November 20, 2019 by Cathy Hornberger

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

1) Do you take notice of members who aren’t at church? How can we practice mindfulness in caring for our church family? In his blog, Who’s New and Who’s Missing, Peter Strimer shares his method for keeping everyone in the loop of ministry.

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October 24, 2019 by Melissa Rau

There once were young parents who decided to find a church family with whom they might raise their family in the faith. Though they’d attend the occasional Christmas and Easter service, they wanted to be more intentional. They committed to attending regularly, and after a little, they began being recognized as regular church attenders. People began to learn their names and that of their little girl. They eventually met with the priest and decided to have their toddler baptized.

As their little girl grew, they began looking forward to when she could participate in Sunday morning formation. It was about that time when they learned they’d become parents to a second child.

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October 23, 2019 by Cathy Hornberger

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

1. What does a New Orleans magician have in common with the early church? In Street Performers, Strangers, and Community, Alan Bentrup makes the connection that the early church drew people to it by virtue of what that smaller community was doing for the larger community – caring for the poor, feeding the hungry, etc. What could our modern church learn from that experience?

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August 15, 2019 by Lisa G. Fischbeck

Most of us who are in the Episcopal Church have a love of the liturgy. Or at least an appreciation for it. Some are well-versed in the meaning of the movement and the posture, the theological nuance of the words. Others have been formed by decades of weekly practice, the words of the canticles still rolling off the tongue, the Prayer of Humble Access still echoing in our soul.

But there are many in our pews and chairs who are still learning the rhythms of the liturgy. They know that there are songs, readings, the Peace and the Eucharist, and that the clergy come in at the beginning and go out at the end. But they don’t even think about the idea of being formed as the Body of Christ. Maybe they have a grasp of the liturgical year, but they still think of Pentecost as the day we wear red. And, increasingly, they are likely to attend about once a month, so may only get one Sunday in the shorter seasons. They will not have the continuity and repetition that leads to learning.

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Topics: Worship, Outreach
July 31, 2019 by Lisa G. Fischbeck

The patch was rough. Three years after the old man who had lovingly tended the south five acres of the site for decades had moved to Florida, The Church of the Advocate acquired the land. Three years after that, we finally had a building in which to worship on the land. But having rented worship space for 11 years, it took us a while just to recover from all the transition and to settle into the reality of having our own place. We didn’t pay very much attention to what was growing where. We just tried to keep some of the grass mowed.

Soon, however, it became clear that the grounds just weren’t as pretty as they had been. Invasive plants had moved in, aggressive natives, like honeysuckle, sweet gum and pine had started growing like weeds. We had been clear from the beginning that the site was to be shared with anyone who came our way, whether they wanted to be part of the church or not. And wonderfully, one person who came our way was an amateur horticulturalist, a woman passionate about restoring land to native flora and fauna. We got to talking.

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July 22, 2019 by Alan Bentrup

Last time we started talking about practices to build our confidence around evangelism.

There’s a good basic list of resources available on the Episcopal Church’s website. One of those great resources is a “Prayer Walk.” Prayer walking is a great starting point, but I think walking can do much more.

There’s a term, “walk-up evangelism,” which is the type of evangelism many people think about. You walk up to someone and start telling them about Jesus (or telling them that they need Jesus). That’s not what I propose. What I’m talking about is “walk-around evangelism.”

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July 8, 2019 by Lisa G. Fischbeck

I figured the Memorial Day concert and cookout would be a good way for folks to experience the hospitality of the church.

We had invited Will Parker, now a student at Yale Divinity School touring for the summer, to provide a concert “for kids of all ages”. We debated about hosting an event on a secular holiday (unlike Independence Day and Thanksgiving, Memorial Day does not appear in the church calendar). But while we knew that many would be out of town for the Memorial Day weekend, we also knew that those who were still in town would be looking for something to do. We promoted the concert among the folks of the church, encouraging them to invite their friends. We promoted it on social media, paying a bit extra to send the ad out into the 10-mile radius of the church. And, for the first time, we posted it on the “Next Door” list serve. Neighbors near and far are welcome, we said.

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June 26, 2019 by Mary Cat Young

It is not uncommon to hear the question: “How do we get Millennials (aka Young Adults) into our church(es)?” This question, however, misses the goal if you are a faith community trying to connect with young adults and invite them to join you in following Jesus. The motivation behind this question is misguided. Masked as an attempt at evangelism, the real question being asked is “how do we get young adults to buy/invest/tithe into our communities and the work of our church institution.” My response to this is to re-think the question.

Why not try these on instead: What is it about my experience of faith in this community that I want to share with young adults? What are we doing here in this church, at this time and place, that young adults would want to be a part of, be companions in, be leaders of? How is my relationship with God leading me to invite others to know the joy of following Jesus? And how does inviting young adults to be a part of this faith community nourish, equip, encourage me to do that?

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June 10, 2019 by Samantha Haycock

I feel like I need to tell you upfront that I didn’t join Tinder to spread the Good News of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to all of my potential matches. I do hope you already knew that. But after three years, a laundry list of bad first dates and a handful of short-term relationships, I learned that I have become readily equipped with all of the skills I need to be an evangelist. I’m no longer involved in online dating rings - moving from the San Francisco Bay Area to Northwest Arkansas meant a swift and jarring shrinking of the dating pool. Also, online dating in a college town when your match radius only reaches the campus population you are responsible for pastoring to is an absolute non-starter. I’m now in an #offline relationship. Still, I use the skill set entrusted to me to by God, developed with a little nurturing by Tinder and OKCupid, every single day. There are quite a few transferable skills between partially blind dating and talking to strangers about Jesus. And maybe, the online platforms that the church has given side eye to are actually doing the work of equipping the saints of God.

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April 15, 2019 by Annette Buchanan

At a recent meeting, one of the assignments for our dinner conversation was to answer the question, “Name one thing that you cannot live without.” Given the occasion, many of the answers were frivolous and funny e.g. chocolate, hot water, the ocean etc. It is a question worth pondering seriously and also in turn asking in the context of our life as a congregation, “Name one thing that our congregation cannot live without.”

Personally, after we get past the life-saving items (food, water, shelter), the answers should reflect things that are truly important in our life: our family, friends, and yes, most importantly, our faith. Obviously, whatever we think we cannot live without is where we should spend our time and treasure. Experience shows that problems arise when these areas are not nurtured.

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April 11, 2019 by Alan Bentrup

If you want to get better at something, you practice. That’s true for sports, or musical instruments, or spiritual disciplines.

Want to become more diligent in prayer? There’s no shortage of prayer practices that have developed through the centuries. Want to read your Bible more? We’ve got you covered.

But what if you want to get better at evangelism? You practice.

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Topics: Evangelism, Outreach
February 26, 2019 by Alan Bentrup

Culture has completely shifted. I’d go so far as to say there’s a good chance that Average Sunday Attendance (ASA) for most of the last century was artificially inflated (and not just because the ushers double-counted).

People went to church because culture went to church. It was written into the laws of our cities, counties, and states. That’s why stores would close down on Sundays. That’s why so much of the whole world would stop on Sundays.

Because culture went to church, but now culture has shifted.

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February 11, 2019 by Greg Syler

When I first arrived at one of my parishes, St. George’s in Valley Lee, Maryland, I found in the center drawer of the desk in the rector’s office a bunch of 3 x 5 index cards, scrawled with handwritten notes. “Visited Mildred X,” read one note, detailing the date and time of visit, location, and how she was feeling. “Took Holy Communion to Cedar Lane,” went another, summarizing the scripture lessons and number of persons present at that afternoon service of worship. The interim priest, a clergyperson evidently gifted with pastoral care, had nourished a rather extensive pastoral care network, and he had developed a fine system of reporting, back and forth, such that he was in the loop but wasn’t the sole caregiver. It was an old-fashioned approach, and the filing system left somethings to be desired (they were just cards shoved in a desk drawer, after all), but it was a beautiful testament to a lovely way of doing church together.

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November 15, 2018 by Alan Bentrup

We go to great lengths to welcome people in our homes - but those folks we invite all too often are people that we know and love already. Most folks who come to my house know me, and understand my worldview, and we probably get along socially.

And I think too often we do the same thing with our congregations?

That’s being nice; that’s not hospitality.

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October 11, 2018 by Annette Buchanan

In my travels this Summer I had the opportunity to interact, albeit briefly, with Anglican churches in the Bahamas, Panama and London. What these experiences illustrated is that while sharing similar religious tradition and worship styles, cultural nuances are very important and offer an opportunity to learn, incorporate best practices and grow in our ministry.

As Episcopalians and Americans, oftentimes in our local and international travels we have a mindset of being more evolved and therefore enter into these interactions without a spirit of inquiry and discovery.

October 8, 2018 by Richelle Thompson

I’ve found a way to make Christmas last all year. Or at least a bit of the spirit of the season.

When I store the decorations for another year, I’m always faced with a dilemma: What should I do with the Christmas cards? It’s the one time of year that folks send a snail mail card, and even if most have a simple signature, they are still a tangible connection to a longtime friend, a faraway relative, neighbors, and fellow parishioners. I hate to throw them away but I also don’t want to become a Christmas card hoarder.

A few years ago, a friend (and Episcopal priest) sent me a handwritten note in the middle of the year and explained that she kept her Christmas cards for a special purpose. Each week, she would draw a card from the pile, add the person to her prayer list, and then write and mail a note.

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August 3, 2018 by Linda Buskirk

A recent lectionary reading, Romans 16:1-16, got me thinking...

In this passage, Paul commends to the church in Rome a long list of friends in Christ. They are women and men whose faith and service Paul has witnessed, experienced, and sometimes by which he benefited.

Priscilla and Aquila “risked their lives” for Paul. He writes that he and “all the churches of the Gentiles are grateful to them.”

Epenetus was “ the first convert to Christ in the province of Asia.” Andronicus and Junias were in prison with Paul. Mary, Tryphena, Tryphosa and Persis, are all praised for their “very hard work” for Christ and the church. The mother of Rufus was like a mother to Paul.

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July 2, 2018 by Alan Bentrup

We’ve spent some time in this space looking at what art museums can teach us about mission and innovation, and what one particular art installation reveals about how we see each other.

Today I want to talk about what an art installation reveals about listening.

The image above is of the installation, “Terrain,” by Julianne Swartz. This piece is made up of a delicate net of wires and speakers that alternately rise and fall, resembling the swells of a landscape. The speakers suspended from the wires emit whispering voices, differing in intensity throughout the room and creating what Swartz describes as “a landscape of gentle sound.”

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Topics: Mission, Outreach
June 26, 2018 by Anna Olson

Three months into St. Mary’s commitment to the Safe Parking project, I have a few observations.

One is that it is going well. None of the big problems that people imagine have come to pass. Our vehicle-dwelling neighbors report sleeping better and seem to coexist peacefully and happily with the many other folks who overlap with them at church, including lots of programs for kids and families.

Another is that the concept is very popular. There are lots of people in lots of congregations that think it’s a great idea. There are people working really hard to get the idea through their congregational decision making processes. But so far no other congregation in greater Los Angeles has actually gotten to the starting line. Besides St. Mary’s the other lots run by Safe Parking LA are all on public land.

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June 22, 2018 by Linda Buskirk

How we Episcopalians love to experience a thundering organ and rousing choral music, complete with hand bells and chimes and sunshine beaming through the stained glass, wait… why is that family leaving?

This article is the third in a series about improving inclusion for people with disabilities in our faith communities. Some disabilities are invisible. Those who have particular sensitivity to noise and lights may not be able to enjoy a typical worship service.

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