February 28, 2018 by Richelle Thompson

I’ll be the first to admit: I don’t always want to start our leadership meetings with Bible study.

For the past two years, we have begun our weekly meetings with Bible study, first reading through Exodus and now the Gospel of Luke in conjunction with the Good Book Club. Sometimes I get to the meeting, harried and stressed with an overflowing to-do list, and I just want to get down to business.

And then somewhere in the midst of the scripture reading or the discussion with my colleagues, I am reminded that reading and exploring God’s Word is the foundation of our business as an organization committed to serving the wider church. If I can’t make Bible study a priority, then all else will suffer.

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February 27, 2018 by Annette Buchanan

We are now in the season of Lent. As the Book of Common Prayer reminds us in the Ash Wednesday service:

… I invite you, therefore, in the name of the Church, to the observance of a holy Lent, by self-examination and repentance; by prayer, fasting, and self-denial; and by reading and meditating on God's holy Word. And, to make a right beginning of repentance, and as a mark of our mortal nature …

Many of us make genuine efforts to follow the practices suggested for Lent but in our humanness many times fall short. I especially remember one story where a parishioner fell in the parking lot of the local bakery right after the Good Friday Service in her haste to buy the cake she had given up for Lent. Though our efforts are not always successful I believe they are certainly worthwhile.

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Topics: Change, Discernment
February 24, 2018 by Anna Olson

Luke and Acts are thought to have been written primarily for a Gentile audience. This means that from the very beginning, Luke has a challenge. How does one “set down an orderly account of the events that have been fulfilled among us” when the listening audience does not share a common language of hope and fulfillment? For a Jewish audience, the question, “What are we waiting for?” would have had a fairly clear answer, even if individuals and groups would have argued (and certainly did) over what shape the Messiah’s coming would take.

For a Gentile audience, the question of “What are we waiting for?” is a much tougher one. So Luke starts with hope. For a people who have not imbibed the promises of the Hebrew Scriptures with their mothers’ milk, Luke lays out a number of interlocking statements of hope. In a few chapters, the gospel introduces a whole new people to centuries of shared history and commitment and faithfulness – on the part of both God and the people.

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Topics: Mission, Discernment
February 21, 2018 by Brendon Hunter

This month we offer five resources to help your vestry or other church group have more engaging and productive meetings. Please share this digest with new members of your vestry and extend an invitation to subscribe to ECF Vital Practices to receive Vestry Papers and the monthly digest.

1. The Consent Agenda: More Efficient Meetings
The Consent Agenda: More Efficient Meetings introduces the concept and practice of using a consent agenda and how this makes space for strategic mission and ministry discussions without adding to the length of a meeting.

Topics: Vestry
February 19, 2018 by Richelle Thompson

“Your church passed,” the visitor told me.

As part of her ministry, this person visits different church almost every Sunday. Invariably she thinks about the health of the congregation. But she doesn’t use typical parochial report measures—and for that matter, neither do most visitors! Big numbers of people in worship doesn’t automatically merit a passing grade. Neither does an inspirational sermon. She doesn’t count the breadth of announcements for events or the number of heads in the children’s choir.

Nope. One of her key measurements is the cleanliness of the bathroom.

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Topics: Hospitality, Vestry
February 15, 2018 by Linda Buskirk

Reading through Luke this Lent is like sitting with an old friend in front of a fire, reminiscing about people and events that have touched our lives. We smile as we remember the willing Virgin Mary, grateful Elizabeth, awestruck shepherds, spirit-filled Simeon and Anna, and on and on.

Luke’s story full of stories provides ideas for how to communicate to and about our congregations. Newsletters, annual reports, bulletin boards, Facebook posts, can be transformed from the basic “who, what, when and where” to creative reflections that people will enjoy writing/creating, and other people will actually want to read/view.

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Topics: Communications
February 12, 2018 by Alan Bentrup

The last Blockbuster in Texas has closed. Which got me thinking (reminiscing) about the Friday nights of my childhood.

I remember it was a madhouse! I saw people get in a fistfight over the last movie rental (My pick was usually Rad - don’t judge me!), and children (maybe it was me…) throwing a tantrum until their parents bought them the overpriced candy so prominently put on display at eye level for them.

But then came the late 2000s.

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Topics: Mission
February 6, 2018 by Annette Buchanan

Gifts and memorials from departed church members are not a popular topic that gets discussed in our congregations. As a society and as individuals we have an aversion to discussing and planning for our own death and those of our loved ones. However, given the demographics of our congregations, much of our clergy’s time is spent doing frequent funerals. Also as individuals we are often unprepared and are making major decisions during our bereavement or illness which is not optimal. Not only do we miss the presence and talents of our departed members but also their financial contributions which helps to maintain the ministry of our churches.

We do need to reintroduce the topic of Gifts and Memorials for the church leadership and congregation, a few ideas to consider include:

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Topics: Planned Giving
February 2, 2018 by Alan Bentrup

My mom was a school principal. My wife is Head of Lower School at St. Thomas’ Episcopal School in Houston. One of my sisters is a high school math teacher, and the other is an elementary school counselor.

Needless to say, we talk about education a lot in my family.

And we in the Episcopal Church have been talking about it quite a bit these past two weeks. First, All Our Children held their National Symposium in Columbia, S.C. All Our Children started as a joint initiative of Trinity Wall Street and the Episcopal Diocese of New York in response to educational inequality in New York City’s public schools. The nationwide organization now champions “every child’s right to a quality public education by building community, creating partnership, and advocating for justice.”

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Topics: Outreach, Mission