February 19, 2024 by Annette Buchanan

As we embark on the season of Lent and that of self-discipline, church leaders may want to consider what an organizational discipline for vestries and congregations would include. The following are offered for consideration.

Membership List – Lent may be a good time to update the congregation’s membership list and face the stark reality. Perhaps if we have not seen the person in 20 years they need to be dropped from the list? These are difficult decisions. Church Inventory – The insurance companies highly recommend that we compile an inventory of the church’s valuables. If one does not exist, consider Lent as a time to put those smartphone cameras to good use and catalog all items. If an inventory already exists, updates would be in order, especially after the generous donation of a used microwave.

Continue reading...

February 13, 2024 by ECFVP Editorial Team

This year, Lent begins with Ash Wednesday on February 14 and ends on Easter Sunday March 31. Lent provides us with the opportunity for self-examination, prayer, fasting and reading the Bible. Below please find a collection of resources for Lent and Easter with ideas to help make good use of this time of reflection.

1. The Episcopal Church invites us to walk with Jesus in his Way of Love and into the experience of transformed life through Life Transformed: The Way of Love in Lent, which includes videos, lesson plans and curricula, bulletin inserts and devotions available in English, Spanish, and French.

2. The United Thank Offering offers Lenten materials with a theme this year of 40 Days of Grateful Presence and a call to giving thanks for the many things in our lives we take for granted. They offer: a daily text message prompt to notice and give thanks for something in your life that you might take for granted; a printable calendar; special materials for children; and a Zoom book group.

Continue reading...

December 6, 2023 by Ken Mosesian

Here’s a generalization that I’ve observed to be accurate: we are a distracted people, and we don’t know what to do with ourselves if we don’t have a phone in our hands or a laptop on our knees. (In fact, depending on the age group, between 45 percent and 78 percent of us have our mobile phones in hand while watching TV. Yes, the percentage is the inverse of the age.)

To be fair, we do know what to do: we talk. Anything to avoid silence. Anything to avoid reflection. Anything to avoid self-examination. The cost: our minds never fully come to rest.

I remember when we used to enter the church in silence. If people spoke, they did so in hushed tones. Our attention was drawn to the Altar, and the time before the Eucharist began was used to prepare ourselves to meet Jesus in the forms of bread and wine.

Continue reading...

December 1, 2023 by ECFVP Editorial Team

As we put away the Thanksgiving tablecloths and start looking for Christmas trees, 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 fourteen 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.

Continue reading...

September 14, 2023 by Lisa G. Fischbeck

Representatives of the congregation bring the people's offerings of bread and wine, and money or other gifts, to the deacon or celebrant. The people stand while the offerings are presented and placed on the Altar.
Book of Common Prayer p. 361

It’s called the Offertory.

When I was a child, my mother would hand me a quarter to drop in the plate that was passed along the pew, adults would add greenbacks, or maybe a check. We don’t see (or hear) that much anymore. Especially since Covid. Now a lot of folks pay their pledges online. Or in some churches, they use a QR code printed in the bulletin to make an offering. Other churches have a place to put checks on a Sunday morning, but don’t process them forward. Still, the Offertory often includes an anthem sung by a choir. In many churches, there is a hymn sung by the congregation in addition or instead. And in some, The Doxology still rings out.

Continue reading...

Topics: Stewardship, Worship
April 9, 2023 by Donald Romanik

Like most people, I have some bad habits. Some of them are lifestyle related, but many of them are more behavioral in nature – how I react to stress, anger, conflict, hurt, and even disagreement. In these situations, my tendency is to either lash out aggressively or totally withdraw within, even with those I love the most. As I get older, I have been better able to control these impulses, or at least realize when they’re happening, but they are still there under the surface. I have also come to appreciate that these tendencies not only interfere with my interpersonal relationships, but, more importantly, impede my ability to be my true self as God intends me to be. In other words, I often pursue death-like approaches instead of seeking life-giving alternatives.

Continue reading...

March 16, 2023 by Ken Mosesian

On Shrove Tuesday evening, I carefully laid out my plans for Lent. Additional devotions, readings, and journaling each day, Sunday Mass and Rosary, increased giving to our local food bank. It was going to be a “perfect” Lent, beginning with a 7 AM Eucharist on Ash Wednesday.

My dog awakened me at 4 AM the next morning. He was unsettled because of a thunderstorm, and I couldn’t figure out why. He’d slept through plenty of them before without stirring. I finally gave up on the idea of going back to sleep and wandered into the kitchen to make coffee when I discovered why the pup was trying to pry me from my warm bed: I felt water dripping on my head. The roof was leaking.

My first thought: my plans for a “perfect” Lent are ruined!

Continue reading...

March 2, 2023 by Ken Mosesian

Depending on when you’re reading this, Lent has either begun or is a few days away. Perhaps it’s the readings, but at this time of year, I always reflect on my life and on the state of the world. I’m writing this blog on Sexagesima Sunday – a term that is a throwback to the 1928 Book of Common Prayer – denoting the second Sunday before Lent.

I rather like the old terms for these three Sundays (Septuagesima, Sexagesima, and Quinquagesima) because they give me time to transition from my Christmas and Epiphany mindset and prepare for Lent.

In some ways, they feel like the onramp to Lent, and, just like driving on a freeway, it’s best to come up to speed before you merge. I feel like I have a richer experience of Lent by observing these pre-Lenten Sundays.

Continue reading...

February 27, 2023 by ECFVP Editorial Team

This year, Lent begins with Ash Wednesday on February 22 and ends on Easter Sunday, April 9th. Lent brings us to a time of self-examination and reflection about our relationship with God, and provides an opportunity for fasting from the behaviors, ideas and objects in life that pull us away from God. Below please find a collection of resources for Lent and Easter with ideas to help make good use of this time of reflection.

1. The Episcopal Church invites us to walk with Jesus in his Way of Love and into the experience of transformed life through Life Transformed: The Way of Love in Lent, which includes videos, adult forum curriculum, calendar, publicity materials, and quiet day curriculum available in English, Spanish, and French.

Continue reading...

January 6, 2023 by Donald Romanik

I’m not a big fan of January. Ever since I was a child, January has been my least favorite month of the year. I’m not quite sure why. I guess it has something to do with the weather and the general let-down that comes after the Christmas holidays. My father always insisted on taking down the Christmas tree on New Year’s Day which I found rather depressing. As an adult married couple, my wife and I much prefer to wait until January 6th or beyond to perform this least favorite task of the year. I am even intrigued by those cultures and traditions that keep the tree up until February 2, Candlemas Day but imagine the pine needles that would have to be cleaned up. Maybe my problem with January is also the frustration about New Year’s resolutions that go unfulfilled, although I have been sticking to my diet so far. It’s not that interesting and even enjoyable things don’t occur in January. Also, in January, the days start to become longer by one or two minutes each day which will be rather noticeable by the end of the month. Nonetheless, I know that when February 1st comes around, I will breathe a huge sigh of relief.

Continue reading...

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.

Continue reading...

May 17, 2022 by Lisa G. Fischbeck

As churches emerge from pandemic practices and take a fresh look at the way we used to do things, many are pondering what aspects of the past two years might carry over or influence our liturgies ahead. Some are committed to continuing worship online one way or another, some are challenged by the thought of returning to the common use of a common chalice. Some are wondering how they will exchange the Peace. The hand sanitizers that appeared in abundance in 2021 are sliding into the shadows. In all these things, the church is being given an invitation to enrich and expand its liturgical practices and understanding. Will we accept the invitation?

Ablutions, ceremonial washing of the priest and people, have been part of worship, or preparation for worship, for centuries. Jews, Christians, and Muslims, all have traditions of washing hands, face, and even feet, before prayer. Many Episcopal Churches maintain the ancient custom of keeping a bowl of baptismal water by the entrance to the church for people who want dip their fingers and sign themselves with the cross upon entering the nave. In addition to reminding worshippers of their baptism, this practice is a remnant of the medieval hand-washing before the Eucharist. Another tradition is the use of a lavabo bowl, held by an acolyte who then pours water over the celebrant’s fingers after the altar has been prepared and before the Eucharistic Prayer. Often, while engaging in this symbolic washing, the priest recites a verse from the psalms, “I wash my hands in innocence, and go around your altar, O Lord” (Psalm 26) or “Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin.” (Psalm 51).

Continue reading...

April 20, 2022 by Cathy Hornberger

This month we offer five reflections on hybrid church and digital 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.

Continue reading...

March 23, 2022 by Cathy Hornberger

This month we offer five reflections on the upcoming Easter holiday. 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.

Continue reading...

February 23, 2022 by Cathy Hornberger

This month we offer resources for the upcoming season of Lent. In addition to resources from ECFVP, below you will find five resources from around the Church to help you observe Lent. 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.

Continue reading...

Topics: Worship
December 22, 2021 by Linda Buskirk

I understand why harps, lyres and trumpets are associated with angels. The notes of harps and lyres dreamily float. Trumpets blast, demanding attention to God’s impending Words and action. What I do not understand, however, is why timpani are not included in the realm of angelic orchestrations.

I might never have thought of this were it not for the wonderful timpani that a parishioner at my church donated to our music ministry. The kettles’ full, deep sound on Christmas Eve 2019 rolled through the nave, gathering our scattered thoughts and moving us to our feet in anticipation. O come, all ye faithful! Hark! The angels have good news!

There just had to be timpani that first Christmas night…

Continue reading...

December 17, 2021 by Sandy Webb

“No, I did not get ordained online.” Let’s add that to the list of phrases I never thought would hear myself say.

I recently officiated at a destination wedding. About an hour before the ceremony, the audio technician asked me to do a sound check. Needing something to say as he pressed buttons and turned knobs on his control board, I began reciting from memory a passage that we would all be hearing later that evening: “Dearly beloved: We have come together in the presence of God to witness and bless the joining together of…”

“That’s enough,” he interrupted. “You’re a real pro.”

“Thank you. I am actually a professional. I went to seminary and everything.”

“Really?” he asked with a blend of shock and incredulity. “Most of the officiants I work with got ordained online.”

Continue reading...

Topics: Change, Worship
December 15, 2021 by Donald Romanik

Christmas is always a special time in New York City. With the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree, the department store window displays, and the throngs of tourists and shoppers, the city sparkles, bustles, and hums during the holiday season. After settling for virtual events and subdued celebrations in 2020, there is plenty of pent-up demand and even expectations for a “normal” New York Christmas this year.

And I know that this sentiment is shared by people throughout the country and even the world – we need a normal Christmas, and we need it now.

Continue reading...

December 15, 2021 by Cathy Hornberger

This month we offer five resources on celebrating 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, blogs, and the monthly digest.

Continue reading...

Topics: Worship
November 24, 2021 by Cathy Hornberger

This month we offer five resources on the season of Advent. 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.

Continue reading...

Topics: Worship