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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May 13, 2022 by Carsten Sierck

Do you believe in the mission and work of your church? Would you like to help your church ensure that it can serve people for years to come? If you answered yes, then you believe in the benefits of an endowment. An endowment provides financial support that can impact your community far into the future. It can build the vitality of your church and create stronger bonds with your surrounding community through the ministries your church creates and supports.

If your church wants to discuss if this is the right time to start an endowment, contact ECF’s Endowment Management program at endowment@ecf.org

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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 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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August 18, 2021 by Cathy Hornberger

This month we offer five resources on sharing your harvest with your community. 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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February 10, 2020 by Linda Buskirk

“What were they thinking?” is often the head-shaking lament of congregational leaders surveying the obstacles inherited from architects and renovators in previous decades. Up three steps to get to the nave, down a flight to reach the fellowship hall, through a narrow hallway to get to a restroom with even narrower stalls.

Recognizing these barriers, many churches really, really try to make changes to increase accessibility. For most of us, our first thoughts are of stairs and restrooms, but there is so much more.

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October 31, 2019 by Greg Syler

Oliver J. Hart, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania from 1943 to 1963, confessed his struggles at one time with integrating churches in the Philadelphia area, telling The Philadelphia Bulletin: “It’s not just a question of Negro and white. It’s a problem of people moving from one place to another. If you could just put your churches on wheels, it would be much easier.” (Quoted in D. Contosta, This Far by Faith)

It’s a cute idea – churches on wheels. It’s also a compelling question. I wonder if we could at least find a way to put our buildings and received assets on foundations which are significantly easier to shift when, invariably, neighborhood demographics shift. One real asset of The Episcopal Church is our buildings. We have a lot of buildings – parish halls, rectories, other houses, chapels and churches. It may be that we have too many buildings, and too many aging, expensive buildings, at that, but we are quite rich in the asset-holding sector!

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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 25, 2019 by Jerry Campbell

St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Medford, Oregon, will dedicate their new parish center on Saturday, July 27. This new building will welcome all who see it, day or night, with an accessible drop-off area leading to an elevated courtyard. From there, visitors will access the church entry, relocated parish offices, or the new Parish Center. Inside the facility, an elevator to all floors, clear signage, and flexible space will improve the experience for everyone, whether they are a child in Sunday School, a mid-week volunteer, or a member of the community visiting us for a meal.

St. Mark’s has been working toward this occasion for many years, and the Capital Campaign was just the final piece of a complex puzzle that made this day possible. Vision, planning, saving, investing, risking…all played major roles in leading up to this day.

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July 18, 2019 by Lisa G. Fischbeck

The resident in the church house was getting tired of cleaning up the mess left behind by field mice in the kitchen. She also wanted some company. So she asked if the church might get a cat. The altar guild was having similar challenges with mouse detritus in the sacristy and was ready to support the idea. With the altar guild on board, the vestry was quick to assent.

The resident and I started visiting the local animal rescue. We knew that any cat we adopted would need to be tolerant of kids, so once we narrowed the possibilities down to two or three, we invited a 5 and 9-year-old from the church to go with us. Each cat was given the kid test for playful interaction and kindness.

The result was Smoke, the Advo-cat.

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June 24, 2019 by Charis Hill

For over thirty years, The Episcopal Church was part of my self and soul. I was baptized as an infant with an Episcopal liturgy in a Methodist Church. I don't know how that happened either.

I’m one of those millennials. Sometimes it feels like we’re THE mystery the church must solve in order to not die. I think there are more important things to discuss, like how to follow Jesus. I used to love this slogan that dominated my childhood and young adult years: "The Episcopal Church Welcomes You." It was true because we said so, no question about it. The statement was dramatic - and innocent - enough to be fallibly infallible, and because we seemed to want to mean it. Years later, I realized I never questioned it because those who weren't universally welcome already knew not to come, and if I didn't see a problem, it didn't exist.

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March 21, 2019 by Lisa G. Fischbeck

After ten years of being a nomadic church, renting space from Sunday by Sunday, we finally had land. It took us three years to raise the money to buy it, three years of anticipation and longing. Then, it was finally ours. Fifteen acres of old farm land on the north end of town, with a pond and a 1960s ranch style house. We were like kids on a playground, discovering the trees, guessing what kind of flowers would bloom from bulbs planted decades before, watching the turtles race. We knew that soon we would also host a chapel. But that was still a ways off. We wanted to do something to celebrate, to claim the land, to ask God’s blessing on it, on us.

So we “beat the bounds.”

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February 18, 2019 by Janet Lombardo

I serve a lovely church on top of a hill in a vacation community. The church is surrounded by lakes, and almost doubles its attendance in the summer. I serve as their part-time interim Rector. The church community has been declining; they have lost two thirds of their members in the last 10 years, and much of their energy has been spent caring for their aging buildings.

There are three buildings on the campus: the church building, the rectory and the parish hall. The church is beautiful. It was built in the 1840’s and is a typical New England white church with red doors, stained glass windows and a steep pitched roof. The church is beloved by the community and has been well cared for. The rectory has not been used as a rectory for decades; it is used mostly for office space and meetings, and is in very poor shape. The parish hall is almost as old as the church, is poorly designed and lacks function. The congregation has talked for years about renovating the parish hall, there are plans that date back to the 1960s, but nothing has been done. These three buildings consume most of their energy.

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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 a 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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December 23, 2017 by Richelle Thompson

The priest’s prayer was unusual: “Please God, don’t let anyone code during the Christmas services.”

A year ago on Christmas Eve, our pianist was a few bars into “Away in a Manger” when he slumped over. No pulse. No respiration. Thankfully the AED—automated external defibrillator—was in the narthex, and people were trained how to use it. The congregation stayed calm and collected as parishioners strapped the AED onto Dale and the electric charge brought Dale’s heart back to life. The children were ushered into the choir room, the font was moved so EMT’s could bring in the stretcher, and people prayed in the pews.

Today, Dale is a healthy, vibrant octogenarian, tickling the ivories at churches across northern Kentucky and southern Ohio.

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December 20, 2017 by Brendon Hunter

This month we’re sharing five of the most popular posts in 2017 on ECF Vital Practices. Help your parish leadership get connected to more great resources by sharing this digest and an invitation to subscribe to ECF Vital Practices to receive Vestry Papers and the monthly digest.

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July 19, 2017 by Brendon Hunter

This month we offer five resources to help your congregation with buildings & grounds. Please share this digest with your parish leadership and extend an invitation to subscribe to ECF Vital Practices.

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May 31, 2017 by Annette Buchanan

The discussions on the use of space in our society can sometimes be controversial, they include debates on whether to designate open spaces for parks or golf-courses, commercial spaces for industrial or retail business or housing for low-income or gated communities.

Likewise in our faith communities there are continuous discussions on how to make the best use of the spaces within our church buildings. For many, the default is to use the church for worship only and hold church committee meetings as necessary. While this internal-use model is simple, functional and more secure it does raise the issue of whether the space is being used optimally.

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March 31, 2017 by Annette Buchanan

We are all aware of the need to have our church buildings be accessible. Federal and state regulations mandate the physical requirements for access. Our Welcoming Forums from years past highlighted the importance of this issue. However, many of our churches are still not in full compliance for physical accessibility. Most have ramps, some have accessible bathrooms, but movement from one floor to another is still an issue. I recently attended a breakfast event where the church hall was on the second floor with winding stairs. Chairlifts and elevators are expensive so the required upgrades are often not made. A reminder that there are grants available to assist organizations to become compliant, therefore we need to be more vigilant about seeking these funds. The consequences are the deterrence of persons from attending church and clients from accessing outreach programs.

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January 5, 2017 by Richelle Thompson

Coming to church saves lives.
Literally.

At least it did in our congregation on Christmas Eve.

If you read only one blog, read this. If you’re going to follow the advice of only one best-practices column, let it be this one.

It’s a lifesaver.

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