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!

Continue reading...

October 28, 2019 by Lisa G. Fischbeck

On the Feast of All Saints, November 1, the Church gives us an opportunity to reflect on the faith and witness of those who have died in the faith of the Church. In prayer and song, we remember all the saints, “who from their labors rest.” In traditional practice, The Feast of All Saints is the day we remember the Saints with a capital “S”, those who have been recognized by the Church for their faithful life and death The following day, November 2, is the “Commemoration of all Faithful Departed”, when we are encouraged to remember saints with a small “s”, those who have inspired us personally — parents and godparents, teachers, clergy, mentors, and more.

In many churches, the two remembrances are conflated the following Sunday, in a celebration unofficially called “All Saints Sunday.” While the distinctions between the capital “S” Saints and the small “s” saints may be ecclesiastically significant, pastorally, the blending of the two is inspiring and kind. As the secular world recognizes and adapts the Mexican celebration of the “Day of the Dead” more and more — in schools, public libraries, and homes — we can see that we all, at some level, yearn to remember our ancestors in faith, family, and love.

Continue reading...

October 24, 2019 by Melissa Rau

There once were young parents who decided to find a church family with whom they might raise their family in the faith. Though they’d attend the occasional Christmas and Easter service, they wanted to be more intentional. They committed to attending regularly, and after a little, they began being recognized as regular church attenders. People began to learn their names and that of their little girl. They eventually met with the priest and decided to have their toddler baptized.

As their little girl grew, they began looking forward to when she could participate in Sunday morning formation. It was about that time when they learned they’d become parents to a second child.

Continue reading...

October 23, 2019 by Cathy Hornberger

This month we offer five resources on community outreach. 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. What does a New Orleans magician have in common with the early church? In Street Performers, Strangers, and Community, Alan Bentrup makes the connection that the early church drew people to it by virtue of what that smaller community was doing for the larger community – caring for the poor, feeding the hungry, etc. What could our modern church learn from that experience?

Continue reading...

October 21, 2019 by Greg Syler

A few years ago, I wondered aloud about whether, or when, The Episcopal Church would catch up to a growing phenomenon in Christian churches – multisite church planting and multisite church development. It was something I was reading about, especially because I was at the time serving one Episcopal congregation as rector while making plans to take on a second call with our neighbor church. That call developed and, as I’ve also written about, St. George’s, Valley Lee and Ascension, Lexington Park – two courageous congregations in the Diocese of Washington – have moved from conversations with one another to ‘yoking’ (an informal term for sharing everything, just not becoming one church) to merging.

I wondered a few years’ ago whether The Episcopal Church could borrow some multisite thinking. “We tend to see ourselves as one church,” I wrote, “at least theologically and spiritually as set in the landscape of other denominations. …Can this category apply to Episcopal congregations and communities in our church? And, if so, how? If not, why not?”

Continue reading...

October 17, 2019 by Sarah Townsend Leach

“Stewardship” is a word we hear often in the church, especially beginning at this time of year and ending before Advent. What we in the Episcopal Church often mean when we say “stewardship” is the annual pledge drive conducted each fall, which is designed to secure financial commitments from members to fund the following year’s mission and ministry.

While I was raised in the Episcopal Church hearing this language, and while I still slip into using it myself with my ECF clients and in my own church, I’m here to ask that we please change our ways. In the secular nonprofit world, where I received my fund development education and first ten years of professional experience, the word “stewardship” does not connote asking for money; asking for money is “solicitation.”

Continue reading...

Topics: Stewardship
October 11, 2019 by Jim Murphy

Believe it or not, it’s that time of year again. It’s time to start planning to encourage your donors to make gift before the end of the year! We hope that you have been encouraging giving throughout the year. Even so, many donors discover, due to summer vacations and various other reasons that they have fallen behind on their pledges. The last few months of the year are a great time to send giving statements to your donors as gentle reminders of their previous commitments and to remind them about additional ways to give.

Continue reading...

October 10, 2019 by Richelle Thompson

Sometimes a good idea comes in a pint of ice cream.

I live near Cincinnati where we put chili on our spaghetti and the hand-churned ice cream from Graeter’s reigns supreme. The regional company releases seasonal flavors and earlier this month began selling Elena’s Blueberry Pie. Except Blueberry only had one “e” on the front of the pint. Copy editors facepalm in unison.

I don’t know how many people reviewed the graphics for the pint container, but I suspect a bunch of people signed off. I can only imagine the stomach-dropping moment when the first person realized the company had printed—and already distributed—several thousand containers with a third-grade spelling error.

But here’s where the story takes an interesting turn. Instead of spending tens of thousands of dollars reprinting and replacing all the containers, the company announced that it would donate that same amount to a cancer research nonprofit The Cure Starts Now.

Continue reading...

October 7, 2019 by Linda Buskirk

Pleasant and effective. That is the positive description of the ongoing Stewardship Ministry of St. John’s Episcopal Church in Grand Haven, Michigan.

I wrote about St. John’s personal approach to stewardship in 2018. It started with writing different letters to people of different generations (Why Do You Give to the Church?).

St. John’s Stewardship Chair John Harberts said the experience of communicating differently with different people made their whole task more personal. They took it a big step further, with Stewardship team members committing to stay in touch with a number of parishioners throughout the entire year. (For more details, click here).

Continue reading...

Topics: Stewardship
October 1, 2019 by Lisa G. Fischbeck

From its beginnings, Christians have used metaphor to describe and teach about the Church. Most enduring is Paul’s metaphor of the Church as the Body of Christ, with each Christian a member of that Body. An eye, an ear, a foot, all important and contributing to the life of the whole. Cyprian and Augustine in the early church, and Luther and Calvin in the Reformation, notably referred to the Church as a Mother (to go with God the Father) and as the Bride of Christ. In the 20th century, Robert Farrah Capon wrote of the church as a hat on the head of a mystical body, allowing the mystical body to be located.

Metaphors usually don’t hold up under intense scrutiny. But they can certainly help us to see, to describe, to understand. Given that, and also the many examples of metaphors in the life of the faithful, I propose that to engage in metaphor is a vital practice of the Christian life. Doing so can teach and inspire in circumstances where literal descriptions fail or fall flat.

It is in this vein that I offer the metaphor of the Church as corgi. I refer to the little dog with short legs and cheerful spirit, popular on the internet, in photos, and household decor.

Continue reading...

Topics: Small Churches