• Honor worshipers as the pilgrims they are this Christmas Eve ✓
    Vital Posts
    Episcopalians love processions. There’s something about the grandeur, of course, especially if such a procession includes all kinds of liturgical accoutrements, but even in a more humble parish church, such as the one in which I serve, a liturgic…
  • Bearing gifts, hosting parties
    Vital Posts
    For years, I hosted a Rose Tea for the women of the church on the weekend of the third Sunday in Advent (Rose Sunday, hence the name). It was always a lovely occasion with great conversation, delicious food, and sometimes a few carols. But after ev…
  • Vital Practices Digest: 5 Things to Help Get Ready for Christmas
    Vital Posts
    This month we offer five resources to help your congregation get ready for Christmas. Please share this digest with others in your congregation and invite them to subscribe to ECF Vital Practices to receive Vestry Papers and this Vital Pract…
  • Easier Evangelism: So, Tell Me Your Story
    Vital Posts
    Our leading evangelist is not a Baby Boomer with conversational skills honed by the Dale Carnegie school of making friends and influencing people. It is not a latchkey Gen-Xer, earnest to please or a freewheeling Millennial breaking from social med…
  • A Ministry of Space
    Vestry Papers
    Sharing our buildings with others can tax a congregation’s resources. “A Ministry of Space” by Louise Fortuna shares how, on a shoestring budget and without a sexton, this downtown church has become a true community hub.
  • 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…
  • Building Community -- at a Campground -- and Church
    Vital Posts
    Richelle Thompson is vacationing with her family. While she’s away, ECF Vital Practices is offering ‘reruns’ of some of her more popular posts, this one from May 31, 2011. Campers could share a lot with parishioners when it comes to build…
  • Tech Savvy in the Heartland
    Vital Posts
    “We see God in you!” proclaim the people of St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Lebanon, a small city in rural central Indiana. This “people of prayer uniting in one Spirit” live the Gospel through many ministries rooted in heritage, such as …
  • A House of Prayer for All People (Even Young, Wiggly Ones)
    Vital Posts
    When a two-year-old is antsy and curious, parents squirm. Especially when it’s the day of the younger brother’s baptism and the entire family is in the pews, the church is full, and you have imagined this moment as perfect. Mom’s arms are ful…
  • Singing Our Song
    Vital Posts
    Every Sunday at St. Mary’s, at all our services that include music, we sing the same song. I hear that the associate rector even makes the 7:30am service sing it on occasion, and they never sing. We picked it up in Hawaii a few years ago, at a me…
  • Practicing Welcome: New Member Handbooks
    Vital Posts
    When you start a job, you receive a handbook (or at least, you should). The handbook contains information about the company and its policies and procedures. Of course, the handbook doesn’t cover everything. There are those office culture and trad…
  • Tenants and Friends
    Vital Posts
    Are your tenants your friends? Is that even possible? What is the relationship with the people who use your church’s space? So many of our churches these days have tenants. It’s practical, mostly. We often have more space and less money t…
  • That Girl
    Vital Posts
    I had the privilege of hearing the voice of Renita Weems recently. The Rev. Dr. Weems is ordained in the AME Church, a scholar of Hebrew Bible, and a fantastic preacher and writer. She delivered the annual Margaret Parker Memorial Lecture at the co…
  • Posadas: Searching for a Place...
    Vital Posts
    In the midst of terror and facing new pressures about whether to open our borders to refugees, we come to the story of Mary and Joseph. Advent begins in just two weeks. We move toward Christmas with expectation and wonder. At the same time that…
  • Fellowship and Food
    Vital Posts
    Peanut butter and jelly. Peter and Paul. Kardashians and reality TV. Some things just go together. And so it is for fellowship and food. For many churches (and frankly, most social gatherings), food and fellowship are natural companions. And…
  • Namaste: Tone, Words, Intent All Matter
    Vital Posts
    “The divine in me bows to the divine in you.” Perhaps you’ve spoken these words at the end of a yoga class. Usually spoken with a slight bow and hands pressed together, with palms touching and fingers pointing upwards. Thumbs are held…
  • Hunger
    Vital Posts
    We stood in the drizzling rain, some huddled under umbrellas, others with water darting down glasses and dripping off noses. There wasn’t a football game or concert to keep us from escaping to the dry indoors. Instead the magnet was a desire for …
  • Following Jesus: See, Listen, Go
    Vital Posts
    The wheelchair broke. That was why she was stuck inside the access-a-ride minibus outside our church. Her only choices were to wait for someone to come and repair it, or to return to the assisted living home. It was a Monday evening at St. Lydia’…
  • A Ministry of Encouragement
    Vital Posts
    Folded between faded newspapers and birthday cards were the notes I had written. My husband and his family found them as they were cleaning out his grandmother’s house. I didn’t remember writing them. But apparently I did. The notes…
  • #JesusAtGC
    Vital Posts
    Thousands of people from across the United States have hunkered down in Salt Lake City for the triennial General Convention. It is an intense, marathon-length, sprint-pace gathering for leaders of the church to make decisions about policy, directi…
  • Wallpaper the Church with Photos!
    Vital Posts
    In this digital age most of us take a lot of pictures. I'm amazed by how fast I can accumulate 1000 pictures on my phone. Most of the time I show them off on the phone itself, passing around particularly good images and inviting friends to scroll t…
  • The Sacrament of the Nametags
    Vital Posts
    This post is also available in Spanish here. Third Sunday is mash-up Sunday at St. Mary’s. We bring together all three of our Sunday worshipping groups -- from our two English and one Spanish service -- plus Trinity Church, our neighbor congr…
  • Community and Last Suppers
    Vital Posts
    This is what community looks like. Fifteen coworkers seated around a conference table, cups of water at their right hand, spooning pudding from parfait glasses. As we move through Holy Week, we recall the Last Supper, the Passover meal …
  • Ten Things Churches Can Learn From Starbucks
    Vital Posts
    Hint: It’s not about making coffee. Churches could learn a few things from Starbucks… Starbucks is one of those places that, even if you don’t go there, you know it’s the place to go. It’s the number one coffee shop in the Uni…
  • Birthday Blessings
    Vital Posts
    Many congregations invite folks to come to the altar for special prayers in honor of their birthdays. Some expand the invitation to those celebrating wedding anniversaries or to honor the date of their baptism and/or confirmation. I think it …
  • What Do You Do?
    Vital Posts
    So, she turned to me. What do you do at the church?    Pardon me? I didn't quite understand her question.    At my last church, the priest's wife was always there, organizing things and cleaning up. What do you do at the church?    I sw…
  • 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 …
  • Primeras impresiones
    Vestry Papers
    ¿Cómo encontró nuestra iglesia? Si bien visitar una iglesia durante un servicio de culto puede ser una excelente manera de formarse una primera impresión, la realidad es que muchos de nosotros obtenemos nuestra primera impresión de una iglesia m…
  • Honoring Advent
    Vital Posts
    Please, no tree shaming. I’ve been admiring all the Facebook posts of friends dedicated to honoring the sacred season of Advent. They are setting aside 15 minutes a day for silence and prayer; reading a daily devotional; lighting candles; a…
  • Faith Connections
    Vital Posts
    Most Friday afternoons the office at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, Del Mar, California, is a quiet place. Locals head out of work early to hit the beach, but get stuck in a jam on the freeways. Though we staff the front desk lest the phone ring o…
  • Newcomer Profiles
    Vestry Papers
    How to capture and share the stories and experiences of newcomers developed by Church of the Redeemer and a back-up plan in case the story falls through.
  • 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…
  • Brides and Pet Blessings
    Vital Posts
    The bride stood just a few feet away from where she sits on Sunday mornings.    Two years ago, she cold-called the church, looking for a place to get married. The priest encouraged her to come on Sunday morning. Check out the church. See if it…
  • Bulletin vs. Prayer Book
    Vital Posts
    Subscribe to ECF Vital Practices for articles, tools, and resources by and for congregational leaders. With a subscription, you'll receive 12 issues of Vestry Papers as well as the monthly Vital Practices Digest delivered to your inbox, all for fre…
  • Restructuring Structures
    Vital Posts
    The announcement was deceptively simple: Sign up to host "Cookies under the Tree." But the path to the announcement was long and winding. Church growth doesn’t just affect Sunday attendance and the bottom line. It also requires a syst…
  • In His or Her Shoes
    Vital Posts
    Something I love (and sometimes hate) about living in a city is the variety of people I encounter: businessmen and women, hipsters, undergrads, homeless people and tourists and everyone in between. Many people I simply pass by on the street, but occa…
  • Who is Your Audience?
    Vital Posts
    Last week I went to a goodbye party for a longtime Trinity employee. I also went to a community forum, an Ascension Day Eucharist, and stopped by Trinity's Brown Bag lunch program which serves meals to people in need.  Different people were in a…
  • Body Language
    Vital Posts
    Maybe it’s because we’re in a new place, in some ways like Blanche Dubois and xxx the kindness of strangers, but I keep experiencing how body language and hospitality are linked. Our vacation began with a put-upon clerk at the airline co…
  • Thank You Notes
    Vital Posts
    Does your church have a theology of gratitude? Is this “attitude of gratitude” more platitude than practice? The state of Kentucky held its primary election on Tuesday. Signs in patriotic blues and reds littered most street corners. Pamph…
  • Bring Out Da Woo
    Vital Posts
    In addition to being an ENTJ, I’m apparently a woo as well. The personality text, StrengthsFinder, indicated that one of my character (and leadership) traits is “woo.” What that means in part is that I enjoy meeting new people, asking q…
  • That's So.... Awkward
    Vital Posts
    Last Monday, I walked into a yoga studio for the first time in seven years. I had done yoga in undergrad, but after leaving college, classes were either too expensive or too out of the way, and, honestly, I just never got around to going back. But …
  • Doing Brunch at Church
    Vital Posts
    I'm not at all certain that church is competing with soccer, as I’ve heard it argued, or any number of Sunday activities (where, once upon a time, nothing was open or scheduled). Church, especially Sunday morning Christian worship, especia…
  • Small Church Feeds Big Athletes
    Vital Posts
    If you want to know how much food it takes to feed two hungry college basketball teams for nearly three weeks, just ask the people of St. Timothy’s, Iola. They can tell you, because that’s what they did in early January for the men’s and wome…
  • Breaking Bread
    Vital Posts
    Jesus knew: food brings people together. Breaking bread together plays a central role in many passages of scripture. Most importantly, of course, is The Last Supper, when Jesus lays the foundation for the Eucharist. But throughout the …
  • Getting Ready For Our Easter Guests
    Vital Posts
    Thinking about hospitality and evangelism. At some point, you found your way and were welcomed into your congregation. It is easy to forget, though, what the experience is like to look for a church or be a visitor at a church service. As we m…
  • JOY: An Intentional Senior Ministry
    Vital Posts
    This week, the parish I serve is getting ready for another senior get-together. Called the “J.O.Y. Luncheon,” it’s an acronym that stands for Just Over Youth. St. George’s, Valley Lee has had a tradition of offering a JOY Luncheon for our s…
  • Giving Visitors a Gift
    Vital Posts
    For the second time in about a month, I was visiting a church and was asked to stand up so that the congregation could welcome me. This time it was a large church. Afterward, someone came by to give me a flower. I was slightly uncomfortable, as I usu…
  • They Will Know Us by Our Love
    Vital Posts
    On Saturday morning I went to a coffee shop to write. Or possibly it was a Turkish restaurant. Or a patisserie. It was one of these things, or maybe all of them. It was mostly empty. It could have been the dreary weather, but I think one of the…
  • Small Churches
    Vital Posts
    This past Sunday I went to hear my friend preach at a very small Episcopal church in Manhattan. They had me fill out a welcome card and during the announcements they mentioned my name and everyone clapped to welcome me. This was probably unnecessar…
  • In the Cards
    Vital Posts
    I used to be a skeptic, but Hallmark might be on to something. Getting a card in the mail (the snail kind) matters. Normally the trip to the mailbox is perfunctory, a time to collect bills and throw out the junk. But in the weeks before Chris…
  • Christmas Reality and Budget Strategy
    Vital Posts
    Right about now, leaders in congregations are putting the finishing touches on Christmas liturgies and sermons, finding a part for everyone in the pageant and giving equal attention to clearing the office calendar so we all can take a well-deserved…
  • You Pastor? You Pastor!
    Vital Posts
    Several nights ago, I was startled by a knock at the door. While we are used to a steady stream of visitors at our house, this knock was startling as it came at nearly one o'clock in the morning. As I drew back the curtain to see my visitor, I knew…
  • Doing Right by the Books
    Vital Posts
    An Episcopalian in my community is doing amazing work with sustainable gardening, creating an ecovillage in the heart of an urban area of Cincinnati. But that’s a story for another blog. What caught my attention today was an article in the n…
  • Advent Resources
    Tools
    Links to free Advent resources, calendars and devotions, reflections; St. Nicholas Day; and preparing for Christmas visitors at your church.
  • 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…
  • 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…
  • Here and Now
    Vital Posts
    This weekend I was at a retreat with Judson Memorial in Connecticut. While not my usual church, which is St. Lydia’s, it is a place I am somewhat connected to. On Sunday morning we sat in the chapel, overlooking the lake, as the congregation named …
  • Trading Spaces: Sunday School Edition
    Vital Posts
    Do as I say (and write), not as I do. I’m teaching Sunday School this fall for the first time at our new-ish church. Our kids are old enough to make their way to the classrooms so I hadn’t spent much time looking at the space.  Yesterday …
  • Fitting in--And Adam's Rib
    Vital Posts
    Sometimes it’s shaving your head. Volunteering for the dunking booth. Or staying to clean up after the women’s tea. In all of our congregations, there’s been a moment when things shift. It’s almost imperceptible but like finally break…
  • Gathering Community: Getting Ready for Fall
    Vital Posts
    Brushing Up on Hospitality and Evangelism As we approach the beginning of the program year, this is a great opportunity to brush up on our hospitality and evangelism. How are we welcoming people to our congregations? How can we extend our h…
  • Trapper Keepers for Back-to-Church
    Vital Posts
    I want a Trapper Keeper. And folders with pockets, wide-ruled notebooks, and gallon-size bags for the class to share. I secretly like back-to-school shopping: it gives me a sense of organization that feeds my inner control needs. What I wish …
  • Children ARE Welcome. Really.
    Vital Posts
    The story he told was simple: The first time that he and his wife came back to the church in which they were married, they were worried. Their kids were young. The service can seem long. As semi-first-timers, they wanted to make a good impression. Th…
  • Comrade or Competitor
    Vital Posts
    Several years ago, we were church planters, establishing a new congregation in one of the fastest-growing counties in the state. One of the biggest obstacles: resistance from the closest Episcopal church—still 10 miles away. Their argument was th…
  • 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…
  • 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…
  • Spring Cleaning
    Vital Posts
    How about some spring cleaning for your congregation? With Easter approaching, we again have the opportunity to welcome many more visitors through our church doors. Consider dusting off those corners, sprucing up your narthex, or tidying up the…
  • Icebergs
    Vital Posts
    What do icebergs and churches have in common? I recently spoke with the Rev. Eric Law, founder of the Kaleidoscope Institute, which helps churches communicate across cultural boundaries. During our conversation he introduced the idea of churc…
  • Customer Service
    Vital Posts
    I haven’t thought much about customer service since I was making book – and beer – money in college at the local deli. Sure, in my career, it’s been important to treat people well. But I hadn’t thought about it as customer service, …
  • Making Friends with the Church Directory
    Vital Posts
    Few things strike more fear into the hearts of church administrators than the call for a new church directory. Scheduling folks for pictures, re-scheduling them, then calling and hounding is only part of the task. Then there’s the proofread…
  • Pretzelmania
    Vital Posts
    Often, it seems, we want every event that we offer to have some deep, soul-wrenching message, something that will cosmically connect. We try to stretch allegory and metaphor like Silly Putty, so that our event has meaning. But sometimes it’s O…
  • Baptismal Covenant
    Vestry Papers
    In “Baptismal Covenant, ” Howard Kently Williams offers a look at the way his Brooklyn, NY, congregation lives into the familiar phrase “Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself,” by building congregatio…
  • Traditions
    Vital Posts
    When we married, my husband suggested we have a themed Christmas tree. He liked silver and blues, maybe round globes and icicles. I quickly disabused him of that notion. Decorating the Christmas tree was a rich tradition in our house, wit…
  • Underneath -- and Beyond -- the Kilt
    Vital Posts
    The teasing started almost as soon as the box arrived. My husband, a strapping 6’3”, would be wearing knee socks. And a kilt. My stern admonition: he must wear something underneath. Yesterday, we participated in our …
  • Late for the Party
    Vital Posts
    I enjoy church crashing. Or, to put it differently, I enjoy visiting different churches for Sunday morning worship. I love to worship through the unique lens a community has developed to seek and know God, to find out what mission and ministry …
  • The Unavoidable Coffee Hour
    Vital Posts
    My church has made coffee hour unavoidable, and that’s going to make all the difference. This past Sunday marked the beginning of an experiment at St. Luke and St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church, the congregation that my partner and I have be…
  • Visitor Pew Card
    Your Turn
    A simple guide to our liturgy for newcomers and visitors.
  • Pet Blessings
    Tools
    Many congregations recognize the Feast of St. Francis by offering some form of blessing of the animals. Here's a collection of resources from across the Episcopal Church.
  • Witnesses and Participants
    Vital Posts
    I went to a wedding this weekend at a small Episcopal Church in Rhode Island. It was a simple and short and lovely service. I wondered a bit today about the people participating in the ceremony who were not Episcopalian or Christian (including the …
  • [Not Always] Open Table
    Vital Posts
    (Overheard online ...) "Because they were rude to me and treated me like a semiconscious beast they'd shot down from a tree with a tranquilizer after I told them I was hearing impaired, I told them I wouldn't be coming back." Sounds like an exp…
  • What's your sign?
    Vital Posts
    The billboard caught my attention: “The place to be seen is Crestwood Baptist.” I did a double take. To be seen? What about the place to be loved? The place to be in community. The place to grow. I’m not sure what message th…
  • Are You Talking to Me?
    Vital Posts
    “Who are you talking to?” For many of us, it is a question we’ve both been asked and asked of others. I remember my parents asking me this question when I was a child on the phone with friends; as an adult I’ve asked my own family this same…
  • 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…
  • Welcome (Back) to Church
    Vital Posts
    As we approach the beginning of the church's program year, it is a wonderful time to brush up on hospitality and evangelism. We created this collection of articles to help Episcopal congregations do just that. Interested in receiving these "collect…
  • Know Your Neighbor?
    Vital Posts
  • Remembering
    Vital Posts
    You remembered. That’s what I thought when a co-worker brought up the flowers. It was my tenth anniversary working for the diocese, and my sweet husband remembered. This anniversary isn’t mentioned in Hallmark. There’s no indication for…
  • Stop and Share a Meal
    Vital Posts
    I spent a lot of time this past weekend eating. A few of my college friends were in town, and we spent hours sitting around Moroccan food or pasta. This is how we got to know each other years ago in college: long hours of conversation around cafete…
  • Hospitality
    Vital Posts
    In my life dictionary of important words the word "hospitality" (hospitalidad) means that I should respect everyone at all times. It means that I should shake hands, say hello, and ask the very important question, "Hola! Bienvenido! Como ha esta…
  • I'm New Here
    Vital Posts
    Nearly seven years ago I walked into a small Episcopal congregation and discovered what would eventually become my new spiritual home. For the sake of a good story, I’d like to say that it was love at first sight, but the truth is that I was at fir…
  • Telling a Story Through Liturgy
    Vital Posts
    On Good Friday I went to church for an hour and a half. Being a three-hour service I skipped a good portion of it, but as the church website explained, worshippers were welcome to come and go as their schedules permitted. I have to confess I left e…
  • Taking Shelter
    Vital Posts
    Why does it take the worst to bring out the best? Tragedy in the form of super-cell tornados ripped through southern Indiana, Kentucky, and small towns across the south. TV news and the Internet swarmed with devastating pictures of homes redu…
  • Editor’s Letter - February 2012
    Vital Posts
    Greetings. One of the joys of my role as editor of ECF Vital Practices is the discovery of resources to share through this website. Each day I comb through email messages, online publications, Facebook, as well as a variety of websites and prin…
  • At the End of the Day...
    Vestry Papers
    Cultivating new practices of invitation, welcome, and connection that are rooted and grounded in the Gospel of Jesus Christ will transform our congregations...
  • Ugandan Hospitality
    Vital Posts
    In the four days that I have been in Nakiwogo, Uganda, I have already visited in the homes of 14 members of St. Stephen’s Church. At every home, I am offered wonderful hospitality with snacks and water or soft drinks provided. Last evening, I fea…
  • Will You Give Me a Hand?
    Vital Posts
    Like most people, I like to be helpful, and I’m usually happy, and sometimes flattered, when I’m asked to give someone a hand. Perhaps this is the reason I keep showing up at St. Lydia’s. I arrived one Sunday and I was immediately put to work…
  • Seeing Jesus
    Vital Posts
    As we parked, my daughter whispered: “I hope I make at least one friend today.” My husband and I exchanged the glance that roughly translates into our willingness to cut off an arm so that this could happen. “You will,” we reassur…
  • Easier Hospitality
    Vital Posts
    There are few things lonelier than standing alone in a parish hall during coffee hour, sipping coffee and hoping someone will speak to you. If you’ve stuck around after church for coffee hour, then it’s probably because you want to meet people …
  • Nametags: Opposites attract
    Vital Posts
    If you’re still debating the merits of nametags, then this post isn’t for you. I’m a fan. I think nametags are a sign of welcome to visitors, making it easier for them to focus on conversation instead of imprinting names into memory. …
  • 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…
  • Making Room
    Vital Posts
    At the time, I didn’t think much about it. But when we left the church two years later, the woman stood up and shared the story.  On her first visit to the church, she was bewildered. It had been a long time since she sat in a pew – and nev…
  • Our Very Own Christmas Special
    Vital Posts
    Here's a guilty pleasure: Christmas specials.  I like them on TV (Rudoph the Red Nosed Reindeer and A Charlie Brown Christmas come to mind) and I especially like them as desserts. "I'll have five of Santa's Favorite Chocolate Chip Cookies, tha…
  • The Spanglish Congregation
    Vital Posts
    NPR is currently doing an excellent series on how Latinos, the U.S.’ largest minority group, is “making their mark on religion, technology, education, Hollywood and the workplace.” There are many good stories in this series, but I believe tw…
  • Practicing Our Slogan
    Vital Posts
    “The Episcopal Church welcomes you!” That’s our deal, right? We’re welcoming. Or not so much. Now that I’m not serving in a parish, I have been visiting lots of Episcopal congregations. It’s been illuminating, both in good and in troublin…
  • 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…
  • Vacation with a Difference
    Vital Posts
    Here was my job this week. On behalf of the diocese, I led Vacation With a Difference, five days of relaxation at our diocesan retreat center, the St. Andrew’s House Conference Center. A dozen people came to the most beautiful place on earth …
  • Inspiring Intersections
    Vital Posts
    One thing we’ve learned about disasters – in addition to the fear, suffering and disruption on lives and communities – is the ability of people to pull together in powerful ways. I learned this on September 12, 2001 when church leaders, n…
  • Shabbat Shalom
    Vital Posts
    Two Fridays ago, I found myself walking through the doors of an Episcopal Church to attend a Shabbat service with friends.  Let me clarify...  Two friends recently invited me to attend a Shabbat service at their synagogue Congregatio…
  • To (Name) Tag or Not to Tag?
    Vital Posts
    Name tags are for the church that plans to welcome new people. If your church is already the perfect size, then there’s no need to read further. Close the doors and issue passwords to members. But if you believe that living out your f…
  • "Make Yourself at Home"
    Vital Posts
    “Make yourself at home.” I’ve heard, and uttered, this phrase thousands of time in my life. And, depending on the situation, I either follow through or I don’t, my actions guided by the intangible ‘vibes’ my senses pick up. I sto…
  • Transforming Churches: Growth to Sustainability
    Vestry Papers
    “St. Paul & the Redeemer is growing because we are really clear about what we are about and that is welcoming everybody to this community: orthodox believer or skeptic, gay or straight, black or white, rich or poor, everyone is welcome to eat at Go…
  • The Importance of Being…Barnabas
    Vestry Papers
    I am speaking here of that often overlooked hero in the New Testament book of Acts...
  • Being Welcoming
    Vital Posts
    Last week I had a long conversation with the rector of a thriving urban parish with approximately 700 members and no full time staff, other than the rector. “What’s the secret to your success?” I asked. I never received a direct answer to …
  • I’m Going to Sing ‘til the Spirit Moves My Heart
    Vital Posts
    The performers at Friday night’s cabaret-style fundraiser sang their hearts out. I’m gonna sing ‘till the Spirit moves in my heart I’m gonna sing ‘till Jesus comes These musicians and singers gifted the audience with an ev…
  • Undercover Rector: Coffee and Conversation
    Vital Posts
    Previous posts in this series: Undercover Rector Episode II, Undercover Rector: LOL Coffee hour can be a lonely place. In this episode of Undercover Rector, the priest is disguised as a visitor. The greeters, having watched…
  • 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…
  • Episode II, Undercover Rector: LOL
    Vital Posts
    I saw a post on Facebook the other day about a friend’s father who had taken a turn for the worse. Another friend posted, “Prayers heading your way. LOL.” Wait a minute. I thought LOL meant laughing out loud. I’m guessing (hoping) thi…
  • Undercover Rector
    Vital Posts
    I’d love to see an episode of Undercover Rector. Taking a cue from reality TV, the rectors would cast off the alb, dye their hair and magically  transform into someone unrecognizable. They would visit the church a few times during the week, …
  • Blessing (and welcoming) the bikes
    Vital Posts
    What would you do if a bunch of bicyclists rolled their wheels up to the front of your sanctuary? Would you bless them? For the past 13 years, St. John the Divine Cathedral in New York City has welcomed bicyclists for an annual Bless…
  • The Ides of March, George Clooney, and the Episcopal Church
    Vital Posts
    A new sign hangs in the fellowship hall of Holy Trinity Episcopal Church, located in the college town of Oxford, Ohio. “George Clooney ate here.” During the first week of March, cast and crew for a movie, “The Ides of March,” fi…
  • Laissez Les Bons Temps Rouler!
    Vital Posts
    Reason #1,678 why I love the Episcopal Church: We like a good time. Episcopal churches across are gearing up for Mardi Gras. We’ll spend the next six weeks of Lent in prayer and reflection; some will fast, others will make a sacramental c…
  • Academy Awards and Church Announcements: Time to Cue the Orchestra
    Vital Posts
    How many of you have sat through announcements in church, wishing you could treat them like acceptance speeches at the Oscars? When they get too long – or boring, you could cue the orchestra (or organ) music, and the teen daughter of a cele…
  • Loving ‘Us’
    Vital Posts
    There’s been a Valentine’s Day ad running on local TV stations, urging people to “love 'us'.” The featured vignettes show people in different stages of relationship, all sharing a card to celebrate St. Valentine’s Day. Yesterday we ce…
  • Sharing Love Stories
    Vital Posts
    Most of the time, building community happens in the background. But every once in a while, the connections are so tangible, the relationship building so apparent, that it’s as if the Holy Spirit employed bricklayers and brought the mortar.  Fo…
  • Radical Welcome Bible Study
    Vestry Papers
    What does this passage tell us about God?
  • Radical Welcome: Embracing the Other
    Vestry Papers
    Nobody knows just what Jesus Christ’s body looked like. But most of us have some inkling, some dream, of how the Body of Christ could look and feel.
  • Newcomer Incorporation: A Countercultural Activity
    Vestry Papers
    The ministry of welcoming newcomers into our midst is arguably the most important evangelistic activity in which a parish can engage.
  • Commissioning of New Members
    Vestry Papers
    "Our purpose is to commission these persons in the Name of God and of this congregation into membership in Iona-Hope."
  • A Sunday Morning Welcome
    Vestry Papers
    One step which is often overlooked in our various incorporation processes is that of having a meaningful welcoming ceremony for our new members.
  • Come Be Our Honored Guests
    Vestry Papers
    What would happen if we treated newcomers as Sunday morning guests, rather than as visitors?
  • 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.…
  • Who’s New and Who’s Missing
    Vital Posts
    This article is also available in Spanish here. Este artículo está disponible en español aquí. Each Monday for a half-hour four of us gather and go through an exercise called “Who’s New and Who’s Missing.” It is a quick check-…
  • Understanding and Celebrating Differences
    Vestry Papers
    Scientists tell us that biodiversity is a key measure of the health of any ecosystem. Many of us suspect that diversity within our congregations would also be a sign of health, creativity, radical welcome, and the possibility of growth.
  • Las Posadas
    Vital Posts
    Though I didn't realize it at the time, I grew up celebrating a Reader's Digest version of Las Posadas. In Mexico and Guatemala, Las Posadas celebrations involve an elaborate pilgrimage, complete with statues of Mary and Joseph, wherein townfolk we…
  • Get a ground-level perspective
    Vestry Papers
    Is your church inclusive and welcoming?
  • How Not to Win Friends and Impress Visitors
    Vital Posts
    Visitor frenzy kicks in high gear over the next two weeks, as newcomers and rarely-seen-ers attend Christmas services.  Welcoming visitors is a ministry -- and not everyone has the gift. Consider these true -- but don’t-try-this-at-home…
  • Prepare the Way...For Visitors
    Vital Posts
    Click here for a Spanish translation of this article. Last weekend, over dinner, a friend bemoaned how hard it was to find a good place to go for a Christmas Eve service with her parents. Neither an Episcopalian nor a regular churchgoer, she is …
  • Winter Shelter
    Vital Posts
    I regularly commute by bike to work. The hour-long ride gives me a chance to see details of the city I’d otherwise miss: the older women practicing Tai Chi in a park; the amber sunrises seen as I pedal along the curves of the East River. Of course …
  • A Thanksgiving Feast - The Religious Kind
    Vital Posts
    Episcopalians corner the market on Thanksgiving. Sure, everyone across the United States celebrates Thanksgiving in some way, from cranberries and turkey dinners to lazy afternoons watching football and parades to studious planning of Black F…
  • 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…
  • Tree of Life
    Vital Posts
    I spent the Saturday night before our All Saints celebration as the stage manager for an event at our cathedral entitled, “A Celebration of the Tree of Life in the Time of the Great Turning.” It was an incredible event anchored by a talk by Joa…
  • Living hospitality
    Vestry Papers
    Dr. Alan Watton was ninety years old when he started coming to church, via a ride from our hospitality chairs (a husband and wife team). After the first service, he stopped on his way out and asked if I made home visits.
  • ¡Hola! A warm welcome in Spanish
    Vestry Papers
    Why do Latinos arrive to our doorsteps? What do they find? Why do they stay? What makes Latinos feel welcome in the Episcopal Church?
  • Amp up your hospitality
    Vestry Papers
    It only takes a moment for a guest to get a first impression of your parish.
  • Invite*Welcome*Connect: Building a Vital Newcomers
    Webinars
    Inviting, welcoming, and connecting persons in our congregations are vital steps for building healthy, vibrant and growing churches. In this web conference, Mary Parmer offers an overview of best practices, tools, and resources for congregations to d…
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