February 14, 2024 by Haley Bankey

Most people dislike change. It can be hard work, stopping an old habit and starting another. It’s especially hard for an institution or a system to change – a group of people all have to go through the process together.

Church leaders often see a need for a change, whether it's moving the time of a worship service, ending a beloved but no longer needed ministry, or something as big as moving to a new leadership model, but the congregational system doesn't always allow the change to take place.

The best changes happen because we’re watching to discover what God is up to, and partnering in the work God is already doing.

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November 9, 2023 by Sandy Webb

A nationwide increase in violent crime has most congregations asking questions about the security of our buildings and the physical safety of the people in them. We are all struggling to balance our commitment to openness with our obligation to keep everyone safe.

The following questions have been useful guideposts for me as our congregation has sought to be wise as serpents and innocent as doves…

What are the objective risks that we face?

Fear overwhelms objectivity. When we are afraid, we can lose the capacity to assess our situation objectively and the worst-case scenario can start to seem like the most likely outcome. A church shooting anywhere can make us feel like there will be church shootings everywhere. A vehicle break-in can make us feel like no vehicle is ever safe.

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July 20, 2023 by Ken Mosesian

In March of 2020, as businesses, churches, and schools began to close, and we started to grasp the gravity of the COVID-19 pandemic, our former Rector answered the call to become a Bishop in another diocese.

The grand celebration that we had planned to thank him for his 11 years of service to our parish was scrapped. On his final Sunday, after the 11 AM Mass, there were elbow bumps instead of hugs, tears of sorrow and fear instead of joy, and a sense that something ominous was descending on us.

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July 19, 2023 by Bruce Adams

At first glance, parishes and banks look as different as apples and oranges. Upon a closer look, however, the differences run far deeper than superficial appearances. One institution is a collective — a cooperative—in which individuals pool their treasure, time, and talents to create a social and spiritual community that serves its members and their communities in their search for a deeper relationship with God. The other is a bank. A bank lends money for the purpose of making profit for profit’s sake. The very mission of the bank is to concentrate community wealth in its investors’ hands. Its corporate vision is to grow larger so it can lend more and concentrate more wealth. This is not to say all banks are bad, or that none of them maintain a deep commitment to their communities. But make no mistake, the bank serves the dollar above all else and worships profit.

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June 16, 2023 by Anahi Galante

I was recently asked, “Are you fully out in the church?” This prompted me to recall the series of church events, which thrust my coming-out experiences.

Coming out is an everyday experience in the world and in the church. I came out in my early 40s in response to a call for an LGBT (we didn’t have the “Q” yet) ministry in my first parish, Grace Church Van Vorst (GCVV) in Jersey City. It was 1998 and the Rector issued an invitation to the lay leaders of our congregation to initiate outreach to the LGBT community. He added, “it would be wonderful if that person is also a member of the LGBT community.” I got up and without missing a beat said, “I am, and I will do it.” All jaw bones dropped and the rest is history.

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Topics: Change, Diversity
June 16, 2023 by Anahi Galante

Hace poco me preguntaron: "¿Has salido tu totalmente del armario en la iglesia?". Esto me llevó a recordar la serie de acontecimientos en la iglesia que impulsaron mis experiencias de salida del armario.

Salir del armario es una experiencia cotidiana en el mundo y en la iglesia. Salí del armario a los 40 años de edad en respuesta a un llamado para desarrollar y establecer un ministerio LGBT (todavía no teníamos la "Q") en mi primera parroquia, Grace Church Van Vorst (GCVV) en Jersey City. En 1998 el rector invitó a los líderes laicos de nuestra feligresía para que iniciaramos un alcance a la comunidad LGBT. Dijo además: "sería maravilloso que esa persona fuera también miembro de la comunidad LGBT". Me levanté y sin perder un segundo dije: "Yo lo soy y yo lo haré". Todos se quedaron boquiabiertos y el resto es historia.

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Topics: Diversity, Change
January 17, 2023 by Lisa G. Fischbeck

I believe God speaks to us in confluences. When people from diverse places and backgrounds come to similar conclusions on how a problem might be solved, I listen. When the burdens of a diversity of problems might be lightened by a single program or project, I pay attention to the possibilities.

Three years since COVID rocked our ecclesial equilibrium across the United States, a new confluence is emerging. Many cities and towns are experiencing an affordable housing crisis and a growing homeless population. A tiny homes movement is causing local governments to rework housing codes and permitting processes. At the same time, fewer people are involved in church, and fewer still are attending in person on Sunday mornings. Many parking lots that once were packed with cars now have easy access. Congregations are re-thinking mission in the community, considering anew how God might be calling them to share the resources they have, and realizing resources they had not considered before. Notably land.

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December 15, 2022 by Sandy Webb

We have all encountered peculiar churches. In fact, we have been seeing a lot of them lately and we need to see more.

The two churches that were featured in the state funeral of Queen Elizabeth II, Westminster Abbey in London and St. George’s Chapel at Windsor, are literally peculiar - royal peculiars. They have been carved out of the jurisdiction of their local diocesan bishops and placed under the direct authority of the sovereign, who oversees them in her or his capacity as the supreme governor of the Church of England.

How delightfully British. Or is it?

You may be surprised to learn that we have at least one peculiar here in the United States, albeit not a royal one. On the first floor of the Episcopal Church Center in New York City, our Presiding Bishop’s headquarters, you will find the Chapel of Christ the Lord. In its sacristy hangs two certificates from 1963 that serve to carve that little chapel out of the Diocese of New York and transfer it to the direct authority of the Presiding Bishop.

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Topics: Change, Leadership
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
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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June 24, 2022 by Catherine Thompson

When I arrived as the rector of the Episcopal Church of the Annunciation in 2014, there was one topic on the hearts and minds of many of the members. The original sanctuary built in 1970, which was converted into the Parish Hall in the early 1990s, was no longer meeting the needs of the congregation. It is too small to hold all of us at one time; we need a more functional kitchen both for our preschool and the church; and we want to add showers and laundry facilities, so it could serve as an emergency shelter when we experience extreme temperatures. Despite these identified needs, I kept coming back to the fact that it would be labor intensive and expensive, only to see the space stand empty most of the week.

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June 15, 2022 by Cathy Hornberger

This month we offer five resources on visioning. 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.

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June 6, 2022 by Ken Howard

As you may know, FaithX is working with TryTank in a "proof-of-concept" experiment called Episcopal Pulse, the purpose of which is to keep a finger on the pulse of The Episcopal Church through weekly, rapid-response micro-surveys.

Our most recent micro-survey (#16), completed last Friday, asked this question:

In what areas of congregational life have you found hidden opportunities in the disruption caused by the pandemic?

Results:

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May 27, 2022 by Michael Carney

Jesus came to earth to live among us with his heart wide open. He came to love, because “God is love” (1 John 4:8) and “the Father and I are one.” (John 10:30) At the Last Supper he told his friends that “everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

Living so fully in love led to Jesus’ heart being broken, over and over. He saw children going hungry and elders being neglected. He saw people with disabilities banished from their communities and so-called “outsiders” demonized. He saw systems of power supported by violence, making a few people rich at the expense of many others. He knew that none of this was God’s will, and it broke his heart.

Jesus called his disciples to “be my witnesses…to the ends of the earth.” (Acts of the Apostles 1:8) That means that we, individually and as communities, should love as Jesus did. It means that when children in school or elders in a food store are gunned down by an assault rifle, our hearts will be broken. Again… and again… and again.

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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).

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May 12, 2022 by Linda Buskirk

What does it take for a community of faith to see itself in a new way, or to believe that its neighbors could find value inside old red doors?

Episcopal churches in Indiana, small and large, are finding that it takes a type of boldness rooted in knowledge of the good they have to offer: Good mission, good faith, and good space. Self-awareness about these assets is being awakened through the Church Buildings for Collaborative Partnerships project (CBCP).

Funded by a Thriving Congregations grant from Lilly Endowment, CBCP is underway through a partnership with the Episcopal dioceses of Indianapolis and Northern Indiana, along with two other organizations: Partners for Sacred Places and Indiana Landmarks. All 82 Episcopal faith communities in Indiana have the opportunity to participate, each with a team of three to seven clergy and lay leaders.

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May 9, 2022 by Annette Buchanan

Congregations within the Episcopal Church tend to be loners. We seldom interface with our neighboring Episcopal churches and are often detached from our diocese. While we celebrate similar milestones and struggle with the same challenges, it is rare for congregations to collaborate continuously for ministry.

In 2015, a collaborative ministry was formed within the Diocese of New Jersey to address the challenges and the unique needs of the ten historically Black congregations. The members of this ministry include clergy and lay leaders from these congregations and a Diocesan staff liaison. This ministry was named the Commission on Black Ministry (COBM).

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May 3, 2022 by Sandy Webb

“This can be the next rector’s problem,” I said to myself.

A silk dossal curtain hung behind the altar at Church of the Holy Communion in Memphis. It measured almost twenty feet tall and fourteen feet wide – a royal blue damask field with gold bands and appliqued image of the ascending Christ. Wippell made the curtain for us in the early 1950s, shortly after Holy Communion moved to its current site. The dossal presided over every Eucharist, offered hope at every funeral, and appeared in every wedding and graduation picture for three generations. But, it had begun to show its age: The fabric was threadbare and the porcelain tone of Jesus’ skin reflected the artistic sensibilities of a former age.

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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.

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April 5, 2022 by Sandy Webb

The Episcopal Church needs to ask bigger questions.

Pastoral training has long taught us to look for the bigger questions: Is this person really upset about the color of the new carpet or does this person feel that too much is changing too quickly? Is this person really angry about last week’s sermon or is there something going on at home?

We are more effective pastors when we identify underlying issues and address them directly. The same principle applies when we take our place in the councils of the church: If we ask the bigger questions, we will get better results.

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