July 2023
Reimagining Assets

Positioning Local Faith Communities in a Post-Pandemic World

Amid signs of change and decline, church communities sometimes struggle to think in terms of God’s grace and abundance. We look at what we have lost, at what we once were, and mourn for the future we cannot envision, our hearts caught up with regrets. If only we had . . . If only people would . . . If only things were like they used to be.

In the video conversation below, Bishop Bonnie Perry from the Episcopal Diocese of Michigan, and the Rev. Anthony Estes, of the Detroit Church Partnership, encourage us instead to explore the powerful what-ifs of where we find ourselves here and now.

Yes, historical identity is important and underpins a community’s sense of itself. Of course we want to honor who we have been. But we cannot afford to dwell in what Bonnie calls “the paralyzing anesthesia of nostalgia.” Rather, she says, we need to leverage hope into action by discerning what amazing things we are called to do now with the gifts God has given us. Or, as Anthony says, to “start anticipating the changes that God is calling us to make and thinking strategically about that.”

Strategic thinking is faithful thinking. It teaches us to recognize our strengths, notice others’ needs, and open ourselves to being transformed by the intersection of the gospel, our church, and our community. The reality is that times are changing. We must give ourselves permission to make the necessary adjustments, and the grace to say, “Well, that didn’t work. Now what?”

“You have been empowered by the Holy Spirit to do what you can do. And if we can just organize that and coordinate that, . . . we have so much more to offer our city.” – The Rev. Anthony Estes

The Rt. Rev. Dr. Bonnie A. Perry, the first female and first lesbian to be elected bishop in the Diocese of Michigan, holds an M.Div. from Union Theological Seminary and a D.Min. from Seabury Western Theological Seminary, specializing in congregational development. Bonnie comes from a Marine family and has lived in California, Hawaii, Virginia, Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, and Chicago, where she served as a parish priest for 27 years. In addition to her work for the Church, she is an internationally recognized sea kayak coach and guide and a frequent contributor to HuffPost. Bonnie lives in Detroit with her spouse, the Rev. Dr. M. Susan Harlow, who is a pastor in the United Church of Christ, and their two dogs, Tali and Owen.

The Rev. Anthony Estes holds an M.Div. from Emory University and was ordained as deacon (December 2018) and priest (June 2019) at the Cathedral Church of St. Paul in his native city, Detroit. Anthony now serves The Detroit Church Partnership, acting as Rector of All Saints Episcopal Church; Rector of St. Matthew’s and St. Joseph’s Episcopal Church; and Associate and Partnership Missioner at the cathedral. He also volunteers as a chaplain in the Detroit Police Chaplain Corps. Anthony is married to Brittany, and they cherish their son Jeremiah in loving memory.


This article is part of the July 2023 Vestry Papers issue on Reimagining Assets