April 5, 2019 by Lisa Fischbeck

A member of the congregation asked if we might have pronoun buttons made for folks to wear in church -- simple pin buttons that would identify the pronouns with which people identify, such as he or she or they. Even though we don’t have non-binary or trans folks in the congregation (that we know of), Hannah explained, if any came to visit, they would likely feel more welcomed if they saw people wearing pronoun buttons. It would be a sign of hospitality. It would also help us all to be more aware of what gender identity is and how it varies. And it would cause us to be more mindful that we welcome all.

I knew the idea would be welcomed by many who truly want to broaden and make known our inclusive welcome. I was also aware that the idea would cause some to feel uncomfortable, or to question why it was necessary. And I had to confess my own ignorance of the nomenclature and terminology.

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Topics: Hospitality
December 19, 2018 by Melissa Rau

This month we offer five resources to help your congregation prepare for Christmas. 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. This Advent Parish Checklist by Cathy Carpenter is a great tool for churches preparing for Christmas, ensuring they are ready to receive and welcome visitors (among other useful ideas). Check out this handy resource and learn new ways to be better prepared for this festive and important time.

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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 23, 2018 by Sarah Townsend Leach

“How did it go?” My mom’s words came through the cell phone ear piece with equal parts excitement and apprehension.

“I have learned things about church design that had never occurred to me before,” I answered flatly with a tinge of exhaustion. I had just attended my first service with a six-week old baby, and I would see things with new eyes from now on in every church I visited thereafter.

You see, church design matters to me as a member and worshipper, but it also matters deeply to me as an ECF capital campaign consultant to churches around the country that are considering investing hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars in renovations or new buildings.

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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.

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 18, 2018 by Melissa Rau

This month we offer five resources to help your congregation with 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 and the monthly digest.

1. Especially relevant in today’s political climate, Canon Stephanie Spellers paints a beautiful picture of radical welcome and hospitality in Radical Welcome: Embracing the Other. How do you and your congregation include and embrace “The Other” within your midst?

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Topics: Hospitality
July 16, 2018 by Alan Bentrup
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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June 1, 2018 by Linda Buskirk

Projects to improve accessibility are often included in church capital campaigns. In my work as a capital campaign consultant with ECF, I witness congregations choosing ramps, restrooms large enough for caregivers to enter with their adult loved one, hearing loops, wider doorways, lowering the altar rail to the main level of the nave, and other changes to make it clear that all are welcome.

As our awareness of physical barriers increases, let us also consider whether our language and behavior send messages of, “You are truly welcome.” Consider the differences between these sentences:

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February 19, 2018 by Richelle Thompson

“Your church passed,” the visitor told me.

As part of her ministry, this person visits different church almost every Sunday. Invariably she thinks about the health of the congregation. But she doesn’t use typical parochial report measures—and for that matter, neither do most visitors! Big numbers of people in worship doesn’t automatically merit a passing grade. Neither does an inspirational sermon. She doesn’t count the breadth of announcements for events or the number of heads in the children’s choir.

Nope. One of her key measurements is the cleanliness of the bathroom.

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Topics: Hospitality, Vestry
October 17, 2017 by Anna Olson

My parish is a busy place. Multiple communities – with varying degrees of involvement and investment in the religious life of the congregation – use church space for a wide range of beneficial purposes. Kids play basketball and learn instrumental music and traditional dance. Korean drums vie with tuba-driven banda rhythms. The food for festivals and fundraisers is prepared in the kitchen – everything from specialized triangular tamales (the claim to culinary fame of one small town in the mountains of Oaxaca) to a Japanese American take on manju pastries filled with a delicious paste of sweetened lima beans.

It all sounds amazing and beautiful and it is… until someone leaves a mess. Dancers find crumbs on the stage. The basketball team finds discarded plates of tamales in the parking lot. A door gets left open. The trash doesn’t get taken out. In a place as busy as ours, it’s all bound to happen at some point.

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Topics: Hospitality
July 10, 2017 by Annette Buchanan

For many, especially those in seasonal climates, the summer months (July and August) are regarded as the time when the church slows down. We may combine services, the priest maybe on vacation, the vestry may not meet, the choir may not sing, Sunday school may be cancelled, and many guilds will also suspend their meetings until the fall. While totally in agreement that we need rest and relaxation, and it is the most popular vacation time, do we all need to rest from church obligations at the same time. Sadly it is also a time when finances go on vacation as our support of the church dwindles during the summer months.

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Topics: Worship, Hospitality
April 18, 2017 by Linda Buskirk

Five years ago in a small city on the Ohio River, an Episcopal faith community began to explore the gifts of its people, and what God was calling them to do with those gifts. Several people had a passion for the arts – many were artists themselves. They began to envision the arts as central to their ministry.

St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in New Albany, Indiana, has taken ministry outreach through the arts to an exciting new level – even for us artsy Episcopalians.

With an eye “to build relationship with artists, patrons, and guests through the ministries of hospitality and the arts,” St. Paul’s started with something small and manageable: a reader’s theatre called “Parlor Stories.” Actors and others from the community were welcome to participate.

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April 13, 2017 by Annette Buchanan

As we commemorate Easter in April and Mother’s Day in May we are expecting many more visitors to our churches, some returning and some new. So it is worthwhile reflecting on what our current practices are towards visitors.

Many of us acknowledge visitors at the halfway point during the service whether during the peace or at announcements where the general practice is to ask the visitors to stand and tell us who they are. In the past there has been a debate about this practice, whether we are outing people unnecessarily especially those terrified of public speaking and as a result may not return to our churches. For the itinerant member who may want to be obscure they instead get called out and is reluctant to again go through that scrutiny.

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Topics: Hospitality
January 11, 2017 by Richelle Thompson

For years, I hosted a Rose Tea for the women of the church on the weekend of the third Sunday in Advent (Rose Sunday, hence the name). It was always a lovely occasion with great conversation, delicious food, and sometimes a few carols. But after everyone left the house, I flopped onto the couch, a cartoon effigy of a woman sapped of every morsel of energy.

Who throws an extra party into the pre-Christmas mix? What kind of glutton for punishment am I? Over the years, we’ve gotten much wiser (at least on this account). We host gatherings for the church and staff during the actual Christmas season – or in the first few days of Epiphany. This year, the church staff enjoyed a Christmas luncheon on the day of Epiphany. Vestry members (as well as spouses/partners or family) came to our house for dinner on the first Sunday of Epiphany, and last night, the staff of my workplace (a faith-based organization) held its holiday gathering.

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Topics: Hospitality
December 21, 2016 by Brendon Hunter

This month we offer five resources to help your congregation get ready for Christmas. Please share this digest with others in your congregation and invite them to subscribe to ECF Vital Practices to receive Vestry Papers and this Vital Practices Digest in your inbox each month.

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October 25, 2016 by Richelle Thompson

Our leading evangelist is not a Baby Boomer with conversational skills honed by the Dale Carnegie school of making friends and influencing people. It is not a latchkey Gen-Xer, earnest to please or a freewheeling Millennial breaking from social media to be social.

Nope. Our leading evangelist is a 92-year-old woman with white hair braided into a ring around her head.

I have never seen newcomers enter our church—on Sundays, at spaghetti suppers, for Bible studies, or community gatherings—without Fran making sure to welcome them. And somehow, she never makes her greeting seem forced or awkward. She gives a full-mouth smile, perhaps places her hand on an arm or shoulder, and introduces herself. Then, often, she asks, “So, tell me your story.”

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August 30, 2016 by Richelle Thompson

Fall and back-to-school season often signals an uptick in visitors – or, as we often call them, “church shoppers.”

For an experiment on how we might welcome visitors to our congregations, I wonder if we might think of them as dinner guests. To extend the concept, perhaps we cast ourselves in various roles of restaurant hospitality.

Consider these two roles:

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Topics: Hospitality