• Models for Vestry Leadership of Faith Formation ✓
    Webinars
    So your vestry has a handle on the financials. But how are you doing as leaders and stewards of your church's faith formation ministries? In this webinar the Center for the Ministry of Teaching posits four "developmental stages" of vestry leadership …
  • Churches, Public Policy, and Elections ✓
    Tools
    Confused about limitations on church-sponsored dialogue during this political season? Check out these resources for guidelines related to church engagement in the electoral process and public policy.
  • Revitalizing Retreats
    Vital Posts
    In the last three months I've had the opportunity to attend three retreats. The first was a two-day spiritual retreat at Holy Cross Monastery in upstate New York. This was a time for prayer, worship, guided reflections and, most important, silence.…
  • 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…
  • Walk Humbly with Your God
    Vital Posts
    I don’t know all of the particulars about who and how the lessons of the lectionary were chosen, but it seems to me they must have been thinking about Annual Meetings when they chose the ones for Sunday, January 29, this year. From Micah: “…
  • Spirits in Scripture and in Today's Church
    Webinars
    Many people today are taught to separate the spiritual from the intellectual. For the church, this division is perhaps nowhere more strained than in our reading of scripture. Stories of prophetic frenzy, spirit empowerment, and demonic possession in …
  • Open Doors
    Vital Posts
    What are you doing on Friday during the inauguration? More importantly, what will your church do? Many of us have probably read about the debates within the Episcopal Church: Should we pray for the president-elect by name? Should Washington Nati…
  • Vestry Introductions
    Vital Posts
    Teams that work well together understand that each member must respect the others’ opinions and priorities. Together, they find and honor what they value in common. As you plan the first meeting with a “new” vestry, consider this exercis…
  • Vestry Meditations
    Vestry Papers
    Colleen McMahon shares the importance of prayer and spiritual practice for vestries. She warns about falling victim to the “Martha syndrome” - being consumed by the many worldly tasks vestry service presents, and in the process losing sight of wh…
  • Be Born in Us: Love of Neighbor in Advent
    Webinars
    During Advent, Christians prepare to receive the mystery of the Incarnation: divine love becomes fully human to heal the world. Throughout the year, churches extend this incarnational love to neighbors near and far through mission and outreach activi…
  • Prayer First
    Vital Posts
    Today, we vote. And hopefully, we pray. I have heard time and again from people that they’re so frustrated with this election season, with the vitriol and mud slinging, that the only thing that’s left to do is pray. And I agree. Except on o…
  • Prayer & Prediction
    Vital Posts
    On October 11, 2016, Christian author and pastor Max Lucado posted his prediction for November 9 on his website. Lucado acknowledged that folks are “ready for this presidential election to be over,” adding, “There is a visceral fear, an angst…
  • 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!"   …
  • We're Not in this Alone
    Vital Posts
    The day moves along. I’m editing and answering emails, troubleshooting a print delay and catching up with coworkers, when a Post-it note jolts me back. Michael, it says, in purple ink. Check on status of the Advent app. Without warning, I’m…
  • When Words Fail, Pray.
    Vital Posts
    When Facebook feeds are filled with political vitriol, when newscasts are rated NC-17, when loved ones who espouse a different opinion want to convert you, pray. This election season, perhaps like no other in recent memory, has left many speech…
  • Beliefs and Teachings that Engage My Heart: What's Your List?
    Vital Posts
    For most of my ministry, people have been wringing their hands about the decline of mainline churches. From my first days of service as a priest, I heard people say that we’re just rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic. The image prompted a cart…
  • Exploring “Public Faith in Action”
    Vital Posts
    Maybe it comes with the job. I couldn’t help but notice the ways people prayed at both political conventions. There was a good deal of what I call horizontal praying going on. What do I mean by horizontal praying? Though the message is bracketed …
  • Vital Practices Digest: 5 Resources on Spirituality and Leadership
    Vital Posts
    In the July Vital Practices Digest, we offer 5 resources centered on spiritual aspects of leadership in congregations, with the 5th a resource to help in developing year-round stewardship in your congregation. It’s easy and free to con…
  • Theology of Interruption
    Vital Posts
    Editor’s note: Long weekends are wonderful. Until you return to work on Tuesday. For today’s summer rerun, we’re sharing one of Richelle Thompson’s past posts that seems appropriate as many of us return to an overstuffed inbox after the lon…
  • Thank You for My Freedom
    Vital Posts
    Oh beautiful for patriot dream that sees beyond the years On a downtown sidewalk in Plock, Poland, a small city about 70 miles from Warsaw, my husband and I were approached by a woman who motioned to us to stop. The year was 1992, just two ye…
  • Contrast
    Vital Posts
    Will this time be different? Will this be the moment when the pressure for change will grow instead of subside, the straw that finally breaks the veil of complacency that settles over many of us once the reporting of this latest tragedy fades…. …
  • Where Is the Invitation Here?
    Vestry Papers
    With our final article we shift our focus to the practical: How might we equip ourselves to best respond to the changes we face? Perhaps, as Br. James Koester, SSJE, models in “Where is the Invitation Here?” we need to engage in listening, to as…
  • One Good Idea to Change the World
    Vital Posts
    I recently came across an intriguing statement from the twentieth-century Swiss theologian Karl Barth: “I don’t believe in the empty tomb,” Barth is rumored to have said; “I believe in the risen Lord.” According to those who know Barth’…
  • Fully Anglicized
    Vital Posts
    I grew up in a faith tradition where Lent was something to be picked off a shirt. Maybe we talked about the season but it was never emphasized. I didn’t realize how fully I’ve come to embrace the seasons of the church year until a phone call…
  • 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…
  • Factions to Families: Lessons from 1 Corinthians
    Vestry Papers
    We start by looking back to the early days of Christianity. In “From Factions to Families: Lessons from 1 Corinthians,” C.K. Robertson reminds us that Paul’s advice to the Corinthians has stood the test of time. He suggests we have a choice: Un…
  • Praying for You
    Vital Posts
    Who would have thought to use last year’s Christmas cards as a prayer cycle? We received a note in the mail from a friend in New York. A talented and committed priest, we served together on a diocesan staff before she returned to parish minis…
  • “They’ll Know We are Christians by Our Love.”
    Vital Posts
    The campfire song goes, “They’ll know we are Christians by our love.” I’ve never heard the lyrics with substitutes, like, “They’ll know we are Christians because we’re right.” Or because the other person was more wrong (at least …
  • Come Away and Rest Awhile
    Vestry Papers
    Retreats can be an effective vehicle for renewing and refreshing a vestry. James Koester, SSJE and R. Casey Shobe share how a contemplative retreat can transform vestry leadership away from “crunching numbers, going over the budget, and micromanagi…
  • ♪♪♪ Joy to the World! The Lord is Come ♪♪♪
    Vital Posts
    I know what you are thinking. As we have come to the end of Advent, and are at the crest of the snow bank that is the season of Christmas, you are thinking, let's look once more at the Song of Zechariah. You're not? Well, that's what I was thinking…
  • His Name was Wild Bill: An Advent Story
    Vital Posts
    Our community was blessed with the presence of a man named Wild Bill. For two years, Bill was a regular: at times a hugger, loving and wise; at times drunk, incomprehensible, and loud. That was Bill. When he was with us, really with us, our c…
  • It’s Advent. What Do We Do?
    Vital Posts
    When I was a new Episcopalian, I remember learning how Christmas used to be celebrated only after a healthy dose of 4 weeks of Advent. I had already learned about Lent, a time of sacrifice, preparing for the cross in obedience and giving up somethi…
  • Advent Wreath Making and Prayers
    Your Turn
    Originally developed for children and their families, these Advent prayers and reflections were soon shared throughout the congregation.
  • Paris
    Vital Posts
    My grief for this broken week in the world caught up with me during church on Sunday, as our associate rector led a beautiful and gentle children’s sermon about hearing scary news. The sermon ended with our kids carrying candles to place on the a…
  • "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…
  • Religion Requires Risk
    Vital Posts
    About a week ago I went to a reading at my friend's house. This happens every month or two. We gather in his living room and read things we’ve written or read that we’d like to share. Sometimes people read a funny piece of spam they’ve encounte…
  • Celebrating the Harvest: With Gratitude and Thanksgiving
    Vital Posts
    It’s harvest season here in the Pacific Northwest, a season to celebrate the abundance and generosity of God. The abundance from garden is always a little overwhelming at this season, inspiring creativity and generosity in order to cope. I love e…
  • Hammock Time
    Vital Posts
    I used to skip over pictures like this too. And click past the blogs that touted the merits of Sabbath time. After all, who has time for that? I’m learning though that I don’t have the time to not have Sabbath. I have spent far too many d…
  • Being Generous, Even on My Worst Day
    Vital Posts
    It’s fall and everyone’s busy. Programs have started up again, kids are back in school, and days feel shorter. During these times, when deadlines are approaching and I feel short on time, I find I have the most trouble being generous. Not gener…
  • 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…
  • 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 …
  • A Personal Take on Gratitude
    Vital Posts
    On Sunday, I went to an English-language, Anglican church in Rio de Janeiro, where I am visiting my wife’s family. It was a relatively small congregation - about 50 people - and the Brazilian priest spoke English, only occasionally stumbling over…
  • 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 …
  • Open Eyes
    Vital Posts
    "...open our eyes to see your hand at work in the world about us." (From Eucharistic Prayer C, The Book of Common Prayer, page 372) + + + Easter is not confined to a day, to that Sunday morning that falls each year after the full moon that …
  • Maybe It's Not So Bad Out There
    Vital Posts
    It has been a few weeks since my last post. I have been doing that quintessentially Fringe Episcopal Ministry thing: traveling around telling Southside Abbey's story in hopes that money will come our way. While we fell far short of our fund-raising…
  • Liturgy: Something Other Than Work
    Vital Posts
    The day’s events had me going from an early morning meeting, then answering several emails about an ongoing project, to a hospital call in the city, to, at last, an Evensong at the Virginia Seminary to kick-off their new Center for Liturgy & Musi…
  • 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…
  • Still Waters
    Vital Posts
    Several years ago I was inspired by a wonderful Southern Baptist friend who could, at the drop of a hat, quote a relevant verse from the Bible, no matter the situation. I realized how few verses I knew by heart, so I became determined to memorize s…
  • I and You and We
    Vital Posts
    About two years ago I wrote a series of reflections for Forward Day by Day. For those who didn't grow up in the Episcopal Church, these are booklets of reflections on the daily scripture can be found in the narthex of nearly every Episcopal Church …
  • The Lent-to-Lent Bible Challenge
    Vital Posts
    I remember hearing about an Episcopalian in Mississippi who proudly informed his bishop that he was foregoing white chocolate for Lent. The bishop was astounded by how the man had trivialized Lent. Unless he had an enormous dependency on whit…
  • An Uncomfortable Home?
    Vital Posts
    At the small Episcopal church in San Antonio where I grew up, everyone knew me and I knew everyone. I felt completely at home every Sunday. That experience of being completely accepted and welcomed is part of the reason I am still part of the Episc…
  • Spiritual Resources Online
    Webinars
    Motivated by busy schedules, declining participation in institutional life, and changing patterns of individual religious practice, congregations have an increasingly rich opportunity to support the faith lives of members outside of church. Thankfull…
  • I had an Epiphany! No wait, a Theophany!
    Vital Posts
    I want to begin this week's post by wishing everyone a holy Epiphany-tide. Epiphany is a church word that gets tossed around outside of the church. Often my first response when I hear someone say, “I had an epiphany,” is: “no you didn't!” I…
  • In the Name of the Refugees
    Vital Posts
    A few years ago I was part of a large staff that afforded me a big, cushy office. I had lots of wall space for posters – Jesus Died to Take Away Your Sins, Not Your Minds – and the like. Beyond the standard fare, I also had a reprint of a…
  • Christmas in Heaven?
    Vital Posts
    “I wonder if they celebrate Christmas in heaven?” This is one of the many musing questions my mother used to ask.  The Bible describes non-stop celebration in heaven, but here on earth we mark the seasons and designate Holy Days. I feel sorr…
  • Endurance And Rest
    Vital Posts
    “How are you, young man?” he said to me as we were both headed into the gym locker room. We’d said hello from time to time before, and it sure is nice to be called ‘young’ these days. Technically, I am younger than he is; he’s probably …
  • Going That Extra Mile
    Vestry Papers
    A present day ‘man on the road to Jericho’ story that reminds us that Christianity is a living thing, that our faith stories of today mirror the ancient stories in the Gospels, and that each of us has the opportunity to follow Christ through our …
  • What Am I Thankful For?
    Vital Posts
    A few weeks ago Sarah Weedon, a senior from the School of Theology at Sewanee and the seminarian assigned to Southside Abbey, preached at our Friday evening worship. By way of reminder, I will share a little of how our preaching works in our c…
  • Using the Internet to Help People Pray
    Vital Posts
    Our phones, we love them and we hate them. Can we pray with them? I work for the Brothers of the Society of Saint the Evangelist who in their Rule of Life talk about being “Men of the moment, up to the mark of the day.” This Advent the Brot…
  • 'Tis the Season

    Vital Posts
    No. I don't mean Christmas, though area big box stores have been anticipating for a while now. As little Bobby's fingers are still stained with chocolate from his Halloween haul, out goes the Christmas candy, decorations, and general noelia. …
  • Advent Devotional Calendar 2014
    Your Turn
    Thomas Mousin and Merry Watters share their 2014 Advent Devotional Calendar is here!.
  • When A Friend Dies, His Memory Remains Alive In Our Souls
    Vital Posts
    Nota - Este artículo es disponible en español aquí. Our Episcopal communities in Eastern Massachusetts, along with the entire Episcopal Church, recently lost one of its most beloved bishops.  Bishop Marvil Thomas, “Tom” Shaw III…
  • What I Did on my Summer Vacation
    Vital Posts
    For those of you keeping track, I haven't posted in a while. I have been away on sabbatical. Sabbatical is dedicated time to embrace that seventh day of creation – resting in God's presence – to return recharged and ready for whatever the Holy Sp…
  • 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…
  • The Eye of a Tornado
    Vital Posts
    I have been in the eye of a tornado. Thirteen years ago, Cincinnati, not Ferguson, led the news. A white police officer shot and killed an unarmed black teen in a dark alley. People took to the street, protesting, rioting, looting. Stores wer…
  • Restoring To Wholeness And Strength
    Vital Posts
    “As you are outwardly anointed with this holy oil, so may our heavenly Father grant you the inward anointing of the Holy Spirit. Of his great mercy, may he forgive you your sins, release you from suffering, and restore you to wholeness and streng…
  • Rituals: A Shared Experience
    Vital Posts
    I’m writing this in Uberlandia, which is a place I may never have visited if I hadn’t married Denise, who is Brazilian. It’s a city of about 600,000 located in south central Brazil. Although Denise and I were married in March, we gathered her…
  • Unequally Yoked
    Vital Posts
    She put her arm around my shoulder to soften the gut punch she would deliver next. “I’ve been praying,” she said. “And I think you should spend some time studying this scripture.” This church leader handed me a page from 2 Cor…
  • Living with Darkness
    Vital Posts
    This past week I was in a bad mood for what seemed like a long time. Maybe it was stress. Maybe there was a relationship I needed to fix. Maybe my life was a bit overbooked and I needed to slow down. I couldn’t quite figure out what it was, so I …
  • 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…
  • Meditation for May, the Month of Mothers and Flowers
    Vital Posts
    Nota: Este artículo está disponible en inglés y español. Haga clic aquí para ver la versión en español de este artículo. To begin this meditation I invite you to sit comfortably and calmly. Exhale all tension, worry, pain, and suffe…
  • Tell Me a Story
    Vital Posts
    I’ve seen a lot of Tweets and Facebook posts about the atonement, recently. I find these somewhat interesting, but in an abstract, academic way. They don’t really stick.  Earlier this week I came across an interview with poet and professor a…
  • Ode to Copiers (and their Machines)
    Vital Posts
    Most of us move through Holy Week reflecting upon the final days of Jesus, his death, and incredible resurrection. But for the few, prayers also beseech toners to stay full, rollers to track the paper, and jams to stay the stuff of Smuckers. …
  • In Christ the Bottom Holds
    Vital Posts
    This is the week that Christ dies for us, which can obscure the reality that Jesus lives for us. This life is made holy by Jesus' presence. Through Christ, God has sung songs, danced at weddings, wept at a friend's grave, been put on trial, and pra…
  • Holy Week Remixed
    Vital Posts
    For my entire life I have waved palm branches on Palm Sunday, washed other people’s feet on Maundy Thursday, attended services at noon on Good Friday, and spent Saturday night at the Easter Vigil. These liturgies are familiar to me and an important…
  • 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…
  • To Have and To Hold
    Vital Posts
    On March 29 I got married in front of many friends and family members. It was fun and at times a little nerve wracking but ultimately one of the best days of my life.  My wife (I still haven’t quite gotten used to calling Denise my wife) an…
  • Episcopal Share - A Book of Common Prayer for Social Media
    Tools
    A lay-led ministry project, Episcopal Share is an unofficial Book of Common Prayer for Twitter. The BCP prayers have been shortened here to 140-characters or less. You are free to share and copy and paste these prayers. Prayers in quotes are direct …
  • 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…
  • Friendship
    Vital Posts
    Nota - Este artículo es disponible en español aquí. My husband is preparing to retire. I have started a new chapter in my vocation, honored to work with ECF on their new Vital Teams program that focuses on team-based leadership development…
  • Servant Ministry
    Vital Posts
    In a world where freedom is often touted as the ultimate ideal, as Christians, we come before that same world to serve in the name of Jesus. That's right, we are servants; not terribly glamorous, is it? To be brutally honest, servant ministry i…
  • A Gift from Pete Seeger
    Vital Posts
    The closest I ever came to meeting Pete Seeger was helping to field a phone call from his wife Toshi to a small non-profit where I was working. While I answered phones, my boss and others were on a hunger strike, calling attention to the injustices…
  • Miracles
    Vital Posts
    I love my family. I love the church. I love my job. I love my friends. Lately I have really been loving the Holy Spirit's capacity to surprise me in the most wonderful ways. I use the word “surprise” as that is what it is to me every time. You …
  • Grace and Gratitude Ministry
    Vital Posts
    “Stewardship.” A very routine committee. Predictable. Just mentioning it conjures up the same old messages confined to the same old time of year. Episcopal Church Foundation (ECF) Capital Campaign Consultant Linda Buskirk tells the story of…
  • 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.…
  • Praying Facebook
    Vital Posts
    Years ago, someone started a Facebook page for our congregation. At the time, I didn’t know much about social media – I didn’t even have my own Facebook account – so I just followed their lead and we learned by trial and error. In time I le…
  • Getting in Shape
    Vital Posts
    This is at the top of the resolution list for 98 percent of people, unless you’re Heidi Klum or five years old. But I’m not going to offer tips on how to go Paleo or striking all white bread from your diet. Instead, I’d like to explore …
  • Sabbath Insecurity
    Vital Posts
    The latest theory about the chronic (and nearly universal) decline in Average Sunday Attendance is that not only are we not attracting very many new people to our churches, the people we’ve already got are coming less often. I don’t study churc…
  • Thoughts on Sundays #1: A Gift from God
    Vital Posts
    The Reverend Bob Castle entered into the nearer presence of God just over a year ago, at the age of 83. He was at my side as my rector when I was confirmed as an Episcopalian, and many aspects of his life continue to inspire my priesthood. Bob …
  • Praying In Color Resources
    Vital Posts
    Have you heard of praying in color? It was something unfamiliar to me until a few months ago when a friend on twitter, The Rev. Lori Johnson, posted about a caim prayer she had done as a drawing. I loved the prayer, and thought it would be a gre…
  • The Sabbath Room....
    Vital Posts
    ...at the DioMo Convention. On Saturday morning, I took all three kids (ages 1, 5, and 8) to the Diocese of Missouri Annual Convention. It was my first trip to a diocesan convention in 35 years as an Episcopalian. In the past, I had not paid mu…
  • Advent Resources
    Tools
    Links to free Advent resources, calendars and devotions, reflections; St. Nicholas Day; and preparing for Christmas visitors at your church.
  • 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…
  • Waiting
    Vital Posts
    One of my least favorite things about working on a magazine or a writing story for my job at Trinity is waiting. Waiting on writers to send me their articles, waiting on people to return my calls, sometimes waiting for inspiration to hit. I’d rathe…
  • Giving Thanks & Getting Ready
    Vital Posts
    The Christmas frenzy is already taking over and steamrolling Thanksgiving and the period of preparation that is Advent. In this midmonth digest, we offer ways to slow down, to give thanks, and, at the same time, bring back some of ECF Vital Practic…
  • 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…
  • Liturgy as Essay
    Vital Posts
    I recently read a speech by playwright Tony Kushner given to other writers, about how and why people write. One of the things he said was this: “We write to negotiate our own relationships with momentariness and permanence, to speak with the dead…
  • Shared Vulnerability
    Vital Posts
    Who has not experienced some kind of disaster or failure, large or small? And how many of us have admitted this in our community of faith and asked for help?  This past week I went to a class at Trinity led by the Rev. Stuart Hoke about the spir…
  • Proper Behavior
    Vital Posts
    It happens every year: At some point in Ordinary Time, I lose track of where we are. Never mind that the family’s master planner is a liturgical appointment book…and that I have bookmarked a lectionary web site that automatically goes to th…
  • 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…
  • Crazy Wisdom
    Vestry Papers
    Dan Edwards shares stories, from biblical times to the present, of people who have walked in faith, giving away what they have and finding that they still have enough.
  • Are We Ready?
    Vital Posts
    When the planes rammed into the Twin Towers, the senior pastor had a previous commitment. The associate could hold a special prayer service, but the senior pastor wouldn’t be there. As the day went on and the associate opened the doors, peo…
  • Church Selfies
    Vital Posts
    If the Pope can take one, then so can we. A picture of the Pope in a selfie—a self-portrait taken by a cell phone (more on what a selfie is here)—has been making the rounds on social media. To be fair, the Pope wasn’t taking the picture h…
  • Spiritual Vitality
    Vestry Papers
    If spiritual vitality of a congregation were measured, where along a continuum would the members in your church be?
  • Accountability
    Vital Posts
    Denise, my fiancé (we got engaged a little over a week ago) is out of town for a few days at a retreat. Left to my own devices, I am prone to eating too much cereal and watching too much television. Fortunately, she left me some groceries and reci…
  • Fishing Together
    Vital Posts
    The way the Church has historically done outreach ministry is embodied in the familiar adage: Give a person a fish and he or she eats for a day; teach a person to fish and he or she eats for a lifetime. Through the Middle Ages the Church was in the…
  • Hiatus
    Vital Posts
    I can’t put it off any longer. It’s Saturday night. I have to face this week’s readings. I’ve put off writing for so long because I really enjoyed my hiatus, my month away from my desk, my month of getting out of my head and into Martha…
  • Elevator Prayers
    Vital Posts
    Recently, they’ve been demolishing a building near my building, floor by floor, with a jackhammer. This has been going on for weeks now for a few hours a day. Sometimes I can tune it out; sometimes it makes me feel like I’m going crazy. Las…
  • How to Write a Reflection
    Vital Posts
    If you’re in church leadership, or just a regular church attendee, there’s a good chance you’ll be asked to write a reflection at some point, either for the advent calendar or for the stewardship campaign. Over the years I’ve written dozen …
  • 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…
  • Driven to Prayer
    Vital Posts
    I'm giving thanks this morning for the impossibles: Impossible people, impossible situations, impossible tasks, my impossible children, and even their impossible mother. I'm really terrible at prayer. I forget to do it. I get distracted in the …
  • 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, …
  • Memorial Day
    Vital Posts
    Memorial Day isn’t a feast day in the church (although some might understand feast in a different way, with all the BBQs and cookouts). But I’m really thankful that my congregation took note of the holiday anyway. A few of our hymns…
  • Prayer Fatigue and the Search for Hope
    Vital Posts
    Some weeks it’s tough to keep up spiritually and emotionally with all that swirls around us. In the last couple of days we’ve seen images of devastation coming out of Oklahoma. We continue to be pummeled with disheartening world news and violen…
  • How to Make a Shareable Photo Prayer Card
    Vital Posts
    I make shareable photo prayer cards for my Episcopal Prayers for Sharing project on Facebook, Twitter, and Flickr. This a popular prayer card from the compline service in The Book of Common Prayer: Here’s how to make a prayer card:
  • Where is God?
    Vital Posts
    Some places are supposed to be safe. It’s no surprise when we’re battered at the office, late hours, hard work, difficult colleagues. It’s not unexpected when we encounter frustration at the car repair shop or long lines in the grocery stor…
  • Personal Stewardship
    Vital Posts
    I didn’t blow out the candles. This weekend was a double whammy: my birthday on Saturday and Mother’s Day on Sunday. That’s a lot of pressure on a husband and kids. I said I didn’t want a big present. We’re going on a camping …
  • 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 …
  • Experiments with Compline
    Vital Posts
    Last week I was in Seattle, and on Sunday night I went to Compline at St. Mark’s Cathedral. They’ve been doing this for decades and the average attendance is 500. While the choir sang and spoke the Compline service, men and women of all ages sa…
  • Keeping Easter
    Vital Posts
    What are you giving up for Easter? Or, are you taking on something new instead during Eastertide? What? Hadn’t thought about that? No plans for keeping Easter? Join the club. I grew up in a faith tradition that didn’t spend a lot of tim…
  • Feet, or Hands?
    Vital Posts
    As we gather this evening to observe Maundy Thursday, many of us will be invited to participate in the ritual of foot-washing. For some, our feet will be washed by our parish priest. For others, we will engage in serving one another, having our fee…
  • Walking the Stations with my Seven Year Old Son
    Vital Posts
    I’m the pastor of a medium-size congregation in Madison, Wisconsin, St. Dunstan’s Church. On Thursday evenings in Lent, we’ve been walking the Stations of the Cross at 6:00 pm, before our potluck supper and Lenten program. It's always a small…
  • An Outward and Visible Sign
    Vital Posts
    Somewhere in our move, I lost my wedding rings. I keep hoping they will turn up, tucked in the bottom of jewelry bag or slipped behind a drawer. But it’s been three weeks and lots of emptying boxes and still no sign. My thumb keeps fi…
  • Lent with Intention
    Vital Posts
    Growing up in a different denomination meant that my primary reference for Lent was something you might find in a belly button. Easter was big. Christmas too, of course. But Lent and Advent weren’t players in that tradition’s lexicon.  …
  • 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…
  • Listening to the Still, Small Voice
    Vital Posts
    God has been active in my life these last few days.    Perhaps it’s better to acknowledge that I’ve been more cognizant of God’s presence; I suspect God is always active, whether I’m paying attention or not.    I started last week i…
  • Spiritual Fire Extinguisher?
    Vital Posts
    From Luke’s Gospel: Jesus came out and went, as was his custom, to the Mount of Olives; and the disciples followed him. When he reached the place, he said to them, “Pray that you may not come into the time of trial.” Then he withdrew from…
  • 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 …
  • Hey You!
    Vital Posts
    I love John the Baptist. I love the way he gets right up in people’s faces. I love the way he calls out the tax collectors and the soldiers who are abusing their power and extorting illegitimate gain. I love the truth-telling of his Adve…
  • Transform Your Congregation: Read the Bible
    Vestry Papers
    Scott Gunn in “Transform Your Congregation: Read the Bible,” invites us to move from the typical Episcopal – and pre-reformation practice...
  • Collective Prayer
    Vestry Papers
    “Collect of the Day” by Karen Montagno reminds us of the power of community prayer and reminds us that the freedom to assemble for worship, taken for granted today, was not possible for enslaved blacks during slavery.
  • What Fresh Hell is This?
    Vestry Papers
    Sam Portaro’s invitation to think about Advent through Joseph’s eyes as he travels to Bethlehem with Mary. In “What Fresh Hell is This?,” Sam challenges us to embrace a form of spiritual leadership that demands courageous truth telling.
  • Decorations
    Vital Posts
    All around New York there are lights on the lampposts and covering the trunks of trees along Park Avenue. I know, many feel that it’s too early for Christmas decorations, but I love these lights. They serve almost like the Advent candles we light…
  • 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…
  • Hanging On by a Prayer
    Vital Posts
    I’m swamped this week. At work deadlines are approaching, and the holidays are beginning. I’m sure many are experiencing something similar. At times like this I often get caught up in trying to control and manage all the moving parts of m…
  • Bring Me a Morsel
    Vital Posts
    I love it when familiar readings say something completely new to me. That’s what happened earlier this week, when I browsed the lectionary to see what sort of message might jump out at me as the season of annual financial commitment is moving…
  • The Bible Challenge
    Vestry Papers
    Studies reveal that the number one factor by far in church growth and spiritual development is regular engagement with Scripture. This, however, has not been a strong suit for most Episcopalians.
  • Many Ways to Listen
    Vital Posts
    I spend a lot of time consuming information and entertainment, from television to news, blogs and books, music and podcasts and NPR. I’ve been following the election and watching the debates, as well. There’s always new information and new cult…
  • Texts from God
    Vital Posts
    Will you try this experiment with me? A few weeks ago, the American Bible Society launched DayPack, a free tool that makes it easy for churches to schedule and send a week’s worth of Biblical passages by text. According to the DayPack websi…
  • Healing Hands
    Vital Posts
    For the first time in three weeks, I stood without clutching a wall or bracing myself on a nearby table or chair, pain roiling up and down my back. Pain plays a time-twist trick: when you’re in the throes, it’s hard to remember pain-free,…
  • HWJV? (How Would Jesus Vote?)
    Vital Posts
    Given Jesus’ teachings around civic life and political engagement, I have to wonder what he would have to say about a world that would have been unimaginable to his hearers: A world in which we render unto a Caesar of our choosing, a Caesar whom …
  • Making Space for Theological Reflection
    Vital Posts
    Last Wednesday I participated in a discussion about Soren Kierkegaard’s Fear and Trembling with other members of my church. Kierkegaard is writing about the question, “What is faith?” It’s a big question. Thanks to a knowledgeable group lea…
  • Feeding the Five Thousand
    Vital Posts
    Every summer of Year B in our lectionary cycle we take five weeks to read one chapter of one book. The sixth chapter of the Gospel of John covers the story of the Feeding of the Five Thousand and the debate it inspired. It is the primary teaching o…
  • 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…
  • Enough!
    Vital Posts
    How will I use the gift of this new day? How will I notice the glory of creation?[i] We have arrived at the time of year when abundance both delights and challenges me, the time when our Rogation Day prayers show forth in bounty. Strawberries h…
  • Dance!
    Vital Posts
    God of faithful surprises, throughout the ages you have made known your love and power in unexpected ways and places. May we daily perceive the joy and wonder of your abiding presence and offer our lives in gratitude for our redemption. Amen[i] …
  • 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…
  • Proper 7
    Vital Posts
    One of my absolute favorite stories from my early childhood is What Will Little Bear Wear? by Else Homelund Minarik. As adorably as Maurice Sendak portrays Little Bear himself, it is Mother Bear’s gentle humor and wisdom that engage me. Eyes …
  • Mind the Gap
    Vital Posts
    I’m on retreat, sort of.    This week I am working from my parents’ home in the Texas Hill Country. I’m answering emails, participating in conference calls, and checking things off that have fallen to the bottom of my to-do list. Whil…
  • Moving from Purpose to Spirit-Driven Meetings
    Vital Posts
    I was dubious. The only item on the agenda for our two-day staff retreat: Bible study. Don't get me wrong. I think Bible study is important. But as a type-a, list-maker, take-action person, I wondered if we would accomplish enough. After a…
  • The Trinity and the Chocolate Fountain
    Vital Posts
    In Free of Charge: Giving and Forgiving in a Culture Stripped of Grace Miroslav Volf invites us to think of God’s generosity and our response not as linear, giving and receiving, but as circulating, going around and around and spilling out all ov…
  • Making Social Media Easy
    Vital Posts
    You’ve probably heard that a church needs a social media strategy, but the thought might be overwhelming. Some of us (myself included) spend time, maybe too much time, reading various blogs. I have a Twitter account and use it often, and check Fa…
  • The Blues
    Vital Posts
    I have realized that Easter season is not the time for me to study the blues. Luckily, Holy Week provided the richest setting for singing the blues that our tradition holds. Here is the play list from my new album Holy Week Blues. Cut #1 Sing…
  • 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 …
  • The Final (Meatless) Friday of Lent
    Vital Posts
    For a final Lenten meal reflection, I returned to a book my priest Father Peter gave me as a new Episcopalian: Your Faith, Your Life by Jenifer Gamber. Often during Holy Week, I experience a personal transformation that really connects me to Christ…
  • When in Rome
    Vital Posts
    My wife El and I completed the Italian portion of our sabbatical time with a one-day trip to Rome, the Eternal City. While she napped I walked my favorite piazzas and visited my favor monuments, including the Arch of Peace newly re-assembled. It wa…
  • The Sixth [meatless] Friday of Lent
    Vital Posts
  • Taize
    Vital Posts
    I have just completed a one-week retreat at the Taize monastery in south east France. I leave here rested, centered, and hopeful. My church hosts a Taize service each Sunday evening at 6 pm and as part of my sabbatical travels I wanted to come …
  • The Fourth [Meatless] Friday of Lent
    Vital Posts
    I have always had an interest in the faith practices of the Amish community, and find certain aspects of the culture surprising and even counter-intuitive. The degree of freedom offered to Amish children—both in decisions surrounding marriage and…
  • A Free Man in Paris
    Vital Posts
    I have begun phase two of my sabbatical journeys, the portion to be spent in France and Italy. I touched down in Paris and within 36 hours I drank in as much of the city as I possibly could in my first visit here. With my museum pass in hand and a …
  • The Crater of Creation
    Vital Posts
    The end of my sabbatical time in Africa was spent on a safari through the north of Tanzania. I was able to traverse the Serengeti during the great migration, witness a lion kill in the Ngorangoro Crater, and see endless herds of elephants and giraf…
  • The Third [Meatless] Friday in Lent
    Vital Posts
    Embrace each day with joy Give thanks for gift of life Living in borrowed time In simple joy, delight - Victor P. Gendrano In this borrowed time, there are some of us who eat for both survival and and some who eat for pleasure. I was c…
  • Cole’s Blessing
    Vital Posts
    In the Episcopal Church we have a lovely service for House Blessings. Often when someone moves to a new home they will ask their family and friends to gather and one of the parish clergy will come with special prayers of blessing and sprinkle holy …
  • The Second [Meatless] Friday of Lent
    Vital Posts
    My college was adjacent to St. Stephen’s in Newport News, Virginia. This is how I found—and fell for—the Episcopal Church. I befriended the rector, who later drove over seven hours to marry Andrew and me in Baltimore. Among the many wise and …
  • The (Meatless) Fridays of Lent
    Your Turn
    Marvelous meatless meals for your Fridays this Lenten season.
  • Aspects of Offering
    Vital Posts
    In their book Celebrating the Offering, brothers and Methodist ministers Melvin and James Amerson assert that offerings of prayer, presence, gifts, and service are all required to be good stewards. This must have been in the back of my mind whe…
  • Birds of the air, lilies of the field
    Vital Posts
    In yesterday’s blog post on ECF Vital Practices, Richelle Thompson shared an effective practice for starting a meeting. She described how one facilitator asked each person to share their favorite story from scripture. This simple practice turned ou…
  • 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 …
  • Digital Direction
    Vital Posts
    All of us at ECF Vital Practices tend toward the practical. When writing about communications technologies, we are focused on helping congregations use these new tools, whether it’s creating dynamic Facebook pages, improving e-newsletters, claiming…
  • Prayer: A Spacious Place
    Vital Posts
    The last few months my girlfriend has been dealing with nerve pain and I’ve been only intermittently employed. It’s been difficult for both of us, filled with uncertainty and frustration. There were sleepless nights and weeks during which we had …
  • Daily Invitation
    Vital Posts
    This weekend I’ll be giving up my life as a “resident companion.” It’s been almost two years that I’ve lived alongside the Community of the Holy Spirit, a religious order of nuns, at their farm in Brewster, NY. One of the things I’v…
  • Vestry Members as Spiritual Leaders
    Vestry Papers
    “The spiritual leadership of the parish is the rector’s job!”
  • Reading the Bible?
    Vital Posts
    Scott Gunn’s Jan 2, 2012 Seven whole days blog post brought the Bible Challenge back into my consciousness. The concept is simple: Read the Bible in a year by following the Bible Challenge’s formula of reading the books of the Bible “in seque…
  • Small Changes, Big Impacts
    Vital Posts
    With the start of 2012, many people - including myself - are considering ways to improve their health and well-being. Resolutions will be made and, if research on New Year’s resolutions is any indication, nearl…
  • 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…
  • Dashed Expectations
    Vital Posts
    In the post-Christmas debrief with friends and family, a theme has emerged: dashed expectations. What happened this year? I celebrated Christmas with my in-laws at their Roman Catholic parish. With a toddler in the family this year, we decided …
  • 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…
  • The Christmas Creche
    Vital Posts
    My family thinks I’m silly. When I set up the Creche in early December, only the shepherds and the animals appear. A few days before Christmas, Mary and Joseph arrive, and on Christmas morning, the baby Jesus appears. The three kings? The…
  • Gift of Presence
    Vital Posts
    I realize, as I get older, that one of the best gifts is the gift of presence. Last night I visited a friend, in part to drop off Christmas packages for her kids. This past year I’ve had a habit of spending many Tuesday nights at their house.…
  • Elf on a Shelf -- and Control
    Vital Posts
    I’ve heard tell of some who dismiss the Elf on a Shelf as crass marketing. They think it’s creepy for an abnormally long-limbed doll with a plastic head and black oval eyes to keep watch by day and report to Santa by night. But at our ho…
  • 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…
  • Episcopal Diocese of Maryland Advent Calendar
    Your Turn
    A multi-media Advent calendar, featuring written and recorded meditations.
  • Preparing for Advent/Best Kept Secrets
    Vital Posts
    "I've got something for the girls of Savannah, and all of America, and all the world, and we're going to start it tonight!" Many women reading this may recognize this famous quote from Juliette Gordon Low, founder of the Girl Scouts of the USA.…
  • 2011 Advent Devotional Calendar
    Your Turn
    An Advent devotional calendar with scripture lessons and suggested devotions for the days of Advent.
  • Saints Among Us
    Vital Posts
    By the end of the baptism, confirmations, and receptions, Martha leans like a book against a shelf. She has stood this whole time, while 10-day-old David enters into the household of God. Her walker sits in the aisle, and she clutches onto th…
  • There's a Saint for That
    Vital Posts
    Okay. I confess. All Saints Day in The Episcopal Church has always struck me as a bit bland. Sure I know the official line: that All Saints Day is when we honor the martyrs, preachers, teachers and everyday witnesses whose examples we seek to foll…
  • Exploring Gratitude – on Facebook!
    Vital Posts
    The best thing about my job as editor of ECF Vital Practices is being able to share good/interesting things happening in our church. I recently received a Facebook message from Stefani Schatz, a friend from my days at Episcopal Divinity School: …
  • The Best Way to be Blocked
    Vestry Papers
    I’m not alone when making the observation that often, as we look ahead, our paths seem blocked and full of obstacles.
  • 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 Parish Video Invites Relationship
    Your Turn
    Grace-St. Paul's Episcopal Church, Mercerville, NJ, welcomed people on the website by sharing their stories and inviting new ones. But how to do that in a few sound bytes?
  • Regrets?
    Vital Posts
    The heavy conversation starts out, as is often the case, on a light note. Mommy, why aren’t you eating your toast? It’s the last piece, I answer. I want to see if you are still hungry before I eat it. My 7-year-old son ponders t…
  • An Unexpected Gift
    Vital Posts
    A crew from Calvary, Ashland, Ky., was supposed to be rolling in late last night, weary but exhilarated from a train trip to Washington, D.C., part pilgrimage to the National Cathedral, part journey on historic rail cars. But first there was …
  • Marking 9/11
    Vital Posts
    With the 10th anniversary of the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon falling on a Sunday next month, most churches are developing some way to respond. At St. Andrew’s, Seattle, we will hold a service of Light and Remembrance on the eve…
  • The Bible Challenge
    Vital Posts
    Note: Check out Marek's Tip Sheet for creating a Bible Challenge in your own congregation. Episcopalians take pride in reading more scripture aloud in church on Sunday than most denominations, but few Episcopalians have read the entire Bib…
  • Who do you say that I am?
    Vital Posts
    Can you be Christian all by yourself?  If you never go to church and you never talk about your faith and you never mention Jesus in any of your relationships, are you a Christian? I’m not sure. To me, the living out of our Christiani…
  • Being and Doing
    Vital Posts
    As our congregation gears up for a very busy fall, I am struck once again by the dynamic of “being” versus “doing.” As a die-hard activist I always have to be reminded that our state of being is just as important as what we accomplish. …
  • God Moments
    Vital Posts
    In college my friends and I became fond of saying “God works in the Housing Office.” As I entered my sophomore year and returned to a small suite of rooms in the dorm, I realized an immediate connection with the two first-year students plac…
  • Tip Sheet on The Bible Challenge
    Your Turn
    Clergy and lay leaders are invited to use these tips to participate in The Bible Challenge and spiritually transform the lives of their church members and increase Biblical knowledge and literacy.
  • Giving In
    Vital Posts
    I give in. I’ve got nothin’. That’s what I’ve been thinking lately when it comes to writing this blog. It’s mid summer. Last week in New York (and in many other parts of the US) temperatures approached 100 degrees and I feel as if my …
  • 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 …
  • Drawing Heaven
    Vital Posts
    “Heaven, oh heaven….” I close my eyes and hear in my mind the smooth style and soul filled music of Duke Ellington.  My first encounter with Ellington’s “Sacred Concerts” songs came during Sunday worship, when Caroline, a parishione…
  • Closed in Observance of the Ascension of Our Lord
    Vital Posts
    The stores are closed today. On my way to a staff retreat in the verdant hills of southern Ohio, I won't be able to make my usual stop at the Amish store to purchase some amazing cheeses and fresh-baked bread. Today is the feast of Asce…
  • How Does Your Garden Grow?
    Vital Posts
    Some mornings we found a bucket of blackberries on our porch. On other days, parishioners would drop off a jug of maple syrup, tapped from their trees, or a few blue gill, freshly caught. In the first country parish we served, the people live…
  • 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…
  • Tenebrae
    Vital Posts
    I’m looking forward to going to church tonight. For the second time, I’ll be joining my friend Barb at the Tenebrae service at Old North (United Church of Christ). Last year, I had no idea what a Tenebrae service was. It’s part of Holy Wee…
  • Who's Blooming?
    Vital Posts
    How did the rose ever open its heart and give to this world all its beauty? It felt the encouragement of light against its being – otherwise, we all remain too frightened. (Hafiz) This beautiful phrase anchors tonight’s meditation during Ve…
  • Don't Try This At Home
    Vital Posts
    It’s probably the most successful example of reverse psychology that’s out there - “Whatever you do, please don’t try this at home.” The effect is instantaneous. Mild-mannered souls become daredevils; otherwise sane folk start working out…
  • Is This Some Kind of Joke?
    Vital Posts
    An Asian-American, Native-American, African-American, two white women and I, all Episcopalian, walked into a bar. What is this, some kind of joke? No, just the end of our Lenten series at our church. We spent Lent exploring the connection …
  • Room 306: A Prophet Then and Now
    Vital Posts
    We turn the corner and walk into a photograph. All of my life, I've seen grainy photos of the Lorraine Motel, men hunched over, weeping, as Martin Luther King Jr. dies on the concrete. Today the motel in Memphis houses part of the Civil Rights …
  • And on the 7th day…
    Vital Posts
    I rested. I was exhausted. The conference had gone well, the responsibility for seeing that it did so left me drained: mentally, physically, and emotionally. And so, I gave myself permission to follow the ancient imperative to rest: " A…
  • Reclaiming Sacred Space is Hard.
    Vital Posts
    On the white sands of the Gulf, my kids made their first castles. My youngest sister pledged to share her life with her husband. We played wicked games of Yahtzee, nursed sun-red shoulders, and watched dolphins flit across the horizon. My daugh…
  • Prayer: Fail!
    Vital Posts
    I live with nuns. They gather for prayer at least three times a day. How is it that last week I missed every time, not able to show up even once to pray with them?                   Life is too busy. Too much work; too many commitments; too m…
  • Greening Our Faith – Putting Belief into Action
    Vestry Papers
    More and more people believe that protecting Creation is a religious value.
  • Giving up Lent for Lent
    Vital Posts
    In my Resurgent Church colleague clergy group, two members shared the different ways their communities have been approaching the Lenten Season. Cynthia Espeseth, vicar of St. Hilda/St. Patrick’s, Mulkiteo, talked about the “wishful thinking hal…
  • RX: A Circumcision of the Heart
    Vital Posts
    The March 18 lectionary reading from the letter to the Hebrews invites us to remember that the Word of God is living and active rather than a flat script on a page. However, the image of a two-edged sword piercing and dividing does not bring an ini…
  • Getting Perspective
    Vital Posts
    This isn’t the blog post I had in mind. Last night, still wrestling with words and a deadline, I took a break to join the Sisters in singing the ancient prayers of Compline. Yet when I left chapel I was overwhelmed by something more ancient: the …
  • In God's Time
    Vital Posts
    When the social worker called my sister and her brother-in-law 2 ½ years ago, she needed an emergency foster care placement for two children. My sister and her husband had just entered into the foster-to-adopt program in the state of Kentucky.…
  • You are Dirt
    Vital Posts
    The familiar words “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return” returned to us today, the only time in the liturgical year when we hear this startling and compelling pronouncement. It’s Ash Wednesday, when we’re reminded of ou…
  • Leave
    Vital Posts
    A New York Times article last summer began, “The findings have surfaced with ominous regularity over the last few years, and with little notice: members of the clergy now suffer from obesity, hypertension, and depression at rates higher than most A…
  • Lenten Blessings
    Vital Posts
    Lent is fast approaching. Often, I am amazed by how quickly time passes…less than two weeks left until Ash Wednesday. This year we decided to try something new. Episcopal Relief & Development has usually had a single author for the Lenten d…
  • Refresh and Renew
    Vital Posts
    On days when life gets overwhelming, I dream of leaving it all behind and going somewhere to nurture my soul and my dreams. A place where responsibility to family, work, and home can be forgotten; a place where I can explore and try on new identiti…
  • The Proper Distance?
    Vital Posts
    A few weeks after my husband proposed, we shared dinner with his great-aunt and uncle, who is a United Methodist minister. They offered us various pieces of advice about marriage and life in ministry. Then the great-aunt turned to me: “Make…
  • Mommy's a Good Multi-tasker
    Vital Posts
    We were running late to church. I applied the eye shadow at one stop light, mascara at the next. Now to find the lipstick. I rummaged through my purse with one hand. My 9-year-old started scolding. Mommy, stop. Keep both hands on the whe…
  • Ways to Stay Focused on Jesus
    Vestry Papers
    Be a non-anxious presence, especially in the midst of conflict.
  • Emmanuel
    Vital Posts
    I want to write about losing inches from my waist and straightening all of my closets – or at least my sincere plans to do so sometime in 2011. But I’ve just returned from the funeral of a priest who committed suicide four days after Christ…
  • 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…
  • 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 …
  • Making Room This Christmas
    Vital Posts
    Most of the time, there’s no room for a man-child like Brandon. He’s been asked to leave two churches. He’s 34 but with the mind of a 6-year-old. He can only see a glimmer of light out of the corner of one eye.  His mother died this…
  • 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…
  • (Almost) Silent Retreat
    Vital Posts
    I just posted on Facebook that I was starting a two-day silent retreat, but within minutes called my brother. He answered the phone laughing, saying: “silent retreat, huh?” I was so busted! “We just saw your status and were talking with J…
  • Isaiah’s Spirit for Today’s Divided Nation
    Vital Posts
    All Advent long we have been hearing the prophetic words of the 8th century prophet Isaiah as he rails against the rulers of his day and holds out a vision of a positive future for the people of Israel. We need his voice in our own time as our eart…
  • The spiritual life of teenagers
    Vestry Papers
    Would you consider the youth programs in your congregation "spiritual?"
  • 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. …
  • Advent Calendars
    Vital Posts
    Last night I addressed the Advent calendars:One to each of our daughters, one to Bill’s aunt, and the last to Bill’s father.    Sending Advent calendars is my way of sharing Advent with people I love - who, due to distance, I do not see oft…
  • Thanksgiving: Giving Thanks to the Giver Good
    Vital Posts
    Thanksgiving, or giving thanks, as a form of prayer, is technically the church’s principle act of worship, week after week, Sunday after Sunday, and in many places, like this Monastery, day after day. The Eucharist is itself an extended prayer of…
  • Open My Lips, O Lord
    Vital Posts
    I complain. I hate to admit it, but I do. Not all the time – I don’t think that people who know me would see it as a primary characteristic. But I do it more than I’d like to admit, and more than is healthy for my mind and spirit.
  • 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…
  • Koheleth and the Good Soil
    Fieldwork
    Paul reflects on his meager harvest.
  • Meager Harvest
    Vital Posts
    In the second installment of his Fieldwork contribution, farmer Paul Clever reflects on The Good Earth Farm’s meager harvest: “It is easy gathering in abundant fields swollen with pride. Your hands fill bags upon bags, knowing that not only wil…
  • 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…
  • It’s Beginning to Look a Lot like Christmas . . .
    Vital Posts
    I remember the day I was flying home from the east coast on Halloween and as I was getting off the plane I heard on the muzak the first Christmas carol of the season. Living with a retailer (my wife runs the Cathedral Shop at St. Mark’s Cathed…
  • 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. …
  • 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…
  • 2010 Advent Devotional Calendar
    Your Turn
    This calendar provides a scripture reading and suggested devotion for each day of Advent. Permission is granted to reproduce for personal and congregational use by the creators, Thomas Mousin and Merry Watters.
  • Top 10 Things Religious Leaders Say about Happiness
    Vital Posts
    Checking my email on this cool rainy morning, this headline stood out: “Top 10 Things Religious Leaders Say about Happiness” published on The Huffington Post. I clicked through not quite knowing what to expect. 
  • A Mosaic of Color
    Vital Posts
    Looking at the leaves that fell from the trees in yesterday's storm, I surprise myself when I recognize that my first thought is how beautiful the mosaic of color on my lawn is. Not that I ‘must’ get out and rake before the leaves smother t…
  • 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…
  • Finding a Pulse Among the Dead
    Vital Posts
    Halloween is a huge happening at Trinity Church.The whole downtown neighborhood of lower Manhattan is invited to one end of the churchyard for theatricality and games for kids, a costumed cocktail hour for adults at the other end, with a packed-ch…
  • 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…
  • I do my filing once a year whether I need to or not....
    Vital Posts
    I just booked the cottage at our diocesan retreat center on the Olympic Peninsula for my annual Advent filing marathon retreat. In a 36-hour period in a beautiful relaxed setting accompanied by French-roast coffee in the morning and a good red wine…
  • Slogging through with joy
    Vital Posts
    Have you ever launched a website? Whew! This was my first…. All told, it’s taken over a year of effort. I worked on everything from the initial concept to launch, adding more people to the team as we went. Some days brought big decisions as…
  • The Leader's Heart
    Webinars
    Research derived from a range of congregations, denominational and non-denominational, has indicated that a key factor contributing to the vitality of congregations has to do with the leader's heart, with the characteristics of those who lead congreg…
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