February 25, 2020 by Greg Syler

More than ten years ago, when many of us were first learning about the ‘nones’ – those Americans and, among them, increasing numbers of young adult Americans who reported they had no religious tradition whatsoever – the Barna Group revealed that an astonishing percentage of young adults say Christians are judgmental. Drilling down in the perceptions of Americans age 16-29, Barna reported: “…Among young non-Christians, nine out of the top 12 perceptions were negative. Common negative perceptions include that present-day Christianity is judgmental (87%), hypocritical (85%), old-fashioned (78%), and too involved in politics (75%) – representing large proportions of young outsiders who attach these negative labels to Christians. The most common favorable perceptions were that Christianity teaches the same basic ideas as other religions (82%), has good values and principles (76%), is friendly (71%), and is a faith they respect (55%).”[1]

[1] “A New Generation Expresses its Skepticism and Frustration with Christianity,” The Barna Group. September 21, 2007. https://www.barna.com/research/a-new-generation-expresses-its-skepticism-and-frustration-with-christianity/

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Topics: Discipleship, Change
February 22, 2020 by Richelle Thompson

The idea was simple: Let’s invite people to read the Bible together every day.

When the Good Book Club began in 2018, we weren’t sure how folks would engage. Organized by Forward Movement, the initiative brought in partner organizations from across the Episcopal Church. Groups prepared free resources for formation and study, everything from podcasts to downloadable Bible studies. That first year, we read through the Gospel of Luke and the Book of Acts. And people responded. By the end of the first session of the Good Book Club, our weekly email list was about 3,800, with an open rate of about 50 percent. To put that into perspective, the national average open rate for emails is 25 percent. Something was stirring.

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February 20, 2020 by Lisa G. Fischbeck

In January I co-led a retreat with actor Erin Dangler for the women of Palmer Memorial Episcopal Church in Houston Texas. Priest and actor, we wove together concepts of church and theater. But we had to start by making clear that acting is not being “fake”. Rather the best acting happens when the actor is able to access her/his/their true self, and is then able to connect that self to the role they have been given.

Erin introduced the gathering to the “actor’s palette”, a concept created by Brian Cranston, which includes life experience, talent, research and preparation, and imagination.

These are the things that an actor brings to any role taken on. Some roles require more research, others require deeper digging into life experiences. Some require a whole lot of imagination.

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February 19, 2020 by Cathy Hornberger

This month we offer five resources on visioning. 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) Have you undertaken a visioning process before and not had much success? In Eight Visioning Mistakes to Avoid, Melissa Rau outlines some common mistakes made by congregations and offers helpful solutions.

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February 18, 2020 by Annette Buchanan

Jesus answered, “This is the work of God: that you believe [adhere to, trust in, rely on, and have faith] in the One whom He has sent. (John 6:28-29 AMP)

As church workers and leaders we are often very busy in our congregations. If not mindful we find the works of the Church spilling into our Sunday worship. For example, the wardens may be tinkering with the heating, the treasurer may be reviewing the weekly finances, the secretary may be opening mail, and volunteers maybe preparing for coffee-hour all while the Service is ongoing.

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February 14, 2020 by Lisa G. Fischbeck

As a new Episcopal Anglican in my early 20s, I consumed all I could find of the writings and interviews of Michael Ramsay, the 100 Archbishop of Canterbury. He was my ecclesiastical and theological hero.

In a late 1970s filmed conversation with then SMU Episcopal chaplain William Millsaps, Ramsay leans in and declares: "John is the Gospel of glory". This conclusion is not unique to Ramsay, of course, but it was his demeaner and accent, and my admiration of him, that brought the phrase home to me. And I quickly determined that John was my favorite Gospel of all.

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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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February 6, 2020 by Annette Buchanan

Well-functioning vestries are critical for healthy, vibrant congregations. Whether the issues are financial, building maintenance or clergy related, unfortunately many vestries are unprepared for their role. There are vestries that are not informed, others overwhelmed and those who are in many ways dysfunctional.

At a recent all day “Vestry Best Practices” retreat, we tackled a few of these issues and shared some practical solutions for moving forward.

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February 3, 2020 by Alan Bentrup

Once again, Episcopalians (and others!) are participating in the Good Book Club. This time, we are reading through the Gospel of John, and this week is mostly John 8. As I read through John 8, I see many themes: sin, forgiveness, death, new life, and more. But again, one overarching theme: Discipleship.

John 8 begins and ends with crowds and stones. It opens with a crowd gathered around a woman caught in adultery and ends with a crowd gathered around Jesus. The crowds saw an adulterous woman and a demon-possessed liar, and the crowds wanted to kill them both.

But Jesus saw something different. In the woman, he saw a child of God. And in himself, he saw the son of God.

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