March 19, 2024 by Claire Woodley

In the Summer of 1995, I ordered two books that changed how I experience ministry in the parishes, vestries and groups I have worked with. The two books were: Listening Hearts by Suzanne Farnham et al and Rediscovering Our Spiritual Gifts by Charles V. Bryant. I had been well trained in Organizational Development for churches but all too often the presence and power of the Holy Spirit was at best an afterthought, but never a starting place.

I have learned the better part of wisdom is to start with the Holy Spirit, home to both spiritual giftedness and discernment. I use these two practices together to understand spiritual DNA, in the same way people are born with blue or brown eyes, people are born with spiritual gifts such as healing or leadership.

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March 14, 2024 by Demi Prentiss

What is our true purpose?

Reflecting on that 2019 “Vestry Papers” article, Nathan LeRud, dean of Trinity Cathedral, Portland, OR, reckoned, “We are not where we were four years ago.”

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March 12, 2024 by Greg Syler

Assets and liabilities, that’s Accounting 101. Assets generate income or initiative or power, whereas liabilities are those things that cost money and cost energy, focus, attention. Assets and liabilities.

The church’s greatest assets, of course, are the Holy Spirit and God’s people. To have a truly divine inspiration and calling, such that our vision will always exceed our human capacity – making us rely on God’s power, not our own – well, that’s an asset. That’s our primary asset. Clergy and lay leaders are our second greatest asset. If we’re prioritizing assets, The Episcopal Church should not only imagine but hasten to implement a future in which these two assets are lifted up as our greatest strengths. Anything else – everything else, in fact – should be shaped around these.

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March 7, 2024 by Lisa G. Fischbeck

We hear it, even say it, often. Gathered for a church meeting or a meal, maybe at the start of a youth event or a Zoom. The priest or lay leader in charge says something like, “Let’s just have a quick prayer.” Sometimes it is even, “Let’s just have a quick prayer and then we’ll get started.”

It’s usually followed by something ad hoc, a little thanksgiving, perhaps, or a request for God’s presence and guidance. No more than a sentence or two. Maybe three. Then everyone says, “Amen!” and we get on with whatever it is we are there to do.

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Topics: Worship, Change
March 5, 2024 by Demi Prentiss

Long, long ago, my grandfather told me a long-winded joke about the “sins” that various denominations believed would send them to hell. For Episcopalians, it was “using the wrong fork.” Turns out, at least as far as evangelism is concerned, our thinking still seems to run along the same lines.

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February 29, 2024 by Aline Sun
February 22, 2024 by Jacob Sierra

Creating a contact card for your congregation is a simple way to raise awareness among your community. Fr. Dexter Lesieur, Rector at St. Matthias’ Episcopal Church in Devine, TX, shares of his congregation’s engagement with individuals online. His first step? Making a simple contact card with a QR code to take individuals right to St. Matthias’ site!

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February 19, 2024 by Annette Buchanan

As we embark on the season of Lent and that of self-discipline, church leaders may want to consider what an organizational discipline for vestries and congregations would include. The following are offered for consideration.

Membership List – Lent may be a good time to update the congregation’s membership list and face the stark reality. Perhaps if we have not seen the person in 20 years they need to be dropped from the list? These are difficult decisions. Church Inventory – The insurance companies highly recommend that we compile an inventory of the church’s valuables. If one does not exist, consider Lent as a time to put those smartphone cameras to good use and catalog all items. If an inventory already exists, updates would be in order, especially after the generous donation of a used microwave.

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February 14, 2024 by Haley Bankey

Most people dislike change. It can be hard work, stopping an old habit and starting another. It’s especially hard for an institution or a system to change – a group of people all have to go through the process together.

Church leaders often see a need for a change, whether it's moving the time of a worship service, ending a beloved but no longer needed ministry, or something as big as moving to a new leadership model, but the congregational system doesn't always allow the change to take place.

The best changes happen because we’re watching to discover what God is up to, and partnering in the work God is already doing.

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February 13, 2024 by ECFVP Editorial Team

This year, Lent begins with Ash Wednesday on February 14 and ends on Easter Sunday March 31. Lent provides us with the opportunity for self-examination, prayer, fasting and reading the Bible. Below please find a collection of resources for Lent and Easter with ideas to help make good use of this time of reflection.

1. The Episcopal Church invites us to walk with Jesus in his Way of Love and into the experience of transformed life through Life Transformed: The Way of Love in Lent, which includes videos, lesson plans and curricula, bulletin inserts and devotions available in English, Spanish, and French.

2. The United Thank Offering offers Lenten materials with a theme this year of 40 Days of Grateful Presence and a call to giving thanks for the many things in our lives we take for granted. They offer: a daily text message prompt to notice and give thanks for something in your life that you might take for granted; a printable calendar; special materials for children; and a Zoom book group.

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February 8, 2024 by Demi Prentiss

In this new blog series on “Reframing Assets”, we hear how four churches adjusted their thinking about their finances after Covid – reimagining assets, uncovering riches beyond the balance sheet, and charting a new course for ministry. In 2019 these churches shared plans to repurpose assets for ministry. Now, they update us on the critical four years since then, sharing lessons learned, insightful examples, and practical strategies for financial adaptation, asset realignment, and visionary stewardship. Learn how they seek to breathe new life into their community and thrive amidst change.

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January 31, 2024 by Jacob Sierra

You’ve probably heard the familiar grumble in your church or ministry setting “Where have all the young people gone?” Many of us are concerned about the declining interest in Christianity among young adults. In 2022, TryTank Experimental Laboratory and The FaithX Project partnered to test the Episcopal Pulse Pilot, a regular micro-survey. During that pilot, they learned that 8 in 10 Episcopalians surveyed said their congregation had anywhere between 1 and 20% of young adults (age 18-25) in their congregation, while 14% of Episcopalians surveyed said they had none at all.

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January 25, 2024 by Aline Sun

January 24, 2024 by Bill Keslar

The church is a home for God’s people. Just like your personal home, you come and celebrate happy moments, bond together with loved ones through tough times, and create memories to serve a lifetime. To truly care for your home, it's essential to have a solid plan in place for any future improvements, renovations, or emergencies that may arise.

For the Episcopal Church of the Transfiguration in Dallas, TX that plan was supported through two Facility Audits completed by the team at Building Solutions. A Facility Audit is a vital tool for arming church leadership with the knowledge to accurately prepare operating budgets, guide capital campaigns, and direct long-range planning to positively serve its church body through good stewardship of the church home.

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January 11, 2024 by Demi Prentiss

In September 2019, churches were just beginning to recognize the shifts in demographics and culture that became indelibly apparent to, literally, the entire world once the Covid pandemic struck. Nearly four years ago, in a “Vestry Papers” article, ECF featured the innovative strategies some church leaders were discovering to assist in funding ministry and their endowments.

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Topics: Endowments, Finance
December 14, 2023 by Ken Mosesian

This is the third version of this blog that I’ve written. I couldn’t figure out why the first two versions left me feeling uneasy, until I realized that it wasn’t the content, but my underlying fear of publishing something that might come under attack. Social media, and more precisely, how we interact with social media, has trained me to avoid controversy, even if I’m raising legitimate points. The days of social media being a public forum for intelligent conversation are long gone.

The horror of war continues to unfold in the Middle East. The attack on Israel by Hamas was barbaric and shocking. Over 1,200 people were killed, and more than 200 people kidnapped, including toddlers and the elderly. They are a terrorist organization, committed to the eradication of Israel and the Jewish people. They have no interest in peace, nor are they committed to the well-being of the Palestinian people. Most of the world agreed with Israel’s declaration that Hamas must be eliminated.

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December 6, 2023 by Ken Mosesian

Here’s a generalization that I’ve observed to be accurate: we are a distracted people, and we don’t know what to do with ourselves if we don’t have a phone in our hands or a laptop on our knees. (In fact, depending on the age group, between 45 percent and 78 percent of us have our mobile phones in hand while watching TV. Yes, the percentage is the inverse of the age.)

To be fair, we do know what to do: we talk. Anything to avoid silence. Anything to avoid reflection. Anything to avoid self-examination. The cost: our minds never fully come to rest.

I remember when we used to enter the church in silence. If people spoke, they did so in hushed tones. Our attention was drawn to the Altar, and the time before the Eucharist began was used to prepare ourselves to meet Jesus in the forms of bread and wine.

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December 1, 2023 by ECFVP Editorial Team

As we put away the Thanksgiving tablecloths and start looking for Christmas trees, we invite you to take the time to celebrate Advent. Advent can be a wonderful time to pause and reflect on the miracle that is to come. To help you celebrate this season, we’ve gathered fourteen resources below. From all of us at ECF, we pray that your Advent is filled with peace, health and hopeful anticipation.

1. Find Advent and Christmas resources from The Episcopal Church here, including an updated Journeying the Way of Love Advent calendar and curriculum, weekly collects for Advent and Christmas Day, and Advent and Christmas Digital Invitation Kits. Most of their resources are also available in Spanish and French.

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November 29, 2023 by Aline Sun

What are active and passive investing?

The question of active or passive investing – which to use, which is better? – may have begun decades ago but remains a hotly debated topic today. What is active investing? It is an investment method that relies on skilled managers to research and select investments that are expected to generate higher returns than the broader market. By contrast, passive investing seeks simply to replicate a market index, often at low cost, gaining returns comparable to that of the broader market.

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Topics: Finance, Endowments
November 22, 2023 by Sandy Webb

“The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away” might work for God, but congregational leaders need to give something new whenever they take away something old.

Church of the Holy Communion recently started receiving concerning reports about the health of the iconic tree in our memorial garden – the tree under which we have buried people’s ashes for decades. (Dealing with this tree was one of several things that I had hoped to make The Next Rector’s Problem, but that I have had to address more urgently!)

Recognizing its obligation to ensure the physical safety of our campus, the vestry knew that it had no choice but to begin planning for the tree’s removal. But, the vestry also knew that taking down this particular tree and grinding its stump would be a painful sight for the families with loved ones buried in that area. So, we asked ourselves: If the tree has to go, what can we put in its place? If we have to take, what can we give? If we have to know the grief of loss, how can we also know the joy of resurrection?

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