• Making the Most of Your Vestry Retreat ✓
    Webinars
    Vestry retreats are investments of time, energy and (often) money. This one-hour webinar will provide an overview of a design process for vestry retreats that will help you make the most of these investments. In particular, we will talk about: ● D…
  • Build a Healthy Vestry ✓
    Vestry Papers
    Getting the right people on board is critical. Janie Kirt shows us the successful system she developed for “Build a Healthy Vestry." Available in Spanish.
  • Living Into Our Ministries ✓
    Tools
    This guide is for conducting effective mutual ministry reviews in one's congregation. It was collaboratively developed by the Episcopal Church Foundation, the Episcopal Church Center's Offices for Ministry Development and Deployment and many diocesan…
  • Structuring Leadership Teams ✓
    Tools
    The most effective leaders have always created teams to work with and lead with them. Take Moses in the story of Exodus, or Jesus and the apostles in the New Testament, or Martin Luther King Jr. in the Montgomery Bus Boycott. Our own ministries cou…
  • Cultivating a Culture of Discernment ✓
    Vestry Papers
    St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church in St. Paul, MN has been re-envisioning the role of the vestry over the last five years: inviting vestry members to understand their role as that of a spiritual discernment team.
  • Discernment in the Vestry Process
    Vestry Papers
    In Discernment in the Vestry Process, Bruce A. Freeman draws from personal experience to emphasize the importance of a careful, spiritual discernment process by and for congregational leaders to ensure the work of the church is relayed and continues …
  • The Vestry Goes on Retreat
    Vestry Papers
    A vestry retreat, if planned thoughtfully, can be a time of fruitful work, relationship building and most importantly, honest conversations about the life and health of a church. In The Vestry Goes On Retreat, Nathan E. Kirkpatrick shares his thought…
  • Spiritual Gifts
    Vestry Papers
    Does your church conduct a Spiritual Gifts Assessment for its parishioners? Jennifer LeBlanc shares the experience of her church’s spiritual gifts assessment in Spiritual Gifts.
  • Ordinary People, Saints, and Living Holy Lives
    Vital Posts
    Today we claim the song as ours, belting it out full throttle, especially today as we celebrate All Saints Day. “I sing a song of the saints of God, patient and brave and true, who toiled and fought and lived and died for the Lord they loved …
  • The Not Forgetting
    Vital Posts
    Years ago, in a pastoral liturgy class at General Seminary, I learned what is still one of my favorite words. Anamnesis is the name for the part of the Eucharistic prayer where we tell the story of how we came to be saved through Jesus’ death an…
  • Power of Spiritual Practices
    Vital Posts
    "Worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness." Many Episcopalians strive to accomplish that with each use of our beloved liturgy. We enliven the treasured words with beautiful music that inspires us to, "Go in peace to love and serve the Lord!"   …
  • The Need for Connection
    Vital Posts
    The leadership of a congregation is responsible for creating a vision, that is, developing a plan that enables the church to respond to the future in a creative manner. Given all the demands of a parish, it takes great discipline to attend to the f…
  • Ministry After November 8
    Vital Posts
    “Almighty God, to whom we must account for all our powers and privileges: Guide the people of the United States in the election of officials and representatives; that, by faithful administration and wise laws, the rights of all may be protected a…
  • Should We Make Decisions Today That People Tomorrow Will Change?
    Vital Posts
    For the past several weeks, I’ve snuck a hour or half-hour, here or there, on as many days as I can to clear rocks from the rectory’s front yard in Valley Lee. My late predecessor, his wife tells me, got a call one day from a friend who offered…
  • A Bridge to Change
    Vestry Papers
    Transition and change is part of our personal as well as our corporate lives. “A Bridge to Change” by Carmen Guerrero shares her story of learning to recognize how God was calling her to change as she responded to various calls to ministry.
  • Covered in Prayer
    Vital Posts
    It’s not that we don’t want to be spiritual. We’re lay people serving on vestries that oversee the business of the church. We lend our experience from the workplace and serving on not-for-profit boards to our parish decision-making. These are…
  • Intentional Listening
    Vital Posts
    Alleluia! It feels good to say THAT again! Glorious celebrations of Jesus’ resurrection are still ringing in our ears as Eastertide joyously overtakes the liturgical calendar following Lent.  The observation of a “Holy Lent” often invol…
  • The Poetry of Holy Week
    Vital Posts
    Every year, her words come back to me around this time of year. I think it was during Holy Week, or maybe a week or two before, when the pastor of the congregation where I served as seminarian said, “I honestly don’t know what else to preach on…
  • 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…
  • Reach Out – Extend Pastoral Ministry
    Vital Posts
    Our recent Vestry Papers article "Get the Hell Out of Church" urged church leaders to shift their focus from “inside” to “outside,” and from church-sponsored outreach to individuals understanding themselves as “on mission” in their ever…
  • Break Out – Find the Faith-Life connections
    Vital Posts
    Our recent Vestry Papers article
  • Fire First!
    Vestry Papers
    Robert Wright encourages us to make explicit our fire – our common purpose - and to keep it “in front of us” as it will bless our common life in exciting ways.
  • Resolves and Resolutions
    Vital Posts
    Two weeks into the new year, and many resolutions already have gone the way of the dodo bird. Failed resolutions aren’t for a lack of try; change is really, really hard to execute. That’s why I like the words of Michael Ramsey, who was the …
  • "The Best Teachers Money Can't Buy"
    Vital Posts
    I've been in school a lot. This is not self-promotion. I'm not trying to say what a great, studious priest I am, as is plainly evident to anyone who reads what I write. I just mean in my thirty-six years on the planet, I cannot remember a time when…
  • The Importance of Failure
    Vital Posts
    We failed. Not a big, catastrophic failure. Nothing that will change the future of humankind, the nature of the neighborhood, or the flavor of the church. But a fundraiser idea that I pitched and planned two years ago has died. Essentially, I…
  • Discipleship Matters
    Vital Posts
    What is discipleship? What does it mean to be a disciple in today’s world? Jesus is pretty clear that this is important. We call it the Great Commission, the passage of scripture where Jesus commands (yes, commands) that we “make disciple…
  • Discerning Need: The Power of Openness, Listening, & Music
    Vital Posts
    St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Chatham, New Jersey was considering a capital campaign; ECF consultant, Gerald (Jerry) Keucher was working with them. As Jerry tells it, the driving force behind a campaign was two-fold: First, to improve the access…
  • Loving Thy Neighbor
    Vital Posts
    The clubhouse was bigger than we anticipated. Our plan was to have the guys build the clubhouse in the woods behind our house. We had cleared a flat space and put in some railroad-tie steps down the incline. But the builders nixed the idea. T…
  • Lessons from Families: Listening and Love
    Vital Posts
    This past weekend I was in Arizona visiting family. I live in New York City; most of my Arizona family live in small mining towns in the southeast part of the state, so I don’t see them often. It’s very hot there, but it’s also beautiful. The…
  • The Surprising Power of Sorry
    Vital Posts
    What do we do with broken history? There is no going back and fixing the atrocities of the past, nor denying that they play a powerful role in shaping the present. None of us can disentangle as individuals from stolen land, enslaved lives, su…
  • Episcopal Surprise
    Vital Posts
    This post is also available in Spanish here. Este artículo está disponible en español aqui.  A few weeks ago I had a conversation with a friend who is a priest. We started talking about his Church, his ideas, concerns, and experiences. You c…
  • 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…
  • Celebrate. Listen. BE INSPIRED. Plan.
    Vital Posts
    When there is so much happening, or so much to do in the present, it’s sometimes difficult to imagine the future. Here’s a fun exercise to move people to envision how their church could make an exciting difference in the world. Vision is in…
  • Come As You Are
    Vestry Papers
    How a community cared for and supported the discernment of one of its members from a teenager to becoming a young adult and how she grew into becoming a leader in the Church.
  • The Season of Departures
    Vital Posts
    It took me a while to notice, but summer is a hard season in the life of a church in a university town. People leave. We wish them well, we pray them on their way. And we grieve. A church with young adults experiences this a lot. A church that …
  • Leadership from the Pews
    Vestry Papers
    A common challenge church leaders face is identifying new leaders. María Eugenia Giraldo shares how she became a lay leader and helps us see the signs of a person who is eager to serve.
  • Working Theology(ies) Of Baptism
    Vital Posts
    This is really a book-length issue about which I’m only going to write a few hundred words. Underneath all of this is a library-full of information, plus an entire life’s journey and discernment. I’m thinking about baptism. It’s Easter, aft…
  • Every Riven Thing: Living with Noise and Imperfections
    Vital Posts
    This past weekend I went to an Easter Vigil at a large Manhattan church. It was a lovely service, crowded, with beautiful music and several baptisms. It was not, of course, perfect. There was a microphone that didn’t work and a noisy child sittin…
  • 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…
  • “What is God Calling Us to Do?”
    Vital Posts
    A few days ago I was reminded that if you want to know what God is calling you to do---its important to actually spend some time together. This reminder triggered a profound moment in my experiences as a consultant. About a year ago, a parish…
  • Professional Development
    Vital Posts
    I’ll be honest. For many years, I saw “professional development” as code for relatively fun junkets away from the office. The idea of taking a retreat or sabbatical seemed like more of an excuse to get out of work than a needed time for reflect…
  • Too Many Choices?
    Vital Posts
    I begin today with a confession: Sometimes, when I feel like my life is just too full, I skip church. About a decade ago, this is something I would have judged myself pretty harshly for. You go to church not because it’s easy and you feel like it…
  • Slow Down
    Vital Posts
    I’m reading a book this week by the priest, theologian, and amateur cook Robert Capon called Supper of the Lamb. It’s part cookbook and part meditation on life and God. There are recipes and there’s a whole chapter devoted to cutting an onion…
  • Jesus is the Reason for this Season, Too
    Vital Posts
    The return of school and these post-Labor Day days seem to have kicked the whole world – and no less the church – back into program mode. Bible studies and Sunday schools and small groups and senior ministries and other programs are in full swi…
  • Become What You Receive
    Vestry Papers
    “…What you see is simply bread and a cup. But your faith demands far subtler insight: the bread is Christ's body, the cup is Christ's blood. My friends, these realities are called sacraments because in them one thing is seen, while another is gra…
  • 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…
  • Poetry and Prayer
    Vital Posts
    Every Sunday at St. Lydia’s we read a poem after prayers. I know, reading poetry at dinner church in Brooklyn sounds a little like your stereotypical hipster church, but I find that it is an authentic expression of our community. For example,…
  • We All Live in the Same House
    Vital Posts
    This weekend I went on a retreat with my church. About 30 of us stayed together in a large house, where we cooked, prayed, sang, and talked. We began the weekend by talking about what we had individually brought with us to the retreat. Someone …
  • 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…
  • Singing a New Song
    Vital Posts
    This past fall, St. George’s took the RenewalWorks survey. Based on the work of Bill Hybels and Willow Creek Community Church and adapted by the Jay Sidebotham for purposes of use in The Episcopal Church, RenewalWorks is an incredibly thorough su…
  • Recruiting Fundraising Volunteers
    Vital Posts
    Summer is the perfect time to recruit volunteers. Fewer committee meetings mean more time for the one-on-one visits so important to matching the right person to the job. Yet, recruiting volunteers for fundraising is more than simply filling a s…
  • 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…
  • What's the Church?
    Vital Posts
    At Southside Abbey, we handle sermons a little differently. They are more like conversations born from questions posed to the community at worship. People break into small groups, discussing the readings and responding to these questions. The group…
  • Servant Ministry II
    Vital Posts
    My previous post on servant ministry generated some discussion on Facebook. Thanks for that! Maybe we can go a little deeper on the topic of servant ministry. First, I would concede that “servant ministry” and “ministry” are probably jus…
  • Ongoing Discernment: The Way of Jesus
    Vestry Papers
    How might a congregation ‘refresh’ it’s spiritual identity, keeping it front and center in all that they do? “Ongoing Discernment: The Way of Jesus” by Blair Pogue shares how St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church keeps Christ at the center of al…
  • How do You Define "Biblically Minded?"
    Vital Posts
    Editor's note: Nicholas Knisely, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Rhode Island, responds to the January 22, 2014 TIME Magazine article "The Most God-less Cities in America" which ranks Providence at #1. What's your response to this survey? How wo…
  • January 2014 Editor's Letter: Vestries: Listening to God’s Call
    Vital Posts
    Welcome 2014!  That beginning of a new year offers a clean slate: A chance to start over, to rid oneself of unproductive habits; an opportunity to be more of those things one would like to be more of, and less of those things that weigh us down…
  • Attitude Adjustment
    Vital Posts
    The Power of Community in Fundraising – it is NOT about the Money! In previous blogs, I wrote about how fundraising is ministry. (If you missed them, you can find them here). Even in the preparation for fundraising, parishes can be stre…
  • Big Blue Skies and Transition
    Vital Posts
    Nota - Este artículo es disponible en español aquí. I had heard that the sky out west was bigger, more bold. I had no idea what that meant until I did my 30 day Ignatian retreat in Tahoe City, California, on the shores of Lake Tahoe. There a…
  • Downtown Mission
    Vestry Papers
    Believing that their role as faith leaders includes encouraging incarnational experiences of faith that connects one’s active civic life to their experience of worship, members of St. Paul’s in Richmond, Virginia asked themselves, “what are our…
  • Heading Out Into Mission
    Vestry Papers
    Out is where mission happens at Southside Abbey. Bob Leopold introduces us to a community church committed to lifting up hope where that hope has been obscured.
  • Showing Up (Or Not...)
    Vital Posts
    Sometimes I feel guilty when I miss Sunday services at my church, St. Lydia’s, and I feel a little guilt when I can’t make it to a small group I’m involved in. This is only heightened by my current position on the Leadership Table (the vestry, …
  • 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.
  • Shattering the Status Quo
    Vestry Papers
    “Shattering the Status Quo” by Todd Ousley challenges congregational leaders to break out of familiar patterns by entering into an exodus experience as a way to open themselves to get ‘Egypt’ out of their systems.
  • [The Power Differential]
    Vital Posts
    I recently heard a colleague use the term power differential when referring to the relationship between clergy and laypersons. She wasn’t wondering if one existed, but rather simply naming its existence as fact. Using my best poker face, I tried …
  • Listening Across Difference
    Vital Posts
    Saturday, as you probably know, George Zimmerman was acquitted for the murder of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black teenager. Since then I’ve been unable to think about much else. I feel saddened and frustrated about the trial and what it means for…
  • Confessions of a Cradle Atheist
    Vital Posts
    Over dinner at a conference for Episcopal clergy, a colleague leaned in confidentially over dinner. “Is it true you were raised by atheists?” Apparently my standard flip answer to my least favorite Episcopal question had gotten around: “N…
  • 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 …
  • 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…
  • 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…
  • Remembering
    Vital Posts
    On a hill in Colorado there’s a little church surrounded by gravestones and grass and pine trees called St. Phillip in the field. My grandmother rests there now, as well as generations of my family. I’ve been to Colorado many times before and v…
  • Lord, Help Me to See (and Hear)
    Vital Posts
    If seeing through the eyes of another were easy, imagine what a different place our world could be. Fewer hurt feelings; fewer misunderstandings. Recently a friend shared the disappointment and hurt some of her family members felt after prepa…
  • Making Sausage
    Vital Posts
    The four new vestry members were announced at our annual meeting yesterday, and I said a little prayer for them. Give them strength, O Lord. And patience. And, I pray, they'll still want to be a part of this community when their term is over. W…
  • A Quiet Moment to Look Ahead
    Vital Posts
    I’ve spent much of the past week reading and taking walks on the beach in Rio. My girlfriend is from Brazil, so I was lucky enough to come out here for the holidays. It’s been a little strange celebrating Christmas in 100-degree heat and going …
  • Speaking the Call Out Loud
    Vital Posts
    On Sunday we celebrated St. Lydia’s. This is the church I attend, which combines liturgy and a meal. The gathered community blessed the ministry of St. Lydia’s, then installed our newly ordained pastor, and blessed the ministries of the new leade…
  • Chocolate and Discernment
    Vital Posts
    I am blogging from the annual meeting of the Colonial Chocolate Society in Williamsburg this week. As much as some of us believe that chocolate should be another sacrament that is not why I am here.This is one of the fun events I attend as the over…
  • Jesus, Remember Me
    Vital Posts
    “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom,” Luke 23:42 In the spring of 1997, I made a career move that I did not know at the time would become my first step into the wonderful world of lay vocation. As Director of Alumni and Stak…
  • Finding Your Gift
    Vital Posts
    The other day, I went on a tour of Trinity Church (where I work), with a group of conservationists, geologists, and chemists. What these people were most interested in was the stone of Trinity—where it came from, how it has been restored over the…
  • 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.
  • Finding your Gifts
    Vital Posts
    It figures, harrumphed a colleague. Totally an ENTJ. And, she continued, his ENTJ doesn’t leave any space for my ENTP. So, I think to myself, I am LOST. I have never undergone an extensive Myers Briggs personality test. But I’…
  • Wanna Grow! Help People Discern
    Vital Posts
    Editor’s Note: Guest blogger Chris Yaw’s passion is healthy churches. His ChurchNext ministry puts the spotlight on a diversity of ministries that are flourishing. He records and shares interviews with faith leaders so others can learn from the…
  • Desperate for Discernment
    Vital Posts
    I bought an Apple computer because I’d spent too much time in Best Buy overwhelmed by the array of PC’s – Toshiba or IBM or Sony? So many screen sizes, processors, features, and colors. Once I decided to buy an Apple, I had the choice of thre…
  • Wake-up Call
    Vital Posts
  • A New Way to Start a Meeting
    Vital Posts
    Apparently I’m in meetings often enough that when I told my son I had meetings the other day, he grunted. “Meetings. Is that all adults do? Do you ever work in these meetings?” My honest answer: Sometimes. Meetings consume a l…
  • Beyond Three T’s
    Vital Posts
    Over the holidays I read the book Reclaiming the Great Commission by Bishop Claude Payne and Hamilton Beasley. The book describes a transformational model that Bishop Payne, clergy, and lay leaders developed and introduced during his episcopacy wit…
  • The Christmas Challenge
    Vital Posts
    On Christmas you and I will hear a story alleging the Creator and Ruler of the Universe decided to come to earth to become human – a lofty, controversial, and near-preposterous claim, for sure. Nonetheless, we will notice that God does not do…
  • Advent: Anticipation and Disappointment?
    Vital Posts
    What do you do when you no longer like your favorite Christmas cookie? Peppermint candy cane cookies: I’ve made them for almost 30 years and can’t imagine a Christmas without them. Two and a half sticks of butter, a cup of confectionary suga…
  • 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…
  • Midnight Breakfast
    Vital Posts
    It’s getting closer! In this time of preparation, it’s hard not to think about what’s coming: final exams. In the next week or two college students will hunker down into reams of paper, laptops, and group projects, trying to finish semeste…
  • St. Nicholas: Putting away (my) childish things
    Vital Posts
    St. Nicholas greeted us at the door. This evening is one of my favorites leading up to Christmas. The children giggle, laugh, and point. Some hide behind their mothers’ legs, peeking one eye out at the jolly ole soul. We combine the delight…
  • Were You Transformed?
    Vital Posts
    The end of a year always puts me in a reflective mood. Like a DJ at some local radio station, I take full advantage of these days to look back and compile lists of the past year’s greatest hits and less successful ventures. It’s also when I ask m…
  • Beyond Functions: An Incarnational Ministry Fair
    Vital Posts
    With Kick-off Sunday under our belts, many churches turn to the Ministry Fair to jumpstart recruitment for all the numerous parish ministries needing warm bodies to keep their mission going. Many times these look like this: a parish hall set up wit…
  • How Do You Engage the Bible?
    Vital Posts
    Congregations across the Anglican Communion are invited to take part in a communion-wide survey which asks how Episcopalians and Anglicans understand and engage with the Bible. In the Diocese of Connecticut’s September 24, 2011 weekly eNews, edi…
  • Generosity (of Spirit)
    Vital Posts
    “Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or are you envious because I am generous? So the last will be first and the first will be last.” (Matthew 20:14-16) This is the end of the parable about the vineyard owner and th…
  • Vestry as Spiritual Leaders?
    Vital Posts
    How would your vestry's work differ from current practice if the spiritual health of the congregation was its primary obligation? One of the best kept secrets in the Episcopal Church has to do with the wide range of work that vestries can ta…
  • 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…
  • A Discerning Heart
    Vital Posts
    Discernment: it’s not about ordination to the priesthood. Outside the church I’m not sure people consciously talk much about “discernment.” But in our Episcopal Church, “discernment” often becomes shorthand for the process someone goes …
  • 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…
  • Different Styles, Different Gifts
    Vestry Papers
    The process of making such decisions have enormous capacity to bring together or tear apart vestries.
  • Brother, Give Me A Word
    Vital Posts
    When Americans hear or see the word ‘stop’ we know what to do. If we are in our cars, we cease driving for a moment; if we are walking and about to cross the street, we hesitate. We have learned to pay attention and to make a response when we c…
  • 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…
  • Osama bin Laden: To rejoice or not?
    Vital Posts
    I don’t rejoice that Osama bin Laden is dead. To be certain, I am glad he can no longer mastermind terrorist attacks. I am thankful he will no longer be able to lead disenfranchised zealots to attack innocent people around the world. His …
  • Earth Easter
    Vital Posts
    On this Good Friday, I want to share a message from my friend Durrell Watkins, senior pastor at Sunshine Cathedral MCC, Fort Lauderdale.  "It's interesting that Earth Day falls on Good Friday this year.  With our greed (Judas/30 pi…
  • Appreciative Inquiry at St. Mary's Manhattanville
    Your Turn
    Our congregation has used the process of Appreciative Inquiry (AI) to understand our strengths, core values, and hopes for the future, leading to enhanced ministry and energy for our mission. The first event in April 2007 was a great success. Attache…
  • For Lent: Downward Mobility
    Vital Posts
    The first Sunday in Lent has the same gospel story every year. Told in versions by Matthew, Mark and Luke, the forty-day temptation of Christ in the wilderness begins our own forty days of wandering. Each year on this Sunday, I remember my teacher …
  • Responding to the Call, Part 2
    Vital Posts
    Back in November, I wrote about forming the fourth mutual discernment group in my four years as rector as another member of our church seeks clarity on a call to priesthood. In the intervening months our bishop and Commission on Ministry have draft…
  • Bringing our Bodies to Church
    Vital Posts
    On a December night in 1996, a drunk driver swerved into my mother’s lane and crashed into us head on. I was 14, in the passenger’s seat, and immediately felt a white hot bolt of pain shoot through my lower back. Thanks to God and my mother’s…
  • 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 …
  • 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 …
  • The Postmodern Turn
    Vital Posts
    It is everywhere. The term Postmodernism is in the water these days. It is has been appropriated by a new generation of evangelical theologians who have embraced it as strongly as progressive theologians latched on to Liberation Theology 30-40 yea…
  • A Game of Pick-Up-Sticks
    Vital Posts
    On a dusty shelf I spied one of my favorite childhood games: Pick-up-sticks.  I presented the game to the kids during dinner and explained the premise: Drop the clutch of sticks onto the ground and then pick up one at a time, taking care not to…
  • Renewing Our Baptismal Covenant
    Vital Posts
    In the aftermath of the shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords at a campaign event in Arizona, two Facebook postings caught my attention. The first, John Donne’s familiar poem, a favorite since college: "No man is an island, entire of itself; …
  • Spreading Jesus’ Light
    Vital Posts
    I miss the tree burning. For many years my community celebrated 12th night by burning Christmas trees at the beach. As darkness approached people would add their trees to the pile collected by town workers. A member of the local clergy offere…
  • Let Your Light Shine Through
    Vestry Papers
    Given all that energy and the challenges of the time we live in, it feels like a good time to expand the opportunities for lay leadership beyond the church walls.
  • Crafting Resolutions
    Vital Posts
    Since I’m going to be in Texas for the foreseeable future (or at least until flights to New York begin again), I find myself with an abundance of time on my hands. Which is fine by me. My family’s home in the Texan hill country is an amazing pl…
  • On the Third Day of Christmas….
    Vital Posts
    …my true love gave to me three French hens… My third day of Christmas is day 2 of ‘the blizzard of 2010.’ Snow continues to fall; blanketing the house and yard with heavy, wet snow. The familiar landscape of my yard is covered with drift…
  • Glorious In-Between Times
    Vital Posts
    Ah, we’ve reached the in-between times.  Wads of wrapping paper and torn boxes sit on the curb. There’s still plenty of cookies and fudge, but the baking is done. And for the family of a priest, the noon bells yesterday meant the end of the …
  • Crisis of Church
    Vital Posts
    I am having a crisis of Church. No, not a crisis of faith. My faith is strong and for that I am thankful. However, I am taking some time off from church. Not my parish, not the Episcopal Church, but THE Church. You see, I believe The Church is i…
  • My December To Do List
    Vital Posts
    I tried to switch my calendar, address book and To Do Lists to my iPhone to help organize my life but it just didn’t work. I have switched back to my trustee Daytimer with two pages per day for appointments and lists. It is the same system I have…
  • God’s Light Precedes our Light
    Vital Posts
    One sunny summer day as a young boy I experienced a miracle. I was holding a small magnifying lens, examining a flower petal. Suddenly the flower leapt on fire. I was shocked! In a profoundly simple way, I witnessed the power of captured light: eno…
  • Editor's Note
    Vestry Papers
    In preparing this issue, we put out a nationwide call to those working with youth: clergy, youth ministers, vestry members, etc.
  • A Bible Study for Difficult Decisions
    Vestry Papers
    How can you tell when a ministry is no longer viable?
  • Clothing Ourselves with Christ
    Vestry Papers
    It is early evening, and traffic is heavy in the city as people head home for dinner and a night’s rest.
  • The Art of Living Simply: Making More of Less
    Vital Posts
    “Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.” – Jesus “Simplify, simplify, simplify.” – Henry David Thoreau, Walden. Rules for a simpler lifestyle cannot be universal rule…
  • Advent Haiku
    Vital Posts
    First candle is lit Boughs on brass stand shimmering In the deep darkness That is the haiku I wrote in 10 minutes during the first class of our Advent series Advent Haiku- The Spirit in the Heart of the Moment. It is being taught by…
  • Tis the season of: Overload?
    Vital Posts
    I’m a creature of habit. Regardless of when Advent begins, to me, December 1 is the ‘official’ start date of the season. Time seems to be in ample supply; balancing family, work, chores, and preparation for Christmas seems oh so do-able. …
  • Covenants
    Vital Posts
    This past Sunday I trooped up to St. Mary’s Manhattanville in Harlem, New York to facilitate a conversation about the Anglican Covenant. But before this discussion ever took place, I found myself regretting that I’d ever agreed to do this.
  • Responding to THE Call
    Vital Posts
    I had someone come into my office and share that they wanted to become a priest. This will be the fourth time that as rector I have responded to such a conversation by pulling together a formal discernment group. They will meet over nine months …
  • Koheleth and the Good Soil
    Fieldwork
    Paul reflects on his meager harvest.
  • Busybodies or Workers?
    Vital Posts
    I’ve been thinking a lot about “work” lately. The value of work, types of work, and how people work. St. Paul got me thinking even more last weekend with his letter to the Thessalonians. Bluntly put: if you won’t work, you shouldn’t eat. …
  • Vestry work in real life: New vision
    Vestry Papers
    How does true spiritual discernment work with nuts-and-bolts issues like vision statements and parish budgets?
  • Holy Diversions
    Vital Posts
    I live alongside a monastic community. (Yes, there are nuns and monks in the Episcopal Church!) What a unique and amazing experience. I could never have planned for something like this…it just emerged in grace-filled ways over the last 18 months.…
  • 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…
  • Vestry Discernment Begins with the Soul
    Vestry Papers
    Nuts and bolts issues are more effectively and efficiently addressed when vestries focus first on key questions having to do with discernment and key values.
  • Discerning Youthful Calls
    Vestry Papers
    When asked, “When did you know you were called to ordained ministry?” I always begin with the story of Mrs. White.
  • Discerning Individual Gifts on the Vestry
    Vestry Papers
    How do you understand your purpose as a vestry member? How do you know what God wants of you during your term on the vestry – or in the rest of your life?
  • The Good Earth Farm: Beginnings
    Fieldwork
    The language of abundance is everywhere in the Bible and at Good Earth Farm. In the summer of 2008. Paul Clever and his wife, Sarah, were seeking support and guidance concerning common living. Their focus was how to structure their lives to serve Chr…
  • Team Leadership
    Webinars
    This webinar will explore how team discernment practices can help your congregation be more open and responsive to God's call to mission and ministry. The webinar will provide an overview of three team discernment practices and will focus on how they…
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