November 12, 2015

How Do I Plug in?

It’s a simple question that can have a surprisingly complicated answer.

This year, I’ve decided to devote more time to my parish, particularly to our various outreach ministries. After years of fretting about whether I truly had the time and energy to take on what can sometimes feel like yet another project, I’ve been inspired - indeed, moved by faith - to just dive right in. But now I’m facing the more practical question of just how, exactly, I plug in.

I’m convinced that my experience is not unique in Episcopal congregations. Consider your own parish. Are there obvious ways for an inspired soul to take the few first steps into a deeper life of service? Or to be more specific, does the Sunday bulletin and website list the relevant ministries that people can join? Are there names and contact information associated with these ministries so people can learn more? Will there be opportunities either during the announcements or during a parish ministries fair for parishioners to meet the lay leaders running the program? What other opportunities are there to encourage one-on-one conversations about how individuals can join in and help?

These are all basic questions, of course, but one helpful exercise would be to imagine, step-by-step, the practical pathway for a newcomer to go from inspiration to action.

Thankfully, my own experience has been great. For years now, I’ve had the necessary information about how to join these outreach ministries because the ministries and associated contact information was listed in the bulletin and on the website. Even so, I think it’s telling that my own turning point was a face-to-face conversation I had with the senior warden a few weeks ago. That day, the senior warden was assigned to stand at the back of the parish and try to answer any questions people might have about the church or various ministries going on. As a result of that initial conversation, she has since sent an email introduction on my behalf to the various outreach committee chairs and this has resulted in a chain of emails about how I can get more involved in food pantry ministries. Even better yet, two weeks ago, when it came time to volunteer to help with our parish’s winter homeless shelter, there was a lay leader with a huge signup sheet available to answer any questions after the worship service. As a result, I signed up that very day. 

Church is such an interesting space. As lay people, we go Sunday after Sunday, sit in the pew, and like drips of water smoothing stone, the call to love one another as ourselves works on our hard hearts over time. But such stories of transformation have a practical turning point - on some Sunday, we’re going to want to put our faith into action and will need to know how to plug in. I wonder, in your parish, are there clear ways for doing so? 

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