and stress. In “Expectations Matter: Choose Faith,” Dorothy “d’Rue” Hazel advocates for working through these feelings, offering strat…
  • Beginning the Clergy Transition Process
    Webinars
    Your Rector has announced his/her resignation and your congregation is now in the midst of a transition process. Whether you serve as a Vestry or Search Committee member, this this one hour webinar is designed to provide practical tips and concepts t…
  • Vital Practices Digest: 5 Clergy Transition Resources for May
    Vital Posts
    In the May Vital Practices Digest, we offer 5 resources for clergy transition in congregations, with the 5th a resource to help in developing year-round stewardship in your congregation. Please share this digest with others in your church …
  • The Speed (or Lack Thereof) of Change
    Vital Posts
    The conversation about building a parking lot began before I was born. And while I’m not ready for the pasture, I, sadly, no longer qualify as spring chicken. Welcome to church time, which runs apace with glaciers. I wonder if you, like u…
  • Improv Worship
    Vital Posts
    Here’s what Sunday reality looks like on the ground where I am: increasingly unpredictable. Our English services -- representing the legacy congregation of our historic parish -- are getting smaller by the year. There are fewer people in the …
  • Vital Teams Interview Tool
    Tools
    An interview tool to help congregations in a clergy search process identify individuals with strong team leadership skills.
  • May 2016 Editor’s Letter: Transitions and Change
    Vital Posts
    Since early 2011, ECF Vital Practices has utilized reader surveys. Your responses guide us as we identify ideas for Vestry Papers themes and articles. Over the past two years we’ve watched two topics emerge as areas many of you are looking for he…
  • Part Time ≠ Less Than
    Vestry Papers
    Across our church congregations wrestle with decisions related to clergy staffing. Recognizing many congregations may associate moving to part time clergy a ‘failure. ‘ Cathie Caimano suggests reframing the conversation by asking different questi…
  • The Little Generation that Could
    Vital Posts
    Remember Generation X?  If you Google us, here’s what you may get as the first response: Gen·er·a·tion X noun 1. The generation born after that of the baby boomers (roughly from the early 1960s to mid 1970s), often perceived …
  • 1 Church, 4 Locations
    Vital Posts
    The far corner of northwest Indiana is a collection of cities and towns at the edge of greater Chicago. Through decades of multiplying suburban communities, Episcopal parishes were established throughout this region. As steel mills closed in a chan…
  • First steps in leading change
    Webinars
    Leading change can be one of the most rewarding - and challenging - aspects of lay and clergy leadership in Episcopal congregations. This webinar focuses on general principles and best practices for leading a change process effectively. The presentat…
  • Discerning a Way Forward
    Vital Posts
    There has been an uptick of inquiries in my inbox as well as voice mail, all essentially about the same question: “Can you help us figure out what to do with our (fill in the blank: children, youth, adult, formation, education, Church School) min…
  • Turbulence And Joy In The Fountain Of Youth
    Vital Posts
    “Why don’t these younger people start doing more around here?” It’s a common refrain I’ve heard for years, perhaps one of the most consistent things I’ve heard throughout my ten years of ordained ministry and generally uttered by so…
  • Focus on Chinese Ministry in the Episcopal Church
    Webinars
    Please note that because the presenters and majority of attendees of this webinar will be on the West Coast of the United States, this webinar is being offered at 7 PM Pacific Time (10 PM ET). If you have experienced demographic change in your churc…
  • Vital Teams: Team Leadership Essentials
    Webinars
    This webinar will provide participants a glimpse of the Vital Teams 101 training curriculum, including a discussion of three areas that good teams are constantly balancing effectively: relationships, process, and results. Relationships: How to build …
  • Same Side of the Wall
    Vital Posts
    I was asked yesterday what I thought the most important lesson was in leading change successfully. Our congregation has managed to hang in there for quite a lot of change in recent years, despite a well-earned reputation for having resisted change …
  • Uncomfortable Realities and Hope
    Vital Posts
    This Sunday we began Advent with the usual apocalyptic lectionary readings. Jesus says, “There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on the earth distress among nations confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves.”  I …
  • First Steps in Leading Change
    Webinars
    Leading change can be one of the most rewarding - and challenging - aspects of lay and clergy leadership in Episcopal congregations. This webinar focuses on general principles and best practices for leading a change process effectively. The presentat…
  • Reconciliation
    Vital Posts
    When she walked down the aisle, I caught my breath. We had prayed for this moment, hoped for it. But we weren’t sure if we would ever witness it. This was forty years in the making. Forty years since she lost a child, an infant whose …
  • Forty Years
    Vital Posts
    I’m writing this on my 40th birthday, and it’s been a really fun day. I always like birthdays. I especially love getting to hear from and get caught up, once again, with family and friends. Even on a birthday such as this – one which carries …
  • Matthew Nickoloff: Take It and Tweet It
    Vital Posts
    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 so…
  • An Honest Question About Vestry, Church Organization
    Vital Posts
    Several years ago, St. George’s organized its vestry around several key areas of parish life. It was a good idea, rooted in the biblical priesthood of all believers and acknowledging that the rector can’t do everything her/himself. They tri…
  • Demons
    Vital Posts
    The pleas are urgent: If you’ve seen Joe, contact us immediately. No one has heard from him in two days. Cell phone is dead. Joe, a high school classmate, has fought the demon of alcohol for years. No one knows if he’s back in its grip. B…
  • From the Mouths of Babes
    Vital Posts
    Few things can pull a teen girl’s eyes from the allure of a smartphone. But enter a wiggly toddler or shy kindergartner, and the phone finds its way to the back jean pocket. A colleague offered some insight: the young teens can play. It’s…
  • July 2015 Editor’s Letter: Vision and Planning
    Vital Posts
    Who are we? What is our vision? Where are we going? For July, Vestry Papers invites congregations to consider these questions, reflecting on the gifts God has granted to us while also listening – and watching – for what God is call…
  • Why Strategic Planning?
    Vestry Papers
    “Why Strategic Planning” by Linda Buskirk invites congregational leaders to consider discerning God’s call as a community through prayerful reflection and conversation on the gifts God has uniquely provided your congregation and the needs that …
  • Alcohol & The Church, An Update From General Convention
    Vital Posts
    In addition to all the other very exciting things happening at General Convention there’s a lively conversation on an important, sensitive, and timely topic – our church’s relationship with alcohol, addictions, recovery, substance misuse, and…
  • Small Church, Big Impact
    Vestry Papers
    How does a congregation live into its sacred role as a healer?
  • Innovative Leadership Rounds Explained
    Vital Posts
    Perhaps I got ahead of myself with my last blog post. It happens. I am often guilty of: “Ready. Fire. Aim.” In mentioning the Minnesotans' trip to Southside Abbey, I mentioned the Innovative Leadership Rounds, without really unpacking what that…
  • From Secretary to Administrator
    Vital Posts
    A few weeks ago, I finally got caught up on compiling the time-sheets our church’s parish administrator fills out every week. I know it doesn’t sound like much, nor does it sound very exciting, but it’s all part of a larger shift we’ve been…
  • Messy Church Success!
    Vital Posts
    Our grand VBS experiment was a success. In a post a few weeks ago, I promised I would circle back after the first session and report on the program. Like many congregations, we’ve struggled to find the right fit for summer Christian formati…
  • State of the Church
    Vital Posts
    In just two weeks, leaders from across The Episcopal Church will gather for General Convention. Held every three years, this conference is a time for the Church to pray together, to spend time wrestling with difficult issues, and to chart a course …
  • There’s Something About Sunday School
    Vital Posts
    We’re getting ready to celebrate our Sunday School kids and families and teachers this Sunday. At the later service, the children will get their certificates, the families will get their photo ‘op,’ and the teachers will be honored, as well. …
  • Experimenting with VBS
    Vital Posts
    We’re flummoxed. Our congregation is going against the national trends, with steady and climbing attendance and giving. But when it comes to Vacation Bible School, we’re part of the pack. Our VBS program has been in decline for several years, w…
  • What's Buried?
    Vital Posts
    The rake uncovered a square piece of plastic in the front flowerbed. We tried to scrape it aside with the other debris of winter, but it was stuck. My husband wiggled it out of the soil. A five-inch statue of St. Joseph emerged (sans the head…
  • Strategic Thinking: How our biases impact our parish’s decisions
    Vital Posts
    Years ago, I was in a freshman at a Midwest liberal arts college. I took a required course for graduation called “Bible and Culture.” Rick McPeak, the professor, had three rules. The third rule, the one that captured this Episcopalian’s attenti…
  • Screens In Worship
    Vital Posts
    When I wrote a post about the old battle between using service bulletins or The Book of Common Prayer, I knew I’d get feedback, pushback, and a whole lot of unabashed opinions. My predictions were spot on, but the responses I got were also toned …
  • Other People’s Ideas
    Vital Posts
    What do you do with other people’s ideas? Here’s a scenario I see a lot in the church these days: Someone does Something in their congregation that really works. It’s a little off the beaten path. Let’s face it; the “we’ve alw…
  • It's Not about Me
    Vital Posts
    Birthdays in the age of Facebook are fun.  People from all different parts of your life chime in and send good wishes. It’s a virtual “This is your life” episode. Meandering down memory lane is lovely, but this year I decided to try…
  • May 2015 Editor’s Letter: Facing Leadership Challenges
    Vital Posts
    Your team’s in place, you’ve recommitted to the congregation’s mission and vision, and for your first few vestry meetings everything’s been working well. Then “bam” –everything seems to be falling apart. What’s happening? It cou…
  • Take a Chance: This is Opportunity Time!
    Vital Posts
    Sometimes the Holy Spirit can be inconvenient. There we are going about our lives when, bam! Something happens. I easily produce list after list of the rotten stuff, but that's not for this venue. Besides, often the rotten stuff turns out to be the…
  • Social Media Evangelist
    Vital Posts
    We’re Facebook friends. And even at that, I would call us Facebook acquaintances. I don’t know her well, except we greeted each other in the school halls and during field trips. Our kids were in the same grades at the same school before we move…
  • Low and High Context: Bridging the Gap
    Vital Posts
    It’s morning in the office, and my instinct is to head straight to my desk, fire up the computer, scroll through email, and wrap my brain around the day’s agenda. But others think I'm rude. They like to start with friendly chatter, checking…
  • Listen. Connect. Act.
    Vestry Papers
    A question from a senior warden looking for advice on ways to engage with her suburban community sparked the idea for “Answering God’s Urgent Call. Together.” What processes are congregational leaders using to help them learn how to listen for …
  • Ichabod Meetings
    Vital Posts
    Most of the time the name Ichabod summons images of a bony, apple-adamed schoolteacher racing from the clutches of the Headless Horseman. But theologian and Church of England priest Graham Tomlin offers another interpretation of Ichabod. In 1…
  • Vital Practices Digest: 5 Resources for March: Connect with Your Community
    Vital Posts
    5 Resources for March: Connect with Your Community In this month’s Vital Practices Digest, we’re highlighting 5 ways congregations are learning more about and making connections with their neighboring communities. Our 5th resource is a su…
  • Re-Visiting ‘Beyond Vestries’
    Vital Posts
    I’m grateful for the feedback and engagement with my previous post: “Beyond Vestries,” February 25, 2015. I’d like to clarify some matters and, above all, point to some larger, more critical principles. For starters, my one big hope i…
  • Welcoming a New Rector
    Vital Posts
    Earlier this year I was invited to lead the Adult Forum at All Saints' Church in Worcester. I was asked to speak about welcoming a new rector into their midst - which they anticipate doing in the next few months. I decided to crowd-source the quest…
  • Welcoming a New Rector
    Your Turn
    A crowd sourced list of what to do - or not do - when welcoming a new rector.
  • Beyond Vestries
    Vital Posts
    A friend recently quipped “I don’t believe vestries are needed for the church today.” He said it as a hyperbole, something to spark conversation, and if for no other reason than it might do that – actually spark a conversation and actually …
  • God, Jesus, the Bible and Change
    Vital Posts
    When I was in the sixth grade or so, I read through the entire Bible chapter by chapter. I especially remember reading the Gospels and finding Matthew, Mark, and Luke difficult. In those Gospels, Jesus was a little more enigmatic, a little harder t…
  • Revamping The Parochial Report
    Vital Posts
    It’s that time of year again in most Episcopal congregations – time to fill out the parochial report. There’s a lot of good to this report and, in general, I like having reasonable metrics and a disciplined pattern of going through the bo…
  • Making Annual Meetings a Source of Renewal
    Vital Posts
    In a faith with long, rich tradition, some things can (and should) be changed. Annual meetings, for instance, don’t need to be dreary gatherings of moan and drone. Mix them up a bit. Let your annual meeting reflect the life of the congregatio…
  • Hybrid Faith Formation: Two Final Lessons For Any Minister, Any Church
    Vital Posts
    Our second seasonal experiment with combined in-person/online faith learning and growth has come to a close (read more about this year’s hybrid faith formation cohort in the earlier posts). Networked learning has taken off in several more congreg…
  • Coffee In Church?
    Vital Posts
    I don’t watch E! television nor do I have a subscription to People magazine, but like anyone who’s mildly sensitive to popular culture I’m not immune to the images. And I’ve noticed one pretty consistent thing: whenever you see a shot of a …
  • It’s Not About Me
    Vital Posts
    Karaoke isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. I know. It’s hard to imagine that cheering an off-key rendition of Copacabana isn’t how everyone wants to pass the time on Friday nights. I confess: I love karaoke. I think it’s fun and fun…
  • Advent Lessons from The Sound of Music, or A Few of Our Favorite Things
    Vital Posts
    In my past life, I was an active theatrical director and designer. For a few years, I taught theater at a wonderful private school in Texas. During this time I helped to establish a theater program for the school. One of the highlights of this prog…
  • Hamburger
    Vital Posts
    The gift came in a reused grocery bag. “We don’t have a lot of extra money this year,” she said, smiling weakly. I met her a couple of years ago. She works in the service industry, and I come every six weeks or so for my regular a…
  • Keep Awake
    Vital Posts
    Not too long ago my church, St. Lydia’s, moved into its own storefront location. Previously, we had borrowed or rented space for just a few hours each week. It wasn’t an easy process in New York City, and in some ways it mirrored the process my…
  • Apples and Oranges
    Vital Posts
    I was intrigued by the Lutheran blog that asked “Do we have Nadia problem?” reposted in part on Episcopal Cafe. Episcopal responses included an amusing retort: Would that we had a Nadia problem! We don’t even have a Nadia. The Nadia in qu…
  • How Many Episcopalians Does It Take To Change A Light Bulb?
    Vital Posts
    Over the past several years, we’ve been updating our parish hall at St. George’s, Valley Lee. We stripped some walls bare and fixed the masonry, where needed. We’ve insulated walls and above the ceiling. While we were tightening things up, ho…
  • Over-Led or Under-Managed?
    Vital Posts
    I recently came across an article in the Harvard Business Review on Twitter. The article is about the differences between management and leadership. “Management is about coping with complexity,” it explains. Leadership, on the other hand, is ab…
  • Life-giving or Life-sucking
    Vital Posts
    At some point or another, we’re all drinking from the firehose. We have way too much to do, coming at us too fast.    For me lately, and I suspect for many of us, the hose has been less a source of water for growth and more a way to put out f…
  • Changing Seasons
    Vital Posts
    The change in seasons always comes as a bit of a surprise. I know it happens every year, but having lived in Texas for so long where fall isn’t all that different from summer, I never really expect the weather to actually change. But then it does…
  • Decoding Dinner Church
    Vital Posts
    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 o…
  • Dealing with Anger
    Vital Posts
    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 s…
  • There will be Trespasses!
    Vital Posts
    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…
  • Reimagining The Church At Its Most Basic Level
    Vital Posts
    “I didn’t see you when I came in last week,” I said to my postmaster the other day. “Did you get some time off?” “No,” she said with a weary look on her face, “I was doing some regional work.” She looked so worn down I aske…
  • Managing Out
    Vital Posts
    In the workplace, good leaders need to be effective at managing up—and managing down. The same is true in the congregation, although I’d like to call it managing out. In an earlier blog, I talked about some techniques for managing up. Ju…
  • Raising Generous Givers
    Vital Posts
    “Figure out why people give and give people more reasons to give and you will, in time, grow more generous givers.” That’s at least what I remember hearing, some years back, when I went along with my other fellow curates in the Diocese of Chi…
  • Managing Up
    Vital Posts
    The church is not a business. But we would be foolish to ignore some business concepts that can help us be better ministers in our communities, more effective witnesses for Christ. We don’t scoff at the importance of audits—clearly a soun…
  • "Come and Follow Me"
    Vital Posts
    I often tweet about climate change. Occasionally I’ll go to meetings of an organization called 350.org and every now and then sign a petition or post some flyers. All of these things feel small in the face of a big problem. On Sunday, however…
  • Leadership From the Side: Patience
    Vital Posts
    Part 3 of 4. (Read Part 1, Part 2, Part 4) You may wish that change would happen like a thunderstorm, arriving quickly, without warning; that it would clang like thunder and awaken everyone to action. You may wish that vibrant lightning would a…
  • Supporting Sunday School
    Vital Posts
    The kick-off for our fall Christian formation program was the most successful in years. Thirty adults sat in folding chairs to discuss Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s profound question, “What is church?” Another forty children from nursery age to senio…
  • Leading from the Side: Authority and Power
    Vital Posts
    Part 2 of 4. Read Part 1 here, Part 3 here, and Part 4 here. When you begin to lead from the side in your church, I have found that people will question your authority, question your power, and question your ability to be a leader. To stand fi…
  • Hybrid Faith Formation: The Story so Far...
    Vital Posts
    "What do we do with the people who say they want to learn but can’t come to a weekly Bible study, or even Sunday school?" Over the past eighteen months, I’ve learned a lot about how new ministry models emerge: Collaboratively. In fits and s…
  • You've Been Challenged
    Vital Posts
    Can you handle one more ALS ice-bucket challenge video? I promise. There’s a twist. When my husband was challenged on Facebook, we talked about how to make it fun – and engage the whole congregation. This is what we came up with: (fu…
  • The Seven Year Itch
    Vital Posts
    A few weeks ago, my seven year anniversary as rector at St. George’s, Valley Lee came and went. I was away at summer camp, actually, having a wonderful time and I only remembered the anniversary after our treasurer sent me a congratulations email…
  • Giving in Community
    Vital Posts
    If I didn’t know better, I’d admire the marks on his calf. Tattoo-like, they resemble a heliocentric solar system, small black planets circling a sun spot in the middle. But I know this isn’t a mid-life form of self-expression but marks…
  • Leading from the Side
    Vital Posts
    Part 1 of 4. Read Part 2 here, Part 3 here, and Part 4 here. Often lay people tell me that they love so many things about their church, and that they hate so many things about their church. They describe how the congregation dreams of change an…
  • August 2014 Editor’s Letter: Leading Change
    Vital Posts
    This month’s Vestry Papers shares somewhat similar stories from congregations across our church. All faced real challenges. Some related to issues inside the church: leadership transitions, declining membership, decreased income, and rising opera…
  • Small Groups, Big Impact
    Vestry Papers
    Using small groups, Iona-Hope Episcopal Church lives into its core values, impacting not only life inside the church but also in their wider community. Also in Spanish.
  • Becoming/Continuing/Expanding
    Vestry Papers
    A revitalized congregation shares how their lay led ‘centers of creativity’ is restoring the church both literally and figuratively.
  • Getting Invested in Christian Formation
    Vital Posts
    Even though the official end of summer isn’t until September 1, the signs of the final dog days are here. Back-to-school sales. Last trips to the beach. Baskets of tomatoes and zucchinis in the parish hall, free for the taking. As one seaso…
  • Managing Conflict Gracefully
    Vital Posts
    Congregations need leaders who can offer more than just a quick fix.  Is the temperature heating up in your congregation? And not in a good way? While it is unlikely that conflict will ever disappear, the way we respond may make the differen…
  • July 2014 Editor’s Letter: Leading Change
    Vital Posts
    Welcome summer! For many congregational leaders, the church’s program year has ended providing opportunities to catch our breaths, sort out and through things undone, and take some time off. For many of us, it is also a time for review and reflec…
  • Red Flags: Staff Dependent Churches
    Vestry Papers
    Things may seem okay, but there are warning signs of potential decline lurking in many seemingly successful congregations that are staff dependent. This article helps Identify issues and steps to help get started with changes.
  • Are You Leading a Zombie Parish?
    Vestry Papers
    A ‘tongue firmly in cheek’ piece of slipping a serious issue past the defenses that often may keep us from some critical self evaluation.
  • No Saints, No Heros, No Martyrs
    Vestry Papers
    The leadership team of a small church, over the course of a year, moved from being tired and anxious to enthusiastic about the way in which ‘the Holy Spirit is working through us and with us.'
  • Saying 'Yes' to Trying Something New
    Vital Posts
    This past Sunday was Social Media Sunday, an effort began by Laura Catalano and Carolyn Clement that, judging by my Twitter and Facebook feeds, gained quite a bit of traction. Everyone from my dad (who is an Episcopal priest in Joplin, Missouri) to…
  • Strategic Solutions
    Tools
    Strategic Solutions is a program offering facilitation and assistance for congregations, dioceses, and Episcopal schools to envision and fund future ministries.
  • Steps to Restructuring
    Vital Posts
    Right-sizing the structure of your church is a critical element to its health (and maybe to your sanity as well).    In an earlier blog, I talked about how structure needs to change to support the realities of the congregation. A growing church…
  • Getting Unstuck: Discerning Decisions
    Vital Posts
    Intentional conversation, listening & reflection. “At 30, 50, or 70, who do you want to be?” Malcolm Boyd asks this question in his recent article of the same title. I was struck by this, realizing that I hadn’t thought that far o…
  • Is the Church Dying? Or Not? (and the answer is...)
    Vital Posts
    The church blogosphere is heating up. The topic is death… the death of the Church…or to be more accurate this issue is a question: “Is the Church dying? Or not?” Of course, everyone has an opinion. And I do mean everyone (including me, b…
  • Open Source Church
    Vital Posts
    I find myself intrigued by the idea of “open source church”. What happens when we open the doors, hand out keys, and give a wider variety of our neighbors a shot at creating what happens in church? Not just a voice in the planning of programs t…
  • Theology of Interruption
    Vital Posts
    I pride myself on an ability to multitask. But I also resent when the unexpected takes me away from my well-laid plans. During breakfast, my dining companion talked about a willingness to be open to the work of the Spirit. A one-time parish s…
  • Tearing Down, Building Up
    Vital Posts
    Sometimes the hardest part about rebuilding is tearing down. Most of our churches are longstanding institutions, with dearly held traditions about firmly ensconced expectations. Making changes requires a delicate touch. A case in point:…
  • Hole-y Soap
    Vital Posts
    The soap in the hotel seemed to be missing something. Specifically, the center. I flipped over the box of this hole-y soap and learned that it was an environmental effort “designed to eliminate the unused center of traditional soap bars.”…
  • Vision, Planning, and Movement?
    Vital Posts
    Earlier this week several congregants from St Lydia's gathered in our new space armed with cardboard and packing tape. We recently signed a lease on an empty storefront and are working with an architect on the design of the new space, so we made ro…
  • What if the Church IS the Building?
    Vital Posts
    How many times have you been told -- or told someone else, maybe with a slight tone of spiritual superiority -- that the church is not the building? I know, I know, it’s the people. I do know. But it is the building. Your neighbors se…
  • Soccer-field Best
    Vital Posts
    They came in their baseball jersey and pants, cap tucked into the belt. They came with soccer shorts underneath the choir robes, and they processed with hair primly pulled into a bun for an afternoon recital. One wore riding boots for an afternoon …
  • Punching Holes in Bushel Baskets
    Vital Posts
    What’s hiding under your basket? When I was a child, I messed up the words to the ever-enduring song, “This Little Light of Mine.” (A confession: I’m a serial offender as a lyric slaughterer. I thought for years that The Bangl…
  • Measuring An ‘Open Contribution’ Giving Campaign
    Vital Posts
  • The Slow Work of God
    Vestry Papers
    Above all, trust in the slow work of God. We are quite naturally impatient in everything to reach the end without delay. We should like to skip the intermediate stages…And yet it is the law of all progress that it is made by passing through some st…
  • Seat Fillers
    Vital Posts
    Sometimes I wonder if what we really want in our churches are seat fillers. Seat fillers are an LA institution. When the season of televised awards shows rolls around, certain production challenges arise: among them, what to do with unsightly e…
  • Am I Ready to Commit?
    Vital Posts
    On Saturday, my church, St. Lydia’s, had our community meeting, which happens twice a year. We go over financial reports and talk about the future, and occasionally vote on something (though we did not have anything to vote on at this meeting). …
  • We’re All in This Together
    Vital Posts
    In elementary and middle school, we learn about the importance of being good citizens. We place a high value on civic-mindedness, on tending to your community and neighbors. But we often lose sight of this value when it comes to our churches …
  • Online Learning Getting Traction in Churches
    Vital Posts
    As we know online learning is making some serious headway these days. 77% of U.S. corporations use online learning as a part of their continuing education and in recent years institutions of higher education have been investing in online learning a…
  • What Do We Want to Be?
    Vital Posts
    Ten would have been considered a success.    But when twenty-six women showed up for a Saturday morning retreat sponsored by the Episcopal Church Women, the numbers alone were enough to make the group take notice.    I suspect that many ECW…
  • Websites and Hairstyles
    Vital Posts
    Website designs are like hairstyles. They come and go out of fashion quickly—and it’s readily apparent when they’re dated.    Just consider all those Throwback Thursday pictures you’re seeing on Facebook. No one needs to tell you that t…
  • Spirals, Rather than Circles...
    Vital Posts
    Sometimes I feel as if I am reading and participating in the same conversations about theology and the Bible and the future of the church and sexuality and gender I’ve been reading and participating in for years now. It’s as if we are going in …
  • You Can Do It!
    Vital Posts
    Did everyone have a fun-and-pancake-filled Shrove Tuesday? Southside Abbey participated in the Shrove Tuesday events of a couple of Lutheran churches in our area. We came to a traditional church building to have a traditional pancake supper. That's…
  • The Grace of Being Unsettled
    Vital Posts
    Nota - Este artículo es disponible en español aquí. I am working out of my home office these days and in that privacy, trying some new things. At my desk, I sit on one those large rubber exercise balls that became popular a few years back…
  • TBT (Throw Back Thursday)
    Vital Posts
    Whether or not you enjoy seeing pictures of prom or scanned Polaroids from the family reunion, tbt is a thing. Standing for throwback Thursday, tbt fills my Facebook news thread each Thursday. I’m privy to slightly blurry snapshots of late-nig…
  • Collaboration: Challenging the One Parish, One Priest Model
    Vital Posts
    I just realized something, and it’s a game changer. For a while, I’ve been working on developing collaborative relationships with other local Episcopal congregations. Frankly, it makes no sense to me why we continue to prop up a one-paris…
  • Local Ingredients
    Vital Posts
    I have been cooking new things lately. From scratch. I’ve been an expert restaurant eater for years, partaking of the wild variety of cooked food available in my Los Angeles neighborhood. But my cooking has been boring, in part because I don’t …
  • Flash Mass
    Vital Posts
    If imitation is a form of flattery, then I suggest we heap some compliments on an idea out of western New York. The Roman Catholic Diocese of Buffalo has offered a clever twist on the flash mob. In layman’s terms, a flash mob is when a grou…
  • Souper Bowl Sunday
    Vital Posts
    It started with a simple prayer:  “Lord, even as we enjoy the Super Bowl football game, help us be mindful of those who are without a bowl of soup to eat.” That was fourteen years ago, in Columbia, South Carolina. The movement, led by yo…
  • Daily Cake
    Vital Posts
    Have your faith and eat it too. That’s the premise of a cool blog committed to supporting young adults in The Episcopal Church. Founders of thedailycake.org gathered in Cincinnati this past weekend to review the past year and to plan fo…
  • The Trees AND the Forest
    Vital Posts
    The problem is common: We get so focused on the details that we miss the big picture. Sometimes it takes a stranger, an outsider to put things into perspective. I experienced this situation over the weekend. We had a guest preacher on Sunday.…
  • Resolutions
    Vital Posts
    Lose weight. Start exercising. Read the classics. Keep a journal. Find life/work balance. Pay off credit cards. Make new friends. Reconnect with old ones. This is prime time for resolution writing. Facebook and Twitter will soon be popping with…
  • Old Stories, New Light
    Vital Posts
    Each year since I was five or six I would attend the Christmas Eve midnight mass at the Episcopal Church where my dad was rector. Afterward we would open one present (almost always pajamas) before going to bed and, filled with anticipation of the…
  • Keeping Advent throughout the Year
    Vital Posts
    I am currently planning my wedding with my fiancée, Denise. As most people know, there’s a lot of work that goes into that single day. There are dress fittings and cake tastings. We have to decide how to feed our guests and find a venue and send…
  • Preparing the Way
    Vital Posts
    Not until I was sitting in the pew, listening to the lessons, did I realize how much I missed it.    Since the week before Thanksgiving, I’ve been mostly house-ridden, recovering from back surgery. The inside of our house—the places I can …
  • Advent Unexpected
    Vital Posts
    Advent is a different experience when it comes at the same time as a shattered disc. In late November, I had a two-fer – my first broken bone and first time under anesthesia. I decided to go big for the first time, or rather my body did: …
  • Sunday is Over
    Vital Posts
    Growing up in St. Louis as a kid, we had “blue laws.” Nothing but food could be sold on Sundays, and most businesses were closed. I can still see the cashier carefully sorting pencils and notebooks out of my mom’s grocery order, and putting t…
  • Leaving in Love
    Vital Posts
    This weekend I went to church with a friend, a priest. He had taken a new job, and this was his last Sunday as a curate at this church. He preached a gracious sermon about love. He told me afterward that he had been given this advice: Just make sur…
  • That Old Time Religion: Looking Beyond Heyday History, Part 1
    Vital Posts
    I’d be the first to admit that I have a chip on my shoulder when it comes to nostalgia. It’s a generational thing. Born in 1971, I grew up hearing that the sixties were AWESOME (or maybe it was GROOVY??). Ordained in 2000, I have heard througho…
  • Faithful Transitions - Disponibilité
    Vital Posts
    Nota - Este artículo es disponible en español aquí. Gabriel Marcel, a French, Christian philosopher, speaks eloquently about the notion of Disponibilité. The most direct translation of this word in English is "availability" but in Fren…
  • A Laughing Matter
    Vital Posts
    I braved the question: How was the meeting? I feared the typical forlorn answer. Frustrating. Long. Circular. Without direction. This particular committee was causing consternation, and I knew he was starting to dread the meetings. …
  • Here and Now
    Vital Posts
    Wherever you are, be there. (Peter Jennings) So often in my work with congregational leaders I hear a longing for the way things used to be. This longing is not simply for the financial stability of the past, though that is certainly a componen…
  • Jesus Was Right There, in the Bounce House
    Vital Posts
    Until last week, I'd never been involved in a worshipping community's celebration of the completion of its first year; Southside Abbey's one year anniversary changed that. Think about all that takes place throughout the church year. Ordinary Ti…
  • Atheists go to Church
    Vital Posts
    Even atheists believe church is good for the soul. That is, they would if they believed in the soul. Two comedians from England have launched the Sunday Assembly, church for the godless. I can’t tell if this is a cosmic joke or cause for we…
  • Judging or Learning?
    Vital Posts
    Sometimes judging is easy. You read a blog and decide the theology is OK but it’s poorly written. Someone mentions and idea he has for a new program and you immediately know that it’s not a good idea. A new reimbursement policy is announced at wo…
  • Bible Thumb-ers
    Vital Posts
    Engagement with the Bible is the single most important factor in the spiritual health of a congregation. Sure, studies have shown other key ingredients: leadership, service, hospitality, community. But reading scripture emerges as a vital ele…
  • Missional Churches = Real Churches – Regardless of Size
    Vital Posts
    I recently had the pleasure of presenting at Episcopal Appalachian Ministries' Mountain Grace Conference, “We(e) Small Voice – Exploring Small and Non-Traditional Church in Appalachia." While there, I was honored to be part of wonderfully hones…
  • Field Trips
    Vital Posts
    When is the last time you took a field trip? Fifth grade? Washington, D.C.? Third grade to a historical re-enactment? First grade to the zoo? (As an aside, my daughter’s class took a field trip to a water treatment plant. Really?) O…
  • Giving Thanks for New Stewardship Realities
    Vital Posts
    Our parish demographics were changing, as were economic conditions, and our annual giving team realized that our stewardship campaign needed to change with them. In years past, our ‘one size fits all’ approach worked for a homogenous, churched …
  • Increasing Spiritual Vitality: RenewalWorks
    Tools
    RenewalWorks grew out of the Diocese of Chicago's Episcopal Spiritual Life Renewal Program. Facilitator Clarence Langdon describes the process developed for congregations.
  • Editor's Letter: August 2013
    Vital Posts
    Sometimes the best way to bring about needed change is to actually break something. The damage in the parish hall at St. James Anglican Church in Perth, Ontario caused the congregation to post signs forbidding skateboarding on the property. St.…
  • Seeds of Hope
    Vestry Papers
    Like many small churches, Christ Episcopal Church in Biddeford, Maine had seen its resources rise and fall with the economic tide of the community. Shirley Bowen’s “Seeds of Hope” shares how this congregation multiplied their ability to serve C…
  • Why?
    Vital Posts
    “Instead of asking how to keep going, change the question to why.” During the Discernment Phase for a capital campaign, we seek to ask what God is calling a parish to do. This often comes in the collective wisdom of a parish community. Meani…
  • Just Say No
    Vital Posts
    In Christian circles, we hear a lot about saying yes. We open ourselves up to Jesus, saying yes to his call for our life. We should be open to the Holy Spirit, ready to respond as it moves in and through us. Yes, to attending worship. Yes, to the s…
  • [Accepting] God’s Gift of Chaos
    Vestry Papers
    In “God’s Gift of Chaos,” Demi Prentiss shares how embracing the messiness of the unknown can help a congregation become unstuck from the things that prevent meaningful change from occurring.
  • Letting Go
    Vital Posts
    When you care, it’s hard to let go. We know that instinctively but, as with many things, when it comes to watching the emotional tug-of-war play out, we often forget. It’s been six months since I left my job as a diocesan communicat…
  • When People are Mean
    Vital Posts
    Sometimes it’s hard to be nice.  We’re at the tail-end of our first landlord experience, having leased our old house after we moved 18 months ago. Despite our cajoling, forgiving, pleading, and insisting, the payments were never on time and…
  • God and Failure?
    Vital Posts
    I recently spent a morning on a cascade of blunders. I made one mistake after another, arrived late, forgot key information, failed to carry out my mission, and drove 30 entirely useless miles. It was a total loss. On the freeway heading home, …
  • Lunch Bunch
    Vital Posts
    I think the idea is great. Now we have to wait and see if it will take hold. A church member came up with the idea of starting a lunch bunch group. Our church is growing, and not everyone knows each other anymore. It’s a natural growi…
  • Moving Out of Our Comfort Zones....
    Vital Posts
    On Thursday I tried rock climbing. It was our office staff day so we went to Chelsea Piers, a big athletic complex. They have a rock-climbing wall, covered in bright red and green and blue knobs and someone holds a rope so you don’t fall. It was …
  • More Fun Fundraising
    Vital Posts
    It’s spring, and the birds are singing, the flowers blooming and my wallet’s being laid open. May always sneaks up on us as one of the most expensive times of year. We prepare for the beginning of school shopping and save for Christmas. But wi…
  • What People Want (and Need)
    Vital Posts
    I recently spent some time in Los Angeles with a bilingual congregation. The group I was with wanted to hear and talk with members of this congregation about the types of resources they want – and need. It was a good day, with conversations in th…
  • A Bad Joke
    Vital Posts
    It’s not funny. Not even the first time, although I’ll likely flash a faint smile and then steer the conversation in a new direction. By the second or third time, I want to school the speaker, to explain why the phrase is hurtful, undermining, …
  • Contrast
    Vital Posts
    I keep circling back to the image of a toothy, twinkling 8-year-old Martin, one of the three fatalities of the bombing at the finish line of the Boston Marathon. I think of other pictures that haunt me: men and women jumping from the top floors of …
  • Mostly Dead Is Still Alive!
    Vital Posts
    The setting of this week’s Gospel reading sounds like many of the meetings I’ve attended lately: A small band of deeply committed, faithful disciples trying to figure out what to do when things seem to be falling apart. Too often their numbers …
  • Molting Our of Our Old Shells
    Tools
    A different way of thinking about leadership practices that nurtures congregational vitality.
  • Change and Growth
    Vital Posts
    Recently I’ve been watching the West Wing, a show I watched religiously when it first aired. It’s an idealistic, if not particularly realistic, show. Frequently, characters are persuaded to change their minds, often after someone makes a partic…
  • Saying No so that You Can Say Yes
    Vital Posts
    Selecting target audiences is a key step in creating a communication – and ministry – plan. In this blog, we talked about methods to identify target audiences. My recommendation is to pick two or three target audience groups. For instance…
  • Exploring Target Audiences
    Vital Posts
    Several years ago, a colleague and I worked with a congregation to develop a communications plan. One of the challenges for the group was to define its target audience. Who were they trying to reach? The easy answer was everyone. They wanted ev…
  • Experimenting
    Vital Posts
    It’s possible to make things too complicated. This is something I’ve learned while working on multiple projects. Some projects require extensive planning. They need budgets and a clear vision and measurable goals. Sometimes, however, overly amb…
  • Space to Heal
    Vital Posts
    It’s an all-American, boot-strappin’ response to tough times: We’re fine. We’re over it. We’ve moved on.  Even when, especially when, the wounds are still there, just covered with a light scab for disguise. The past three years ha…
  • Putting the Fun in Fundraising
    Vital Posts
    Every year at diocesan convention, we hear the same browbeating about raising money for seminaries. One of the retired priests has a real passion for supporting the seminaries, but his frustration at the lack of wide participation translates into a…
  • There’s No We in Team
    Vital Posts
    I’ve heard of a boy named Sue but never a person named “we.” In meeting after meeting, I’ll hear (and sometimes say), “We will take care of it.” Or “We should do something about that.” Or even, “We think there’s a problem…
  • Are Nice People REALLY Killing Our Churches?
    Vital Posts
    Are nice people really killing churches? The Episcopal Café is calling attention to this blog post by Todd Rhoades which suggests that church leaders, while being good at treating others with grace and love are not as good at treating each other w…
  • February Editor's Letter
    Vital Posts
    As I began working on this month’s content, a common theme emerged: vestry service being described as a dreaded obligation, chore or something to be endured. A common request was, “Can you help bring joy back into serving on the vestry?” This b…
  • Introspection
    Vital Posts
    The past six months have been full of discovery. It started with a week at CREDO, a program by the Church Pension Group that promotes health in spirit, body, vocation and finances. Then I began a year-long program with the regional chamber of…
  • Being at the Edge
    Vestry Papers
    Burdened with their building, Lori Hale Babcock tells us in “Being at the Edge” how her congregation’s leadership courageously faced its challenges - and now thrives.
  • St. Mind Reader
    Vital Posts
    For most problems in our lives, there’s a patron saint. Need a house sold? Petition St. Joseph. Troubled pregnancy? Pray to St. Gerard. Lost something? Help me, St. Anthony. But to the best of my knowledge and Google’s s…
  • A Mosaic of Faith: Putting the Pieces Together
    Vital Posts
    Recently, we have undertaken a new outreach program at our mission in the Hill neighborhood called GARLiC (Green Art Renewing Life in Community). Its purpose, as outlined ably by its program director Sarah Raven, is “to encourage ‘upcycling’ …
  • Moving Lessons
    Vital Posts
    Moving provides interesting insights. We've spent the last week from sun-up to past sundown painting, scraping, cleaning, packing, and unpacking. It's brutal, and I'm looking forward to getting back to my day job as a break. I realized for…
  • Bursting The Old Wineskin
    Vital Posts
    From the Gospel according to Mark: Jesus said, “No one sews a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old cloak; otherwise, the patch pulls away from it, the new from the old, and a worse tear is made. And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; oth…
  • Managing Change
    Vital Posts
    We received the keys to our new house last night. The kids ran from room to empty room, claiming their space and plotting design elements. We brought the champagne to pop open after the old owners left. But a funny thing happened. Like …
  • Pray it Forward, FB-style
    Vital Posts
    You’ve probably seen the posts by now about the pay-it-forward movement on Facebook. “The first five people to comment on this status will receive from me, sometime in the next year, a gift - perhaps a handmade item, some baked goods, a c…
  • Get on the Bus
    Vital Posts
    Does your congregation have the right people on the bus? I’ve been reading Jim Collins’ Good to Great, in part to prepare for my transition into a new job. What are the keys to success? How can I be an instrument of positive change? …
  • Good Will to All
    Vital Posts
    I don’t believe in a red-horned devil, waiting in the wings with a pitchfork and maniacal cackle. But I wonder: As the decibels of rhetoric rise above the chimes of church bells, is this the insidious work of Satan? To be sure, great …
  • Pluck
    Vital Posts
    I’m not sure the Bible mentions the word pluck (other than a few pesky references to removing one’s eye), but Jesus is clear time and again that his followers should exhibit the values imbued in the word. Trusty Webster defines pluck as a…
  • Saving One Tree
    Vital Posts
    One tree makes 8,333 sheets of paper. So says Yahoo! Answers. So I’m estimating that our nearly paperless diocesan convention earlier this month saved, drum roll, please, … one tree. And maybe a thick branch too. At 2-cents a …
  • Feedback Forms and the Serenity Prayer
    Vital Posts
    Keep the Serenity Prayer close at hand when reading anonymous evaluation forms. We just completed our diocesan convention. For the first time, I was in charge as chair of the dispatch of business. (This is also the last time because I’ve ac…
  • A purple witness
    Vital Posts
    I’m exhausted. I never thought I’d long for beer and sports-drink commercials. But when you live in or near a swing state like Ohio, all of the TV spots are bombast and lambast. The news is, of course, consumed as well, detailing ev…
  • Death by a Thousand Cuts
    Vital Posts
    Congregations die for lots of reasons. The most insidious cause, perhaps, and the most common is death by a thousand cuts. I love how Wikipedia defines the phrase: “Creeping normalcy, the way a major negative change, which happens slowly in…
  • Why Our Buildings Just Don't Matter
    Vital Posts
    This past weekend I had the chance to visit a parish a lot like the one I currently serve. The property featured a beautiful and inspiring church with a cozy chapel; an enormous rectory, and several buildings that made up the parish house. You can …
  • Managing Change
    Vital Posts
    I figure the joys of managing change land somewhere between trying to hold onto a block of Jello and being thigh-high in quicksand. I’m in the midst of leading a project – an annual event for our diocese that has been carried out in simil…
  • Screencast
    Vital Posts
    We rolled out a new online registration system for diocesan convention. The confusion and questions started almost immediately. We want to offer good customer service, to be helpful and responsive to parishioners. But we also wanted to find…
  • Retreat
    Vital Posts
    The last time I went on a spiritual retreat, jam boxes blared Journey, and we traveled by Shake-n-Bake, a beloved bus aptly named for its lack of shocks and air conditioning. Getting in touch with my soul was, in many ways, easier in the midst …
  • E-mail Overload
    Vital Posts
    Too much communication can be a bad thing. This probably sounds incongruous with my regular litany of all things communication. And don’t get me wrong: I fervently believe that effective and strategic communication is critical to the vitali…
  • Doggone Welcome
    Vital Posts
    The out-of-town guest decided to make a visit to the church to surprise her daughter-in-law and family. But she wasn’t sure what to do with her constant companion, a poodle mix named Phoebe. She entered in the undercroft and encountered our…
  • Don’t Compromise: Collaborate
    Vital Posts
    My husband doesn’t’ t like compromise: He prefers to collaborate. His reasoning? Compromise is giving something up. Collaboration is working together to create something new. Semantics? I used to think so. I’ve since come around to hi…
  • School Days and Rituals
    Vital Posts
    Champagne and midnight kisses may start the calendar, but in our house, the year really begins with the first day of school. This time is rife with tradition for us. We have, of course, the crisp pages of new notebooks, the stiffness of a fre…
  • What's in a Name?
    Vital Posts
    The names we call each other sometimes hurt! “Nonvital” Episcopalians are not members of nonvital and nonviable congregations. The members of an Episcopal church about to close need to urgently know that they are not to blame for their co…
  • Survey says
    Vital Posts
    Richard Dawson would be proud. The late, cheek-kissing game host probably wished he had a nickel for every time he pronounced, “Survey says” on one of my all-time-favorite shows, Family Feud. (OK, come to think of it, I bet he did have a …
  • Difficult Decisions
    Vital Posts
    Do you know the spiritually ripe time for your congregation to make its most challenging decisions?  [Editor's note: think buildings or changing any long held 'tradition'....] The spiritually ripe time is when a congregation is in sync w…
  • Orienting our Lives
    Vital Posts
    Messing with tradition is dicey. For most of the 110 people on this weekend’s parish retreat, every place on the mountain is sacred. The diocesan conference center in the heart of Kentucky, at the top of a mountain, is a thin place, where t…
  • Understanding the Theory of Change and Transition
    Tools
    A resource to help understand the difference between change and transition – one is an event and the other is a process.
  • Great Expectations
    Vital Posts
    I’ve been doing church work for a while now. Wednesday marks a decade doing communications for the diocese. And I’ve been married to a priest for almost 15 years. So you’d think I would learn. Just because I’m excited about a pr…
  • The Paradoxical Gift of Viability Threatened Congregations
    Vital Posts
    Part 3 of 4: Exercising Leadership with Viability Threatened Congregations. Read Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3. In my chaplaincy at a level 1trauma center I learned new meaning is often found when people experience extreme losses that fundamentall…
  • With: Strengthening Congregations through Partnerships
    Vital Posts
    Part 3 of 4: Exercising Leadership with Viability Threatened Congregations. Read Part 1 and Part 2. This four-part series has been intentionally named "Exercising Leadership with Viability Threatened Congregations". "With" not "for" or "over"…
  • Communication as Helium
    Vital Posts
    Communication is ministry. General Convention said so. In a resolution passed by both the House of Deputies and the House of Bishops, General Convention put into the record that communications is an essential ministry. Resolution A024 say…
  • Naming the Issue
    Vital Posts
    Part 2 of 4: Exercising Leadership with Viability Threatened Congregations - The Congregation's Leadership Responsibility.  Read Part 1 here. Several months after an Episcopal parish church closed I gathered its former members to engage them in …
  • A Perfect Time to be Unapologetically Episcopalian!
    Vital Posts
    Yesterday, The Episcopal Church’s House of Deputies concurred with the House of Bishops to adopt a resolution which authorizes provisional use of the rite “The Witnessing and Blessing of a Lifelong Covenant” starting Dec. 2 (the first Sunday …
  • Overview of Church Size Theory
    Tools
    A resource offering a brief overview of church size theory that can be used by lay leaders or clergy to explain how church size effects the culture of a congregation.
  • Change Readiness Assessment
    Tools
    This assessment can be used in a variety of transition situations to support lay and clergy leaders during a time of transition
  • Serving Without Pandering
    Vital Posts
    The best beer in the world is made by Trappist monks in Belgium. Or this is what I was told by 99% Invisible, a podcast I listen to occasionally. The beer is called Westvletern 12, and in order to purchase it you must call one of the monks and make…
  • Constantine has Left the Building
    Vital Posts
    My assignment at this [77th General] convention has been to track the movement to re-organize the entire structure of the Episcopal Church. A strong consensus has emerged that it is time to re-boot the way we are set-up – General Convention, Offi…
  • Leaving Church
    Vital Posts
    My church is in the midst of making some big decisions about governance, and a member of our advisory committee gave us some helpful advice. He pointed out that individuals who are not fully committed to the community sometimes can have an inordina…
  • Pulling the Plug
    Vital Posts
    When she was about 8, my daughter decided to throw a party. She selected a theme, planned the menu and activities, and invited the guests. What I didn’t know at the time was that she also planned how she expected her guests to act. And then got v…
  • Called to Common Mission
    Vestry Papers
    Twenty-five years ago, two churches – one Episcopal, the other Lutheran – came together united by a common mission. Mary Frances Schjonberg shares their story.
  • Defining the Gobbledygook
    Vital Posts
    Sometimes the bend of my learning curve has been more like an arrow: the amount of knowledge I have on a subject can only go up. When I interviewed for my job at the diocese, I told them it was great that we'd have two people in communications--I…
  • Come on People, Let's Get Together
    Vital Posts
    Do we really need another….? …committee, task force… soup kitchen…, website???? Might our time, talent, and treasure be better served by looking around, seeing who is doing similar work, and joining forces? This question came to min…
  • Speaking in Tongues
    Vital Posts
    I used to think I couldn’t speak in tongues. Several years ago, I reported on a story about Jews and Pentecostals coming together to learn about the Passover meal of seder. When the photographer and I arrived, we met the Jewish couple…
  • Talking To Ourselves
    Vital Posts
    This weekend I came across some research which gave me pause. In the 1980s, two MIT researchers looked at the relationship between how long a working group had been together and that working group’s communication with “outsiders”. The k…
  • Creating a Blessing
    Vital Posts
    In 2009, General Convention passed a resolution to create resources for same-gender blessings. These resources are an attempt to create tools, including theological and liturgical resources, for those same-gender couples that feel called to form a …
  • Discernment During Institutional Depression
    Vital Posts
    Is anyone else concerned about our church’s impassioned embrace of depression as we look toward General Convention and a challenging future? The Episcopal blogosphere is full of articles underscoring our grim institutional trajectory. A couple of…
  • Forty.
    Vital Posts
    I’m not gonna lie. The idea of turning 40 sucked. I spent some time moping last week. It didn’t help that my kids started teasing, calling me oldy-moldy or old-and-crusty. Then a co-worker prefaced a question to me with “O, ancient one.…
  • Same Story, New Techniques
    Vital Posts
    For a decade, I’ve been telling readers of our diocesan newspaper about summer camp. It’s an amazing, life-changing experience for most kids, but I couldn’t bring myself to use those same words for the tenth time to promote camp. I susp…
  • Wanted: Fundraiser Makeover
    Vital Posts
    Today, I’m attending my first “Card Party” at my new congregation. I know I’ll have a great time kibitzing with women of all ages, visiting over the specialty sandwiches, and bidding with abandon on baskets of goodies. I like this kin…
  • Cha Cha Slide
    Vital Posts
    It’s time to add the slide to our pew-aerobics repertoire. We all know the rule of real estate: location, location, location. Of course, this is true in the pew as well. Prime spots tend to be about a halfway back, close enough to be …
  • Stuck in a Rut?
    Vital Posts
    Ever wonder why we can’t get out of this rut? Maybe it’s a question you’ve asked as you went to the same job, in the same place, after leaving the same house and the same family so often it feels like life has no more zest. Why do I feel …
  • Of Dinosaurs & Discernment
    Vestry Papers
    Concern for the future started Lisa Towle and ECW-NC on a journey of discernment and discovery. More
  • Remembering About God
    Vestry Papers
    Stacy Sauls invites us to image a different kind of church, one formed around making Christ truly present in the world. More
  • The Other 1 Percent
    Vital Posts
    I dreaded the meeting. Negative, sometimes brutal messages on listservs, blogs, and other forums had drained my energy, twisting and dampening my anticipation of connecting with colleagues. If it ends up being three days of more of the …
  • Wake-up Call
    Vital Posts
  • Editor's Letter: March 2012
    Vital Posts
    Greetings. Much has been written about the overall decline in mainline denominations. Tom Ehrich and others are calling for a ‘new way of doing business‘ – and throughout our church, congregational leaders struggle with the reality of d…
  • Answering God's Call
    Vestry Papers
    When a congregation makes a paradigm shift from an attractional model of ministry to a missional model, how will the shift influence its understanding and practice of worship?
  • Real Collaboration
    Vestry Papers
    Collaboration has about as much buzz as any buzzword seems to buzz these days.
  • Dating the Presbyterians
    Vestry Papers
    We are "dating" a Presbyterian congregation that may one-day co-habitat with us in our buildings.
  • From Death, New Life
    Vestry Papers
    What do you do when a once-vibrant ministry that defined a parish's commitment to social ministry outlives the needs of the surrounding community and the resources of the parish to sustain it?
  • Why stay the same?
    Vital Posts
    Nota - Este artículo esta disponible en español aquí. Like many congregations, the Episcopal Church Foundation is currently in the midst of many changes. My friend and colleague Anne Ditzler is heading for greener pastures after 14 years of bei…
  • Charting change: what's missing?
    Vital Posts
    I’ve been cleaning out my office. While sorting and dumping most papers into the recycling bin, a few gems surfaced. One is a simple chart called Managing Complex Change. 
  • What's the appropriate pace of change?
    Vital Posts
    As congregational leaders, you are undoubtedly aware of the need for significant changes in your church. After all, rising to the occasion, making critical decisions, and implementing positive changes in the face of challenge is what leadership is al…
  • Gathering Around Ministry, Not Minister
    Vital Posts
    Over the past several years, the Episcopal Church Foundation (ECF) has been advocating for a new type of local congregation - one that serves as a transformational faith community. Its primary purpose is to inspire and empower members to become act…
  • Ashes -- and a message in a bottle
    Vital Posts
    I like shiny and new. I’m not typically first on the bandwagon of the latest trend, but I normally get in line for ride two or three. This is especially true with communication, and I’ve spent many keystrokes for ECF Vital Practices and o…
  • I didn't sign up for this.
    Vital Posts
    Over the past ten years of working on various committees and church groups, there have been a few critical moments when I've found myself thinking “I didn’t sign up for this.” Please note: I’m not proud of this fact. For me, this is a boiling…
  • Un-masking Mardi Gras
    Vital Posts
    The festivities were well underway by the time we arrived. Sequined dresses and glittered faces greeted us at the door. The normally more staid atmosphere of a diocesan convention was replaced with the upbeat celebration of Mardi Gras, comple…
  • Leaving
    Vital Posts
    This morning I received the letter from my Rector saying he was leaving our parish in New York City and going to a congregation in Vermont. We knew it was coming…he’d always said he’d serve at St. Mary’s for about 10 years. At last year’s…
  • Cupid-ity or Stupidity?
    Vital Posts
    Be mine. I thought this was simply a sweet if trite sentiment on a candy conversation heart. But an astute wordsmith preacher taught on Valentine's Day that this phrase takes on a dark twist in the word “cupidity.” Instead of an ar…
  • Accountability in Community.
    Vital Posts
    A month into our move the shininess has worn off, and we’re beginning to call this home – and the other place, “where we used to live.” Now comes the hard part of making friends and building community. Last week our church held …
  • Post Christendom to Missional Church
    Vital Posts
    Tom Ehrich and Frank Logue are right. Christendom* ended in the early 1960s (in the USA). My trip to Iceland helped me to see this more clearly. An island, not quite midway between Northern Europe and North America and settled in the 9th centur…
  • Changing the Scorecard
    Vital Posts
    Does your congregation’s parochial report represent what is really happening in your parish? How might you change your ‘scorecard’ to represent the many ways your congregation is serving God’s mission? These questions were raised at the…
  • A Leopard and its Spots
    Vital Posts
    “This is no place for children.” The usher clucked, then shook his head and muttered a few other dismissals. Heat rose from the pit of my stomach, filled my chest and sucked out the joy. I held to the hand of our 2-year-old daughter…
  • What We Leave Behind
    Vital Posts
    I pull out my diocesan credit card and survey the moving boxes. As I slide the card to the salesman, I'm distracted, calculating how many boxes I might need for my office. The salesman looks closely at the card. You have the same name as Bish…
  • What is ABCD?
    Vital Posts
    After reading the book, Community—The Structure of Belonging by Peter Block, I’ve been consumed with learning more about ways to live in and build better community (for myself and others). Shortly after having been transformed by the words I re…
  • What's Your Dirt Pile?
    Vital Posts
    Like most kids, my son’s best friend has carefully crafted his Christmas list for Santa. A few Wii games made the cut, along with some Star Wars paraphernalia and Beyblades (don’t ask me – it’s some funky disc game that’s the current rage…
  • B-4: Traditions of Thanksgiving
    Vital Posts
    After the turkey tryptophan has wound its way through our system and we’re bright-eyed again, my mom re-sets the table. We’re not allowed into the kitchen while she works, so we wait. When she finally calls us in, the table has been trans…
  • Here, Hear the Children
    Vital Posts
    The call came a few hours after the parish meeting. A young dad, he wanted his priest to know about a situation, in case it escalated. The diocesan transitions officer was meeting with the people of the parish to talk about next steps since t…
  • Refrigerator Score
    Vital Posts
    Growing up in a competitive, game-playing family, if I was thoroughly thumped during a card game, then the score promptly went up on the refrigerator. The good-natured taunts of “refrigerator score” would begin about midway through a game…
  • Damon and Clint: Asset Based Community Development
    Vital Posts
    Real change can happen when we make the shift from meeting needs to recognizing and accepting gifts. I’d like to share a story I heard last week during a workshop on Asset Based Community Development at the Everyone, Everywhere conference … …
  • Change
    Vital Posts
    Every organization needs a shake-up.  Not all the time, of course. After all, constancy is valuable, as long as it’s not prized above all else. But organizations, like churches, diocesan offices, denominational centers and General Conventions…
  • Charting a New Path
    Vital Posts
    The economic news in Dayton, Ohio, isn’t good. Long a manufacturing hub, the city has acutely felt the national financial woes. One in 10 workers are unemployed, and job loss is among the highest in the state. But leave it to the Epis…
  • The Baptist Bus Driver
    Vital Posts
    Herb beckoned for my husband to come to the bus door. My daughter found this book for me, Herb said. It is really amazing. I’m learning all kinds of new things. Have you ever seen a book like this? The words “Holy Scripture”…
  • Dreaming, Google, and the Church
    Vital Posts
    What’s your dream? I spent the past 2 ½ days dreaming with the board of Forward Movement, an organization dedicated to reinvigorating the church. We did board things like approve the financial report and talk about policies, but we also sp…
  • Roscoe and the Widow's Mite
    Vital Posts
    Roscoe opens his hand to reveal the pair of earrings. The tarnished hoops look small in his calloused hands. I found these in one of the trash bags I was sorting through, he tells me. I cleaned ‘em up real good for you. I take t…
  • A New Normal 2: Communion
    Vital Posts
    For me, church was always done a certain way: Until I began going to a new church. For the first 40+ years of my life, taking communion meant walking to the front of the church – when prompted by the usher – and kneeling at the altar rail. …
  • Old Dogs, New Tricks
    Vital Posts
    I love how God flips our expectations upside down. Sixty years separate the two couples. The first couple is in their 90s, the husband dapper in a tie and white slacks, whose likeness to Bob Barker always requires a double take. He steadies h…
  • A New Normal
    Vital Posts
    I was ready to boycott ABC. The news struck me hard. The network was cancelling All My Children. How could they? What did they mean that ratings were down? What about all the people who recorded the show, or watched it on SoapNet or the Int…
  • Thanks, Netflix: A Lesson in Communication and Change
    Vital Posts
    We should send a thank you letter to Netflix.  After all, the company is providing a great example of what happens when there’s no communication plan. To catch you up: Basically Netflix, a mail-order DVD rental company, made huge change…
  • The Messy Middle
    Vital Posts
    Four months. It seems to be the right interval. Is there anything biblical about this number? Nope. Anything magical or theoretical? No. Arrived at by trial and error, it’s just the timeframe that emerged for planning my life these days. I can ha…
  • Spiritual but not Religious?
    Vital Posts
    You bore me. That’s the conclusion of a UCC pastor in her superb, pointed commentary. I’m not normally a Facebook re-poster, but her blog was so compelling that I thought it was worth sharing. Who knew that it would ignite? Fr…
  • A Stewardship Miracle
    Vital Posts
    It’s not loaves and fishes. But considering that some Episcopalians regard coffee hour as the eighth sacrament, this is close. An entrepreneur, Jonathan Stark wasn’t planning an experiment about the kindness of strangers. He was exploring…
  • Waxing nostalgic: Back to school
    Vital Posts
    Bring on the routine.  In 12 days, the kids begin school for the fall, and our family settles into a regular schedule. Homework, dinner, a little TV. Piano practice, art lessons and for the first time, maybe karate. I say maybe, because t…
  • Finding Mr./Mrs. (the Rev.) Right
    Vital Posts
    Discernment is like dating.  Those early butterflies. Conversation that burrows a little deeper with each chat, by turns both exuberant and awkward. The not knowing how much to reveal: I like you. I want to serve here. I want to move forward to…
  • Shooting Stars
    Vital Posts
    Every diocesan office, every church staff has some superstars. They are creative thinkers – and doers – with boundless optimism and energy. Their job is a ministry, a calling, and they pour both their ability and heart into the work. And it…
  • Change
    Vital Posts
    The only constant in life - and in our surveys, apparently - is change. When we survey ECF Vital Practices readers about the topic they’ve needed the most help or guidance in during the past six months, “change” is regularly near the top of …
  • To Print or Not to Print
    Vital Posts
    To print or not to print.  That is the question facing many dioceses and congregations as they consider how to cut costs but maintain connection with members. Print costs money – paper, copying, and postage. And the Internet is free (es…
  • Blowing off Steam
    Vital Posts
    The air conditioner repair guys were lazy. They took the shortest distance to install the exhaust pipes – straight from the basement to the outside wall, right beside the entrance.  Don’t be alarmed: this is being fixed. Today. The…
  • Mass: A Conversation
    Vital Posts
    The parishioner just couldn’t accept the word “mass.” In a long, terse letter to the rector, he decried the use of the term Mass. It’s a worship service, he said. We’re not Roman Catholic. We shouldn’t be using their terminology. "S…
  • Taking One for the Team
    Vital Posts
    It came out of left field. We were in hour two of a three-hour softball game for 9-10 year old girls. After a spring of flash flooding and rain-outs, the weather turned to summer overnight, and our shirts were sticky with sweat. My daughter w…
  • The Importance of Being…Barnabas
    Vestry Papers
    I am speaking here of that often overlooked hero in the New Testament book of Acts...
  • Domain over your Domain
    Vital Posts
    A domain name is pretty much like a tattoo. Once you get one, you better plan on keeping it for life.  Otherwise, prepare yourself for some pain. I speak from experience. Several years ago, I received an email asking why the diocesan yout…
  • Sing a New Song
    Vital Posts
    I just got back from the post office where I sent off my grant application to the Lilly Foundation for my first sabbatical in 30 years of ministry. Whether we get the funding or not, we are pushing ahead with a shared renewal experience for me and …
  • Kindness of FB friends
    Vital Posts
    Blanche DuBois relied on the kindness of strangers, but I am thankful for the kindness of Facebook. Already this morning, dozens of people from across every stage of my life have taken a moment to wish happy birthday on Facebook. On the surfa…
  • When the Outside Doesn’t Match the Inside
    Vital Posts
    A 22-year-old woman visited our church for the first time last Sunday. We talked for a bit, and then I shared that in addition to my husband and me, the congregation has several other young couples.  Later, I realized: she must have thought I w…
  • The Cacophony of Children
    Vital Posts
    I’m a firm believer: Children should be seen and heard in church. About eight years ago, we started an Episcopal church in a fast-growing area with few community buildings. Our only option for a meeting site was a small, one-room township h…
  • A Taste of Heaven
    Vital Posts
    Easter dinner doesn’t normally make me feel holy. Happy? Yes. Full to the brim with succulent ham, dumplings, green beans and three-layer chocolate cake? Yes, definitely. But holy? Not so much. That normally happens during the triumph…
  • Certain or Stuck?
    Vital Posts
    Most mornings when I wake up, my husband brings me a cup of coffee. When I’m at a hotel by myself, I make the coffee right after waking up. My first morning in Memphis, I was mildly annoyed when I noticed the pot was missing from the coffee m…
  • Morning Prayer Solitaire
    Vital Posts
    As part of our Lenten series on spirituality and social justice, Will, a new parishioner, taught one class on the use of daily Morning Prayer. He came to us from the Roman Catholic Church and has absolutely fallen maddeningly in love with the Book …
  • A Man Named Roscoe
    Vital Posts
    Roscoe doesn’t look like the rest of us. Whatever word he had tattooed across his knuckles has faded into unrecognizable squiggles. His hair, though neatly combed, hangs over his ears, several months past a cut. He talks about Jesus and the e…
  • We Gather Together: Conversations on Same-Gender Blessings 2
    Vital Posts
    This is the second of two blogs I am sharing from Katrina Hamilton who represented the Diocese of Olympia at the church-wide consultation on Same-Sex Blessings in Atlanta. Katrina is the 25-year-old head of our deputation to next year’s General C…
  • We Gather Together: Conversations on Same-Gender Blessings
    Vital Posts
  • Knee-deep: The tough work of being church
    Vital Posts
    The 10-ton truck was no match for a long-forgotten septic tank. The delivery of gravel for the driveway was on course until the truck reached the last section. The weight bore down and crushed the old metal lid. The tire sank into the hole, an…
  • Ear to the Ground
    Vital Posts
    I love this expression. It conjures up times as a kid when I literally pressed my ear to the rocky soil listening for clues about what was going on beneath the surface.  Years later, I often hear this expression in the context of what it means …
  • Change: Top down or bottom up? Or both?
    Vital Posts
    The question of how the church must change was the theme of the opening address at The Episcopal Church’s Executive Council meeting in Fort Worth. As reported by Episcopal News Service, House of Deputies President Bonnie Anderson used part of …
  • The Resurgent Church
    Vital Posts
    For the third year running I am taking part in a clergy action/study group called the Resurgent Church. It comes out of the incredible work of Anne Lukens, a rector in our diocese, who has convened small groups of 8-10 "practitioners" who meet for …
  • New Ministry Celebrations
    Vital Posts
    I have attended the new ministry celebrations for two absolutely amazing women priests who have now become rectors in the Diocese of Olympia. Rachel Taber-Hamilton is now in charge of Trinity, Everett, and Carla Pryne is the new pastor for Holy Spi…
  • Blue Notes
    Vital Posts
    Pull out a stack of post-it notes. With a blue pen, jot down the reality of the Episcopal Church as you see it now. Use one post-it note per idea. With a red pen, write down some of your hopes and vision for the Episcopal Church in the future. Use …
  • February Update: New Vestry Papers Content
    Vital Posts
    As promised, ECF Vital Practices continues to add to its January/February Vestry Papers themed content with two new articles: Covenants in Congregational Life In his role as the Episcopal Church’s Missioner for Church Planting, Ministry …
  • State of the Union, State of the Church
    Vital Posts
    The State of the Union address is a yearly snapshot of where our president thinks our nation stands. The State of the Episcopal Church report published every three years is a snapshot of where our church stands. In his address, President Obama …
  • Weathering Change
    Vital Posts
    What happens when your spouse changes? There are times when suddenly a new interest or commitment starts to unfold. Or a voice that’s been lingering deep within suddenly finds it’s way to the surface. Have you had one of those moments when you …
  • New Kind of Potluck at the Annual Meeting
    Vital Posts
    An announcement of the annual meeting can be as welcome as the postcard reminder of your  dental appointment: You know you’ve got to do it, but you’re not going to enjoy it.  Often, it seems, annual meetings stick to the same-old agenda -- …
  • The Most Fun You Ever Had in Church
    Vital Posts
    For a guy who hears a lot “you’re really fun – for a priest" I felt upstaged a bit when a local mega-church cancelled services and put the Seattle-Chicago NFL game up on their big screens this past Sunday morning. This story made it on the T.…
  • A Mega-Church Plant
    Vital Posts
    Traffic started about a mile from the entrance of the church.    Police and volunteers guided vehicles through the parking lot maze. At every door, greeters with genuine smiles welcomed us. They held eye contact and sometimes put a reassuring h…
  • Baby Boomers: Put down the microphone
    Vital Posts
    When the Twin Towers tumbled down, I held my newborn daughter tightly and prayed that we would work to end the violence, to find a way to connect despite different faiths and cultures. I suspect Christina-Taylor Green’s mother felt the same…
  • Resolution: Believe
    Vital Posts
    My dad can hold a grudge.  When someone has really wronged him, it’s hard for him to forgive. And forgetting doesn’t even enter the equation. This is one of the reasons I believe in a God that changes hearts and transforms lives. …
  • Transitive Verbs ... and Christmas
    Vital Posts
    We greened the church yesterday. An afternoon of draping fresh-cut evergreen boughs from pillar to pillar, arch to arch, inspired me to draft “greened” into service as a transitive verb. It occurs to me that our celebration of Christm…
  • Growing Pains
    Vital Posts
    I just got off the phone with a friend who’s been priest-in-charge of a congregation that's grown from an average Sunday attendance of 30 to about 80 in a little less than two years. "It’s a tough day!" she exclaimed. It was only noon. I'd …
  • Proposed Anglican Covenant Parish Study Guide
    Your Turn
    A four-part series of lessons on the proposed covenant.
  • BreakingTradition
    Vital Posts
    I broke with tradition last night. Normally the tree decorating ends in tears – mostly mine. See, I like my tree to be just so. The artificial limbs spread out in an appealing fan, the favorite ornaments occupying the prime real estate. …
  • Appreciate Me Now
    Vital Posts
    My 6-year-old is moving out. He informed me that on his 18th birthday, he’s having cake, then packing. He’s going to move in with one of his buddies so they can run a web show. But I’ll miss you, I protest. Well, he says, yo…
  • Back from Nuevo Amanecer
    Vital Posts
    I’m writing this blog post on my flight back from the Nuevo Amanecer Conference, an event I attended on behalf of the Episcopal Church Foundation. This conference is a once-in-two year gathering for those who are involved in Latino ministry. Atte…
  • Back to basics
    Vital Posts
    The first semester of our experiment ends tonight. My church is a typical county-seat congregation in the foothills of Appalachia. If only Christmas Eve were our typical attendance on Sunday mornings, we’d be a packed 150. Instead, most Sun…
  • The Mustard Seed
    Vital Posts
    A chance meeting at a jewelry party reminded me that I should have gone to church. I don’t sleep in on Sunday mornings very often. I’m a clergy spouse and a diocesan staff member and mother of two kids who love hanging out with their chur…
  • And the Gold Goes to ...
    Vital Posts
    E-mail addresses are gold. By Olympic award standards, the bronze medal goes to snail mail addresses. Cell phone numbers snag the silver. But e-mail addresses rise to the top of the podium. Managing the database for a congregation…
  • The Balance Between Crazy and Amazing
    Vital Posts
    My diocese is not known to have many money problems.    But when a committee started drafting the 2011 budget, they realized we were facing a shortfall. Like every church organization, we’ve tightened our belts, frozen salaries, and made toug…
  • Church and State
    Vital Posts
    The separation of church and state is a key cornerstone of the U.S. government. At the same time, everyone at my noonday meeting on Tuesday had cast their vote in a local church. This juxtaposition struck me today as we move from one of the most…
  • Voting as a Christian Responsibility
    Vital Posts
    Have you voted today? I love Election Day. Anywhere. For me, it epitomizes the essence of democracy: citizens taking time from their busy lives to vote, to make a choice that at the end of the day, determines the future direction of their comm…
  • Saints Alive
    Vital Posts
    Faye laundered money. Literally. At the small, rural church, she collected the offering at the end of the service and hid it in her clothes hamper until she could make it to the bank. We discovered the occasions when she washed the purse wi…
  • Hollow me out
    Vital Posts
    When he didn’t win the pumpkin contest, I felt the tears sting. For most of Saturday, we worked on Cinderella’s coach, pulling the slime out of the pumpkin, carving windows, fashioning a door (that really opened!) and decorating the coach as…
  • Going Green
    Vital Posts
    The Hope Conference (Healing Our Planet Earth (HOPE): Singing a New Song of Hope) was held in Seattle in 2008.  Featuring keynote speakers Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori and Bishop Stephen Charleston this event put the Episcopal Church …
  • Reaching for that trapeze bar
    Vestry Papers
    Our responses to change and transition in congregational life vary because our understanding of them is influenced by our experiences and individual temperament.
  • A warden’s guide: Surviving the process
    Vestry Papers
    Think of this time as the longest Advent season you have ever experienced.
  • Leading a Holy Change
    Webinars
    Leading a holy change can be one of the most rewarding - and challenging - aspects of lay and clergy leadership in Episcopal congregations. This web conference focuses on general principles and best practices for leading a change process effectively.…
  • Leading a Major Change
    Webinars
    Leading change can be one of the most rewarding - and challenging - aspects of lay and clergy leadership in Episcopal congregations. This web conference focuses on general principles and best practices for leading a change process effectively. The pr…
  • Leading a Major Change
    Webinars
    Leading change can be one of the most rewarding – and challenging – aspects of lay and clergy leadership in Episcopal congregations. This web conference focuses on general principles and best practices for leading a change process effectively. Th…
  • Part 2 of Leading Through a Clergy Transition
    Webinars
    Leading in times of change, particularly a change in clergy leadership, presents special challenges. This two-part series is aimed at vestry members and other congregational leaders who are currently or will soon be leading their congregation through…
  • Part 1 of Leading Through A Clergy Transition
    Webinars
    Leading in times of change, particularly a change in clergy leadership, presents special challenges. This two-part series is aimed at vestry members and other congregational leaders who are currently or will soon be leading their congregation through…
Site by Bandwidth Productions