June 9, 2014


For the past four or five years, my church, St. Lydia’s, has worshipped around dinner tables in a Lutheran church, an Episcopal parish hall, a congregant's house, and rented space in a Zen Center. Soon we’ll be moving into our own storefront.

Our liturgy combines liturgy and a meal, and this model both attracts people and presents some challenges. Over the past year or two we've had to ask ourselves some questions, including: How many people can fit around our dinner tables? How can our small, relatively young congregation support itself, a staff, and pay for meals?

This has required some creative thinking in order to achieve financial sustainability.

With our new space, we’re looking into co-working – allowing freelancers and others who would work from home to use the space on weekdays – that will help us cover our expenses.

We’ve found an empty storefront, so we’re currently raising money to install a kitchen. This has also required creative thinking about funding.

We’ve done a capital campaign with congregants and reached out to others who are interested in supporting our church. We’re also doing an IndieGoGo campaign (which is similar to Kickstarter). This provides infrastructure for people to donate, as well as helps to get the word out to people beyond the worshipping community, making it easy to give donations both large and small.

I confess that I’m writing this partly because I want to get the word out about St. Lydia’s, a community that I care about deeply (as you probably know if you’ve ever read my writing here on ECF Vital Practices). I also believe that St. Lydia’s provides a model of what church can look like that is both liturgical and local, new but deeply connected to church tradition, and appealing to cradle Episcopalians and people who are unchurched alike.

As the church finds new ways to grow and be the church, and as we continue to feel the effects of changing economy and culture, we all may have to think creatively about funding and about how we do church.