July 29, 2021 by Hunter Ruffin

It’s a familiar narrative in The Episcopal Church these days: the attendance numbers are shrinking, the children are fewer in number, and the people in the parish want to do something (anything!) to reverse the trend. The question that almost always looms large at the start of any such process is simple and, in its own way, profound: Where do we begin?

I entered a narrative similar to this when I accepted the call to serve as the next rector at Church of the Epiphany in Tempe, Arizona. In fifteen years’ time, the parish dwindled from an average Sunday attendance of 353 to an average Sunday attendance of 182 prior to the pandemic. It was clear that things were not going in the direction that any parish wants to see. It was abundantly clear that we needed to do something, but it was less clear what that something was.

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July 28, 2021 by Julia E. Heard

As we begin to really examine the implications and possibilities surrounding the continuation of Virtual Worship (VW) within The Episcopal Church (TEC), there are several significant aspects to such a proposal that bear our attention: logistics, standardizations, and theology, to name a few. Logistical planning is not one of my special skills, and standardization requires far more authority than I possess, so I’m going to stay in my lane and look at the theological basis for the sacraments and explore the possibility of their translation within a virtual setting.

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Topics: Worship
July 28, 2021 by Reed Carlson

Every month ECFVP offers resources on a theme. This month we've asked 2015 ECF Fellow the Rev. Dr. Reed Carlson to choose five resources from Vital Practices to highlight. Please share this email with new members of your vestry and extend an invitation to subscribe to ECF Vital Practices to receive Vestry Papers and this monthly digest.

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July 19, 2021 by Lisa G. Fischbeck

The pondside concert featured a folk duo, “The Chatham Rabbits.” It was the last of their Covidtide “Stay At Home Tour” that started in May 2020, when their regular shows were cancelled. They realized they could keep things going and lift the spirits of others by singing from their van in cul-de-sacs and neighborhoods across the county. And pass a tip jar.

For The Church of the Advocate, the concert served as part of our gradual return to in-person gatherings. We could be outside without masks. We could even sing! The evening also provided an opportunity for folks to invite guests, and many did. My own household invited my daughter’s godparents, including her godfather, whose accelerating dementia increasingly limits his activities to the memory care and assisted living building where he now lives. He gets easily confused, can’t keep his thoughts straight, and his steps are unsteady. Nonetheless, his wife thought a relatively small outdoor concert might work well. It did.

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July 9, 2021 by Annette Buchanan

As many cautiously return to church with the loosening of strict pandemic guidelines, church leaders are also facing the issue of congregants being reluctant to return to church.

As with the national conversation on employees refusing to go back to work the knee-jerk reaction is that people are lazy and prefer to stay at home in their pajamas.

Just as the secular world is examining the issues of reluctance so should the church.

Here are a few observations on reluctance:

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Topics: Worship
July 7, 2021 by Tim Schenck

In all the excitement of regathering, the lack of people signing up to usher barely registers. A few Sundays later, during the prelude, someone asks why the candles aren’t lit on the altar. Suddenly you begin to recognize what’s happening: the church is experiencing a volunteer deficit.

This makes sense after 62 weeks of exclusively online worship. Some have gotten out of the habit of volunteering for various church ministries; others haven’t yet returned; still others may never return.

The reality is that parish ministry will look different in the coming months and even years in ways we have not yet fully realized. Yet this moment offers us an opportunity for a ministry reset, a chance to determine what is essential and, equally importantly, what is not.

What follows are some thoughts on how to proactively address this moment in ministry.

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July 6, 2021 by Nicole Foster

I don't like to wait. As a matter of fact, I think I’m one of the most impatient people on Earth. Yet I know that I'm not alone in this. Many people don’t like to wait or slow down. Being productive is to be successful to many people. This drive to be productive is often so strong, that when some of us accomplish something notable, we feel pressed to come up with what’s next.

I’m working hard not to feel this way. Lately I’ve been getting a lot of messages that go something like this: “So Nicole, now that you’re finished with school, what’s next?” These messages are sent by well-meaning, loving people who are excited about my future and the possibilities ahead, and I am too. However, as I venture on, I am starting to wonder if it’s the will of God for us to come up with what’s next for our lives.

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