December 1, 2022 by Michael Carney

I remember, before we had digital clocks, when our kids had to learn how to tell time. It was challenging at first, but soon they began to catch on. Then we could give them a watch and say, “Come home for dinner when the big hand is at the 12 and the little hand is at the 6.”

Those days are gone for good. Now we all have phones which display the time whenever we touch the screen. Wrist watches talk to us and preview our text messages and display video clips. But even with all this technology, do we really know what time it is?

I don’t mean confirming the exact hour and minute, but recognizing a turning point that really matters, in God’s time. When the Apostle Paul told us, “It is now the moment for you to wake from sleep,” he wasn’t foretelling what alarm clocks would do someday. “The night is far gone,” he wrote, “the day is near.” He meant that a new era is dawning, and we need to meet it with our eyes open. (Romans 13:11)

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November 29, 2022 by Sandy Webb

Gleaning: It’s not just for ancient Israelites anymore!

The ancient Levitical practice of leaving excess grain for those who are experiencing hunger has found a new manifestation in modern-day Memphis.

Church of the Holy Communion’s newest outreach ministry began with a phone call from a nearby synagogue. They had started collecting unsold food from local farmers’ markets and turning it into meals for hungry neighbors. But, they faced a challenge: Too much food!

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November 22, 2022 by Donald Romanik

I attended law school in the 70’s and, at least during that period, the entire culture was permeated with a sense of competition and individual success. Other than your moot court partner and maybe your study group, there were few opportunities for collaboration or teamwork. There were winners and losers, students who got the top law firm jobs from recruiters who came to campus and those who had to pound the payment with their hard-copy resumes. Once you became a lawyer, the competition continued even more fiercely for plum assignments, bonuses and, the ultimate goal in a private firm - becoming a partner. While I never made partner, thank God, and decided to work for a nonprofit organization before coming to ECF, it did take me quite a while to embrace a style of leadership that emphasized collaboration, collegiality, and working together for the common good.

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Topics: Leadership, Change
November 17, 2022 by Forrest Cuch

When I first became conscious of Jesus as a small child, I did not think or feel uncomfortable about his appearance or skin color. Then, as I got older, it occurred to me that Jesus was not like me, especially blond, blue-eyed Jesus, the surfer Jesus. Dark brown-haired Jesus was more comforting, but he still did not look like me. As an adolescent beginning the socialization process, I recall feeling not okay as I became more conscious of my skin color. The message was that there was something wrong with me and my Native people, but I could not understand it.

This was a painful time, not only because Jesus was white, but because I was not, and the white people seemed to either agree with or be influenced by this reality. This judgmental attitude was usually displayed by nervous, uptight behavior when these folks were around me and my family. Then, as I got older, pictures of surfer dude Jesus really pissed me off! By this time, I was conscious of racism and its reality and painful effects. I became defensive about this and angry at white people for what they did to my people and continue to do, via their judgmental attitude towards us. I began to think that Jesus was only in existence for white people and not us people of color.

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November 16, 2022 by ECFVP Editorial Team

As we prepare our Thanksgiving feasts and look forward to Christmas, we invite you to take the time to celebrate Advent. Advent can be a wonderful time to pause and reflect on the miracle that is to come. To help you celebrate this season, we’ve gathered a baker’s dozen of resources below. From all of us at ECF, we pray that your Advent is filled with peace, health and hopeful anticipation.

1. Find Advent and Christmas resources from The Episcopal Church here, including an updated Journeying the Way of Love Advent calendar and curriculum, weekly collects for Advent and Christmas Day, and Advent and Christmas Digital Invitation Kits. Most of their resources are also available in Spanish and French.

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November 4, 2022 by Juliette Acker

The importance of legacy is firmly rooted in the minds and hearts of the parishioners of All Saints Episcopal Church in Tarpon Springs, FL. I interviewed The Reverend Janet Tunnell, the rector, James Rissler, chair of the Funding our Future committee, and Ellen Lightner, chair of the Perpetual Light Legacy Society, to learn how creating a legacy society helped and is continuing to help All Saints grow the church’s endowment for the future.

Founded in 1892, All Saints Episcopal Church is in sunny Tarpon Springs, Florida, a historical fishing village on the Gulf Coast. Generations of families have attended the church, yet it’s also a welcoming place for newcomers. “We are just a very close tight-knit family. When you come the first time you're embraced and welcomed, and you feel like you've been there forever.” Ellen Lightner said.

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November 3, 2022 by Michael Carney

Jesus was not a white guy. The paintings you may have seen, portraying him with sandy-colored hair and blue eyes, are figments of the European imagination. Jesus was a Palestinian, and he looked like one. If he were living in the U.S. today, we’d see him as a “person of color.”

That’s just the visual impression, though. In Jesus’ world, there was no such thing as a “nuclear family,” Mom, Dad and the kids. In those days, families were large and extended; kids growing up saw their aunts and uncles and cousins all the time. People didn’t move around if they could help it; local communities were close-knit.

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October 24, 2022 by Greg Syler

“Fourteen parishes,” she told me that afternoon, noting that my jaw just about dropped. “Yes, I’m the Team Vicar of fourteen parishes.”

“Wow, that makes the two churches I serve as part of one parish, and the third as priest-in-charge kind of pale in comparison,” I responded.

My new colleague and I were enjoying lunchtime conversation in the refectory at Sarum College, just across the lawn from Salisbury Cathedral. The site of the former Salisbury & Wells Theological College, Sarum College is very much a working, albeit non-residential seminary. In fact, it’s a remarkable, vibrant center for theological formation and renewal for all orders of ministry! It’s a great place for anyone, including Episcopal priests on sabbatical like me, to spend any time, really. Simple accommodations, great staff, nice meals, a stone’s throw from one of the world’s great Cathedrals, and a dynamic, buzzing place where one can really get a sense of what life is like on the ground in the Church of England.

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October 20, 2022 by Alicia Hager

My seminary was a huge brick building circa 1960 or so. It was originally a seminary for Jesuit priests, and now houses a retirement community and nursing home for Catholic clergy, and functions as a large retreat center for many different groups.

One weekend a month for three years I would ride along as my friend Jan drove down the long, tree-lined drive. We’d park and lug a weekend’s worth of luggage inside, and before we were even in the doors our community would begin to form via shouted greetings in the parking lot and warm hugs in the lobby.

The Academy for Vocational Leadership is an Iona Collaborative school and is made up of many bi-vocational students and staff. On these long weekends we learned Church History, Systematic Theology, the Bible and literally dozens and dozens of practical courses, everything from music in small churches to Asset-Based Community Development.

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October 12, 2022 by Cathy Hornberger

This month we offer five resources on radical hospitality. Please share this digest with new members of your vestry and extend an invitation to subscribe to ECF Vital Practices to receive Vestry Papers, blogs, and the monthly digest.

ECF Fellow Sarah Barton discusses the varying degrees of welcome accorded adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities in her article Welcoming Adults with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities.

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Topics: Hospitality
October 10, 2022 by Greg Syler

It’s okay to start backing off the Zoom live-feed and hybrid worship offerings. I remember the refrain, that we’re going to keep live-streaming until Jesus comes home. But now, as we enter a new phase of the pandemic (but still very much with Covid), I believe our opportunity is to reflect critically on our priorities and approach to community-building, especially double-check our use of technology and the goals we’re pursuing as the Body of Christ.

So here are some starter invitations, or questions as we find ourselves at the dawn of a new phase of the pandemic, still walking with Covid (and all those anxieties and opportunities that came along with it):

1. If you’ve got a live-stream team, celebrate them. Your folks who invested in that technology and designed amazing systems have met the future, and they deserve a great celebration. You may wish to ask them about their longer-term plans and thinking. They may have really good ideas about where to go from here. Some may sense it’s time to wrap up the ministry, or their part in helping that ministry. Celebrate them. All of them.

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October 3, 2022 by Greg Syler

On sabbatical this past spring, I walked to the village of Grantchester from Cambridge. Turns out, Grantchester is very much a real village, not just a lovely PBS series. “Go to the Blue Ball,” the docent at Kings College told me when I asked for directions; “that’s the best pub.” The walk was lovely, and the inn’s hospitality and lunch were spot on.

Walking out into the afternoon sun, I saw on the wall a cartoon drawn of some characters in the village circa 1980-something: there was the barman; and a number of other characters, some in business attire, some in work clothes; and then, near the center, was a balding man in a backwards collar on a black shirt: the vicar.

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September 28, 2022 by Cathy Hornberger

This month we offer five resources on youth ministry. Please share this digest with new members of your vestry and extend an invitation to subscribe to ECF Vital Practices to receive Vestry Papers, blogs, and the monthly digest.

Michael Carney writes about youth ministry during the pandemic at St. Elizabeth’s, an Episcopal mission on the Ute Reservation in northeast Utah in Youth Ministry Pandemic Style.

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September 26, 2022 by Greg Syler

The other day, my family and I went downtown. There’s only one incorporated town, really village center in the community in which we live. We missed the Taste of St. Mary’s by one hour – all the vendors were packing their tents – so we walked down the block, off the town square to the local pizza place for a late lunch. It’s great pizza; plus it’s fun to run into all sorts of neighbors. Following lunch, which turned out to be dinner, we walked another block over to the new ice cream place that opened last year – a storefront on an old warehouse building; the rest of the building itself now turned into a collection of real-time Etsy shops with an always-full beer garden in the back.

Years ago, none of those options were there. The buildings were there. The pizza place was a run-down seafood joint, and I have no idea what was in that warehouse. Back then, there was a diner, a coffee shop and a French restaurant and that was about it, save for a few funeral homes and florist shops. Now, the town is filled with yoga studios, art galleries, yarn shops, wonderful restaurants, a health food store, cooking studio, and so many more pop-up-shops-turned-creative-businesses.

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September 19, 2022 by Annette Buchanan

As we recommit to Stewardship each season with a focus on time and talent, let us reflect on our individual level of participation in the church’s organizations/committees/guilds or ministries. A church colleague highly recommends that we use the word ministries more often in order to 1) distinguish it from the secular organizations’ processes and mindset we adhere to and 2) to continually remind ourselves that any work we do in the church should be in service to Jesus Christ and his teachings. I agree.

On one end of the participation range, there are some in the church that can be described as oversubscribed. They belong to every organization and are either burned-out with too many meetings and commitments or they are participating in name only and do not contribute in any meaningful way. Oftentimes in smaller congregations, oversubscribing can occur with few members that need to wear multiple hats. This situation is increasingly common and challenging.

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September 8, 2022 by Donald Romanik

And I’m not referring to Christmas but the annual pledge campaign for your congregation. Actually, this can be a wonderful time of the year if you, the church’s leadership, approaches the campaign with faithfulness, focus and follow-through.

Faithfulness needs to emanate from the top and permeate the life of the local congregation all year round not just when you’re asking for money in the fall. Being faithful involves ongoing communication with your members and constituents; offering quality worship, fellowship, and outreach opportunities; helping people discern their gifts, and engaging them in appropriate ministries and activities. Faithfulness includes sharing your personal faith journey, reflecting on the importance of the local faith community in nurturing your own spirituality, inviting others to join you on the way, and helping form disciples for Jesus. Faithfulness leads to commitment, commitment leads to embracing stewardship, and stewardship leads to generosity and giving. Even if you’ve been a little lax in this area over the past several months, this is the ideal time to be more deliberate about faithfulness.

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August 23, 2022 by Donald Romanik

We all love stories. Storytelling is imbedded in our DNA as human beings. Stories were used to explain the unexplainable—those mysteries such as birth, death, nature and the existence of a higher power or force, eventually described as God.

People of faith, or those who follow or practice a particular religious tradition are especially fond of stories. Jewish and Christian heritage and custom have been passed down to us through stories—about creation, sin, floods, slavery, freedom, laws, prophets, angels and, ultimately, redemption and resurrection.

While we love to tell stories, we also love to talk about ourselves, especially those qualities and experiences of which we are most proud. Telling our story is an essential element of the human experience and is the precursor to making connections, establishing relationships, and falling in love.

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August 17, 2022 by Cathy Hornberger

This month we offer five resources on Transformational Stewardship. Please share this digest with new members of your vestry and extend an invitation to subscribe to ECF Vital Practices to receive Vestry Papers, blogs, and the monthly digest.

Topics: Stewardship
August 11, 2022 by Michael Carney

The disciples had been watching their Master immersed in prayer, sitting in silence for long periods of time, and they’d learned not to interrupt. Jesus regularly went off by himself before the first light of day, seeking a deserted place to commune with the Creator. The disciples could feel the power of those times and yearned to experience that for themselves. “Lord,” they asked, “teach us to pray.” (Luke 11:1)

So Jesus gave them some words of prayer: calling on God’s Name, proclaiming the coming of a holy kingdom and their dependence on the Creator, seeking forgiveness “for we forgive everyone,” and asking for help when trials come. This simple version of the Lord’s Prayer (expanded in the Gospel of Matthew) has such an impact that we still say it today. It probably wasn’t new to the disciples—we can all use a reminder—but from their disappointed looks, something more was needed.

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August 10, 2022 by Donald Romanik

As I write this blog I am in Abilene, Texas with my wife, Margaret, visiting our son David and his family – part of a month-long road trip during my six-week sabbatical. (David is Rector of the Church of the Heavenly Rest in the Diocese of Northwest Texas.) Our first stop from Connecticut was western Maryland, where Margaret’s brother hosted the annual family reunion followed by a visit with old friends from Hartford in Oklahoma. While there will be stops along the way, the next few weeks will include additional visits with family and friends in South Carolina and Virginia. All these summer gatherings continue to be wonderful opportunities for relaxation, refreshment, and reconnection.

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