This month we offer resources for the upcoming season of Lent. In addition to resources from ECFVP, below you will find five resources from around the Church to help you observe Lent. Please share this digest with new members of your vestry and extend an invitation to subscribe to ECF Vital Practices to receive Vestry Papers, blogs, and the monthly digest.
A few years back a speaker at our clergy conference was discussing the church’s experience after 9/11. He showed diagrams documenting that attendance jumped immediately after that disaster, and then drifted back down within three months.
It is too early to be sure, and much harder to measure, but there are many reports of on-line participation being much higher than historical in-person attendance when COVID first began, and now is drifting back down.
Our conference speaker concluded that people were not actually interested. I went up during a break and offered the alternative explanation that people entered church looking for something, but did not find it, so left. (He never responded or discussed that possibility.)
What’s our response as Christians – individually and collectively – when we find ourselves in the midst of a storm?My God, why is this happening to me? God is testing me: I’m going to suit up for battle. What a storm! I’m going to grab my surfboard and ride the wave.
We’ve all been in a constant state of multiple unexpected changes since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Work closures, sickness, death, vaccines and boosters, viral variants, mask wearing, kids home from school, relocations, shortages, travel restrictions, and lockdowns have become a regular part of our daily existence.
This will be the least romantic St. Valentine’s Day essay you will ever read. That’s because today is not St. Valentine’s Day.
Check your liturgical calendar: The patron saint of lovers, people with epilepsy, and beekeepers was removed from the Roman Catholic calendar of saints in 1969. He does not appear in the Episcopal Church’s calendar either. February 14 is reserved throughout the Catholic and Episcopal world not for the commemoration of St. Valentine, but to honor the blessed memories of Sts. Cyril and Methodius, ninth century missionary bishops to the Slavs whose story should still inspire us today.
I hope you’re reading this blog post after your vestry has finished the 2022 budget. I hope it lands in your email or newsfeed after your 2022 Annual Meeting, and that your church’s finance committee and leadership are already well on their way in this year’s spending / resourcing plan. I hope you stumble upon this post long before anyone in your congregation starts talking about 2023.
Oddly enough, the lull between annual pledge drives, stewardship campaigns, budget setting and Annual Meetings is the perfect time to begin talking about spending and resourcing plans for 2023 (and future years). It’s the perfect time because you can talk freely about budget standards, using this Snapshot of Church Finances. It’s an excellent worksheet prepared by Dan Hotchkiss, senior consultant for the Alban Institute.
It is everywhere on social media:
Got a new car! #blessed
Spending a week in Rome! #blessed
The use of this hashtag has always troubled me. In my experience, the vast majority of people using #blessed are doing so to celebrate some material gain. The not-so-subtle implication is that before getting the new car, spending a week in Rome, or being promoted, they were not blessed. Perhaps worse, until and unless you acquire things or experiences (that frequently seem to involve large sums of money) you are not blessed.
I called a friend when I got the Vestry’s financial offer: “I’m expensive,” I said. And I was.
That was years ago, starting my first position as rector. I was taking a pay cut from my curate’s salary at the time, but the benefit of a rectory and related cost savings made it more like a compensation increase.
Clergy are expensive. There is a real cost to our current, at least inherited clergy model in The Episcopal Church. This cost is a lot to bear for many local congregations. The model of a full-time, residential clergyperson includes salary / stipend, plus Episcopal Church Medical Trust health insurance, then pension, SECA, and reimbursements.
Say what you want about the model as I defined it. I promise I’ll come back to that.