May 16, 2024 by Greg Syler

Church of the Ascension in Lexington Park, Maryland owned a house next door to the church. It was never the rectory. It was given to the church in 2000. For many years, Ascension rented it to a local transitional living shelter. The congregation, as landlords, managed and maintained the property as well as they could – but it wasn’t a well-built home in the first place, having been thrown up fairly inexpensively along with all the other homes in that post-WW2 neighborhood in the late 1940s. Having a constant turnover of residents as well as a shelter serving as tenant also posed ongoing challenges, but the church was serving the needs of the neighborhood. Sure, there were annual property tax payments and maintenance costs but, still, the $1,700 rent check each month was nice for the congregation’s cash flow.

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April 25, 2024 by Lisa G. Fischbeck

On All Things Considered, a program of National Public Radio, the story was told of two couples in Brooklyn, New York, maintaining a practice begun in the days of COVID isolation. Every day they lean out a window or stand at their doorstep and ring bells, shake a tambourine and bang wooden spoons together in support of health care workers. Because, they maintain, health care providers still need our support.

Now the odds are there aren’t many healthcare workers who know about this ongoing sign of support for them, at least until NPR ran the story. But the support was there nonetheless. And one neighbor observed, “it’s kinda cool” that his neighbors are remembering those who can so easily be forgotten, and he likes being reminded of the importance of health care workers each night.

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March 26, 2024 by Sandra Montes

Somos una familia de 6 personas donde hay tres niñas, un niño, mamá y papá. Somos venezolanos, orgullosos de nuestra nacionalidad. Somos de tierras llaneras. Esas tierras consisten mayormente de ganadería dónde el cultivo es una de las mayores riquezas que hay entre Venezuela y Colombia. Son numerosas las fincas con ganado y sembradío. Amamos nuestro país y nuestras raíces.

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March 26, 2024 by Sandra Montes

We are a family of six with three girls, a boy, a mom and a dad. We are Venezuelans, proud of our nationality. We are from the plains. These lands consist mainly of livestock where cultivation is one of the greatest assets between Venezuela and Colombia. There are numerous farms with livestock and crops. We love our country and our roots.

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March 19, 2024 by Claire Woodley

In the Summer of 1995, I ordered two books that changed how I experience ministry in the parishes, vestries and groups I have worked with. The two books were: Listening Hearts by Suzanne Farnham et al and Rediscovering Our Spiritual Gifts by Charles V. Bryant. I had been well trained in Organizational Development for churches but all too often the presence and power of the Holy Spirit was at best an afterthought, but never a starting place.

I have learned the better part of wisdom is to start with the Holy Spirit, home to both spiritual giftedness and discernment. I use these two practices together to understand spiritual DNA, in the same way people are born with blue or brown eyes, people are born with spiritual gifts such as healing or leadership.

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March 12, 2024 by Greg Syler

Assets and liabilities, that’s Accounting 101. Assets generate income or initiative or power, whereas liabilities are those things that cost money and cost energy, focus, attention. Assets and liabilities.

The church’s greatest assets, of course, are the Holy Spirit and God’s people. To have a truly divine inspiration and calling, such that our vision will always exceed our human capacity – making us rely on God’s power, not our own – well, that’s an asset. That’s our primary asset. Clergy and lay leaders are our second greatest asset. If we’re prioritizing assets, The Episcopal Church should not only imagine but hasten to implement a future in which these two assets are lifted up as our greatest strengths. Anything else – everything else, in fact – should be shaped around these.

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December 14, 2023 by Ken Mosesian

This is the third version of this blog that I’ve written. I couldn’t figure out why the first two versions left me feeling uneasy, until I realized that it wasn’t the content, but my underlying fear of publishing something that might come under attack. Social media, and more precisely, how we interact with social media, has trained me to avoid controversy, even if I’m raising legitimate points. The days of social media being a public forum for intelligent conversation are long gone.

The horror of war continues to unfold in the Middle East. The attack on Israel by Hamas was barbaric and shocking. Over 1,200 people were killed, and more than 200 people kidnapped, including toddlers and the elderly. They are a terrorist organization, committed to the eradication of Israel and the Jewish people. They have no interest in peace, nor are they committed to the well-being of the Palestinian people. Most of the world agreed with Israel’s declaration that Hamas must be eliminated.

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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.

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November 22, 2023 by Sandy Webb

“The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away” might work for God, but congregational leaders need to give something new whenever they take away something old.

Church of the Holy Communion recently started receiving concerning reports about the health of the iconic tree in our memorial garden – the tree under which we have buried people’s ashes for decades. (Dealing with this tree was one of several things that I had hoped to make The Next Rector’s Problem, but that I have had to address more urgently!)

Recognizing its obligation to ensure the physical safety of our campus, the vestry knew that it had no choice but to begin planning for the tree’s removal. But, the vestry also knew that taking down this particular tree and grinding its stump would be a painful sight for the families with loved ones buried in that area. So, we asked ourselves: If the tree has to go, what can we put in its place? If we have to take, what can we give? If we have to know the grief of loss, how can we also know the joy of resurrection?

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October 26, 2023 by Greg Syler

I’m intentionally borrowing one of Peter Steinke’s titles, even though this is just a blog post and not Steinke’s really solid book. Actually, I’m only thinking about the cover image on his book, A Door Set Open. There’s this absolutely captivating picture, taken from inside a church, down near the floor level, looking out through the ‘west’ doors. The doors in this case are set wide open, and we can see outside from the perspective of the floor and the pews the blurred images of trees and a landscape.

This may be the most rudimentary blog post on hospitality ever written, as it’s so simple. Here’s the point: Open the doors of your church. Open them wide. Leave them open whenever you’re inside. Leave them open the entire time. And figure out the dynamics of heating and cooling and securing the space otherwise.

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October 19, 2023 by Lauren Grubaugh Thomas

What is it like to be in a multiethnic, multicultural marriage and raising multiethnic, multicultural children who may want to go to TEC.

The first time I visited an Episcopal parish, the sound of spirituals filled the nave, the sermon lifted up the healing ministry of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on the occasion of his birthday, and a Black woman celebrated Eucharist with fierce tenderness. I was delighted. Here was a community that cared about professing and embodying racial justice, a church in which I could be in mutually supportive relationship as together we sought to live into shared values of spiritual transformation and social change. I felt hopeful and at home.

A couple years later, I was in my second year of seminary and just beginning the discernment process at that parish, when I met my husband. Unlike me, he was raised in liturgical churches, (Mar Thoma and Methodist) and has attended Episcopal parishes since college. While he is the more seasoned Episcopalian, he has, much more frequently than I, been made to feel like an outsider in this church. He has often been dealt the stereotype of the forever foreigner in Episcopal contexts. Upon meeting him, the first question many ask is, “Where are you from?” with, “So, were you raised Christian?” commonly following close behind.

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September 7, 2023 by Sandy Webb

A few years into my priesthood, I began to realize how little I knew about the professional lives of my parishioners. Parishioners with flexible professional schedules often came to meet with me at the church building, but I hardly ever went to their offices or workplaces. I had a little more visibility on the work lives of parishioners who donated their professional services to the church, but even that didn’t feel complete or authentic.

So, I started asking people to invite me to visit them on the job, and “Take Your Priest to Work Day” was born. So far, I have visited a farm, a soap factory, a flight simulator, a grain elevator, a cotton gin, an Army Corps of Engineers construction project, and several other places. I have even petted a possum at our local nature center.

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July 26, 2023 by Ken Mosesian

On my birthday, I took our Boxer, Dustin, to the vet because he had a bad cough that had persisted for a day. He hadn’t slept the night before, wandering the house rather aimlessly. This was not in any way keeping with his usual sleep habits that we had grown accustomed to over the past 10 years.

We live in the desert, and our first thought was Valley Fever, a common illness among dogs. I left Dustin at the vet for his exam, and when I went back to pick him up, the look on the vet’s face said it all: something was terribly wrong.

His chest cavity was filled with 400 milliliters of fluid. Worse still, there were spots on his lungs that were indicative of cancer. The doctor said that it would not be inappropriate to ask him to put Dustin to sleep.

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July 3, 2023 by Alan Bentrup

If you're like me, you feel like you're running around all day, every day. I wake up at 4:15am nearly every day, and then it's work and school and sports practices and cooking and housework and everything else that comes with life.

So this past week on vacation I've been learning to waste time. And if I'm right that your busyness often resembles mine, you might need some help in that area, too. Wasting time this week has helped me reorient my sense of self, build and deepen connection with loved ones, and renew my relationship with God.

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June 28, 2023 by Westley Art Hodges

My name is Westley Art Hodges, my pronouns are he/they, and I am the Director of Music Ministries at St. Mark's Episcopal Church in Evanston, IL. I am honored to be asked to share my experience as a queer person in our church.

I found the Episcopal Church when I was 22. I found the Episcopal Church out of desperation, which with queer folx, seems to be a common theme. My 22nd year of life was a big year for me and my identity, or should I say—owning my identity. In June of 2007, I had just been fired from my third position as Director of Music in a Baptist Church in South Mississippi. Now I have your attention!

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June 22, 2023 by Jenn Pilat

Anyone involved in ministry, either as clergy or as a dedicated lay volunteer, knows that work in the church can inexplicably be joy-filled and spiritual yet exhausting and overwhelming - all in the same breath. We often experience work like Jesus’s parable of the Sower (Luke 8, Matthew 13). Some of our work is fruitful right away but dies quickly. Other work gets trampled on or eaten by birds…proverbially. Other work still falls on deaf ears or dies in committee. But, real growth happens in the darkness and stillness of night, when the good seed, planted in ripe soil, has a chance to take root and grow, to absorb water and nutrients and, when the time is right, break out into the sunlight.

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June 21, 2023 by Donald Romanik

I had the privilege of participating in a pilgrimage to the Holy Land sponsored by St. Bartholomew’s Church in New York City – May 17 – 27, 2023. I also had the pleasure of sharing this powerful experience with my son David who is the rector of the Church of the Heavenly Rest in Abilene, TX. There were 24 of us on this trip led by Bishop Dean Wolfe, Rector of St. Bart’s and our local tour guides, Canon Iyad Qumri and Rami Qumri. Iyad and Rami are Palestinian Christians with an extensive background and knowledge about the history, culture, geography, architecture, and politics of one of the most sacred and volatile places on earth. In addition to their knowledge and experience, Iyad and Rami also shared their personal stories and struggles of what it means to be Palestinian living in the modern state of Israel. We learned that the number of Christians in the Holy Land has declined precipitously over the last several years representing only about 2 percent of the total population. Many Palestinian Christians have left the area because of the political turmoil and the unrelenting restrictions on their personal liberties.

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June 13, 2023 by Michael Carney

We all know how hard it can be to say goodbye. I remember a time when our three grandkids and their families were all together. It was a pretty big deal, since we live in different states. When the time came to leave, the youngest one had disappeared. We found him hiding in the back yard—he just couldn’t bear to say goodbye to his cousins.

Jesus had a hard time saying goodbye on the last evening he spent with his dearest friends. He surprised them by washing their feet, and then they shared a leisurely meal. Afterwards, Jesus told them the sad truth: “Little children, I am with you only a little longer.” (John 13:33) As a parting gift, he gave them a New Commandment: to love each other. “Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.”

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May 25, 2023 by Michael Carney

All sorts of people appreciate Jesus as a healer, or for his remarkable teachings, or as the founder of a movement which swept the world. The story of the baby King born in a stable is widely loved and celebrated. But putting Jesus alongside the Creator and the Spirit can sometimes seem like a stretch. How can we express what we know to be true, that Jesus really is our Savior?

The simple answer comes from a children’s song: “Yes, Jesus loves me, the Bible tells me so.” Many folks won’t be satisfied with that, but I’m most concerned about the people whose lives are a struggle, with darkness and demons dragging them down. I’m searching for something stronger than comforting words, a visible witness to our faith, a message that makes a difference in their lives.

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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.

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