Wednesday, December 20, 2006

The Unspoken Message

This morning on my way to work I passed a church in Manhattan (which will remain unnamed). I was so surprised to see their "Christmas" display. So surprised I took out my camera and captured the image.
In front of this admittedly urban church, six Christmas trees had been placed in holders, and then each one was tethered and locked with paddle lock and chain to the railings on the sides of the church entrance.
Now keep in mind these are small trees (3 feet or less), rather sickly, and not even big enough to fill their stands. Therefore, when the chains were put on, the trees were pulled to the side, making the whole scene sad and pathetic. To make it worse, passers-by constantly throw their trash around the base. While I am certain this was done by a very well meaning and faithful Christian, the message sent was certainly not one of the abundant life and light that Jesus brings to our lives and the world.
For me it raised several points that might be instructive:
  • How often do we in the church continue to do things because we've always done them, and not evaluate whether they still work in today's context? This tree was a perfect example.
  • Are we, who are close to the church, able to "see" what an outsider might see? Or are we blind to the unspoken messages and signals that we send? We might be blind to the way our buildings and worship space look to the outside world, blind to how our practices might be intimidating, or unaware of how we might speak in our own form of Anglican tongue that a visitor might not understand (ex: "Oh, you're visiting us today with your four children? Well when Don, the head usher gets here, you'll find him in the Narthex. He can tell you where the kids will go for Sunday school, but they stay with their parents until after the collect for purity and then leave for their classes, following the crucifer...They'll rejoin you after the Great Amen so keep an eye out for them." This really happened to our family! While I did understand, mostly, I couldn't imagine what I would have thought had it been my first visit to an Episcopal Church.)
  • How do our actions show our priorities and values? When I saw those chained trees, I asked myself, if someone was so desperate that they chose to steal a very small, ugly Christmas tree, would that be such a great loss to the church?

A rant and a rave from this priest, but it comes with the heartfelt prayer that all who strive to be followers of Jesus Christ will make the true message of his love and light known this Christmas and always...S.

Monday, December 18, 2006

FACTs on Growth Released

A press release from the Hartford Seminary:

Worship, Websites, Conflict Affect Growth in Congregations

December 11, 2006 – Contemporary worship, geographic location, a website and the absence of conflict are key factors in why some congregations in America are growing, according to the latest national survey of U.S. faith communities.

The survey, sponsored by the Cooperative Congregational Studies Partnership, found that wanting to grow is not enough. Congregations that grow must plan for growth: “Congregations that developed a plan to recruit members in the last year were much more likely to grow than congregations that had not.”

The survey findings are available in a newly released report, “FACTs on Growth.” The data was taken from the Faith Communities Today 2005 (FACT2005) survey of 884 randomly sampled congregations of all faith traditions in the United States. The survey updates results from a survey taken in 2000, and is the latest in CCSP’s series of trend-tracking national surveys of U.S. congregations.

David A. Roozen, Director of the Cooperative Congregational Studies Partnership and Professor of Religion and Society at Hartford Seminary, said that, “If you are at all interested in research on ‘church’ growth, this brief report is must reading. It tests the continuing salience of long ‘taken for granted’ principles of growth (e.g., location, conservative theology) as well as the more recently proposed (e.g., contemporary worship, spiritual practices and purposefulness).”
“Perhaps most importantly, it suggests several newly emergent dynamics to consider (e.g., the potential for growth in downtown areas and within multi racial/ethnic congregations). It is a helpful and important follow-up to the “Pockets of Vitality” analysis of the ground breaking FACT2000 national survey,” Roozen said.

Among the findings in the new FACTs on Growth report:

  • Congregations that change worship format and style are more likely to grow. More than half the congregations that use contemporary styles of worship have experienced substantial growth since 2000. Frequency is important as well: The more worship services a congregation holds, the more likely it is to have grown.
  • Congregations located in new suburbs are more likely to experience growth. But surprisingly the second best area for growth is the downtown of metropolitan areas.
  • Congregations that have experienced major conflict are quite likely to have declined in attendance. The strongest correlate of growth is the absence of serious conflict.
  • Congregations that have started or maintained a website in the past year are most likely to grow. The effort to have a website indicates that the congregation is outward looking and willing to change by non-traditional means.
  • While most congregations in America are composed of a single racial/ethnic group, those that are multi-racial are most likely to have experienced strong growth in worship attendance.
  • More important than theological orientation is the religious character of the congregation and clarity of mission and purpose. Growing churches are clear about why they exist and about what they are to be doing – “purpose-driven growth.”
  • Congregations that involve children in worship are more likely to experience significant growth. Also, important to growth is the ability of congregations to attract young adults and children with families.
  • Almost all congregations say they want to grow, but it takes intentionality and action for growth to occur. Congregations that developed a plan to recruit members in the last year were more likely to grow than congregations that had not. Particularly helpful in achieving growth are sponsorship of a program or event to attract non-members or the existence of support groups.

The report was written by C. Kirk Hadaway, Director of Research at the Episcopal Church Center in New York.

A link to view “FACTs on Growth” online is available at:

Full color, printed copies can be ordered at the same web address. Single copies of the 17-page booklet cost $8.50 including postage and handling; discounts are available on multiple copies. For special orders and questions, contact Mary Jane Ross, at Hartford Seminary’s Hartford Institute for Religion Research, (860) 509-9543 or

Faith Communities Today surveys and publications are products of the Cooperative Congregational Studies Partnership, a collaborative, multifaith coalition of American faith communities affiliated with Hartford Seminary’s Hartford Institute for Religion Research. Researchers, consultants and program staff representing 39 denominations and faith groups contributed to the FACT2005 survey.

FACT/CCSP strives to offer research-based resources for congregational development that are useful across faith traditions, believing that all communities of faith encounter common issues and benefit from one another’s experiences. It also informs the public about the contributions of congregations to American society and about the changes affecting and emanating from one of America’s major sources of voluntary association – local congregations. For more information on CCSP, visit

About Hartford Seminary and the Hartford Institute for Religion Research: Hartford Seminary focuses on interfaith relations, congregational studies and faith in practice. The Hartford Institute for Religion Research has a 30-year record of rigorous, policy-relevant research, anticipation of emerging issues and commitment to the creative dissemination of learning.

For more on the Seminary and the Institute, visit the websites ( or or contact David Barrett at (860) 509-9519 or
David Roozen, Director of the Hartford Institute for Religion Research at Hartford Seminary, is available for interviews at: or (860) 509-9546.
C. Kirk Hadaway, Director of Research at Episcopal Church Center, New York, can be reached for interviews at: or (212) 922-5331.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Weekly Lectionary Scripture and Study Guides Directly to Your Own Church Web Site!!!


Preparing for Sunday is the quick, easy and affordable way to include the weekly lectionary readings on your own church website. Now, your parishioners can have the Sunday readings at their fingertips anytime, day or night.

No more clicking to connect with outside websites. No more searching through scripture to track down different readings. With an easy one-time setup, we update your church's website every week... with no advertising!

Preparing for Sunday includes last week's, this week's and next week's readings. Plus overviews, scripture backgrounds, reflections and prayer starters designed to enrich the understanding of each Sunday's readings.

For $15 a month, give everyone in your parish the chance to read, reflect and pray over the Sunday scriptures.
For a sample and easy sign up, visit

Monday, December 11, 2006

Open University

The Open University is making some of its educational resources freely available online for learners and educators anywhere in the world to use. The OpenLearn Website initially includes "some 900 hours of material on a variety of topics - from access to postgraduate level……..The OU sees the project as an obvious extension of its mission to address significant differences in the access people have to educational opportunities…"
It is possible to browse the outlines without registering: when you do register (which is free) you can also gain access to the learning activities etc. They aim to have 5,400 hours of material available by April 2008
The Open University class offering are particularly beneficial to those in rural and/or geographically isolated areas.
This information comes from a list serve distributed by Joanna Cox, National Adviser in Lay Discipleship and Shared Ministry in London.

Monday, December 04, 2006

2007 Roanridge Awards Announced

Picture from Roanridge, circa 1947

2007 Roanridge Awards Announced

On November 13, 2006 Office of Congregational Development announced the 2007 Roanridge Trust grant recipients.

A record number of grant requests were received for 2007 funds. Thirteen different diocese and organizations were awarded grants including:
· The Diocese of Northern Michigan for a Ministry Development Internship Program.
· The Diocese of Vermont for the development and expansion of a Companion Program for congregations in a period of transition in terms of leadership (one of the two applicants to score the maximum possible points).
· The Diocese of Lexington/Appalachian Ministries Educational Resource Center for providing experiential training in rural ministry for seminarians from urban backgrounds.
· The Diocese of North Carolina: Christian formation training by the Rev. Dr. Leon Spencer targeting rural parishes, plus a training program by the Sand Hills Cluster to strengthen and expand cluster ministry.
· The Diocese of Eastern Oregon: A training by Helen Spector and Anne Hallisey in the use of family systems and Appreciative Inquiry for the development and implementation of mission and ministry.
· The Diocese of Newark/Haven of Hope for Kids: A seminary internship in a revitalized rural parish that found new life by starting a vacation retreat home to be used by urban lower income families caring for critically ill children. (The second of the two applicants to score the maximum possible points.)
· Diocese of Southern Virginia: A training by the Rev. Dr. Robert Partlow and Mrs. Judith Carlson to evaluate the possibilities open to rural congregations that can marginally afford a full time priest.
· Rural Ministry Network: rural ministry training via the quarterly publication of Crossroads and the participation in rural ministry trainings.
· Diocese of Colorado: a training by the Rt. Rev. Elliott Sorge, the Rev. Lada Hardwick, and the Rev. Wayne Schwab to help congregations move from maintenance to mission and help them to be vital with out full time clergy.
· Diocese of South East Florida: specific training for the creation of a multi-cultural, multi-generational, multi-parish and multi-lingual ministry in a rural, lower socio-economic, ethnically diverse agricultural area.
· Diocese of El Camino Real and the Diocese of Northern California: the training of local church leaders in a satellite Filipino church across diocesan borders (approved by the Ecclesiastical Authority in both dioceses.)
· Diocese of Alaska: the development of a cross-generational web-based Christian formation program by the Rev. Katherine Hunt and Gail Loken to be used in rural churches.

The Roanridge Trust is to be used specifically for the “training of town and country clergy and rural Christian workers of PECUSA” (now known as The Episcopal Church).
The application period for 2008 funds will be from June 1 to September 1, 2007. For more information, please visit
or contact the Rev. Suzanne Watson at

Conference Announcement!

Save the Date…

The Office of Congregational Development is pleased to announce a conference on

Creative Models of Sacramental Leadership
In the Small Church

October 7-10, 2007

Kanuga Camp and Conference Center
Hendersonville, North Carolina

Confirmed Presenters:

· The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori, Presiding Bishop and Primate of the Episcopal Church in the United States
· The Most Rev. David Moxon, Archbishop and Primate of New Zealand
· The Right Rev. James A. Kelsey, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Northern Michigan
· The Rev. Stephen M. Kelsey, Missioner/Superintendent Greater Hartford Regional Ministry

Additional presenters to be confirmed on the topics of interdenominational clusters and mergers, plus other creative models.

This conference is designed for Bishops, Diocesan Staff, Clergy and Lay Leaders interested in exploring different models of sacramental leadership in churches with an average Sunday attendance of 70 or less.

Look for more information and registration material in early 2007, or contact The Rev. Suzanne Watson at

Monday, November 27, 2006

CCAB Meeting In Chicago

From November 15-17, 2006 the Committees, Commissions, Agencies and Boards of the Episcopal Church met in Chicago.

The Standing Commission for Small Congregations is composed of 11 members (representing the dioceses Navajoland, Southeast Florida, Kansas, Vermont, Northern Michigan, Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, North Dakota, Spokane, Easton, and Louisiana.) Additionally, appointed members (with out vote) were present from the House of Deputies, Executive Council, and the Church Center. All in all, it was a Spirit-filled gathering of mission oriented church leaders that filled me with hope for our small churches.

During the meeting four goals were outlined for the next triennium. Specifically:

  • Continued dialogue with the Church Pension Group re: church benefits and compensation for lay staff and clergy (esp. part time) and creating mechanisms to assist graduating seminary students with debt relief.

  • Reporting on convergence of statistics on Status of Women and Small Congregations and leadership of lay and ordained women in small congregations to General Convention '09.

  • Continue to share stories of vitality.

  • Demonstrate a presence at General Convention '09 that moves the whole church beyond sympathy to action.

Means to achieve these goals include:

  • Tools for publicity and evangelism in the small church.

  • Tools for worship in small congregations.

  • Tools to engage targeted constituencies.

  • Networking with other CCABs.

  • Support Church Center Staff with leadership training/dissemination of information to diocesan staff and parish laity and clergy with the above identified tools that encourage churches to grow spiritually/missionally, and sometimes in numbers, recognizing that many small churches are vital in place and size while other small churches can and want to grow in membership.

From you own small church experience, would you concur that these goals and means reflect the most pressing needs and concerns of the small congregation? Why or why not?

Monday, November 13, 2006

Latino/Hispanic Congregational Development

The Office of Ethnic Congregational Development--Latino/Hispanic Ministry Department offers a wealth of information on their web site, found at
At this site you will find sermons in Spanish, Spanish liturgies (such as for The Quinceanera, a fiesta for the thanksgiving of the coming of age for girls--the image above is an example of a decoration), the Office of Daily Prayer in Spanish, many links, plus much much more.
For more information about the Latino/Hispanic Congregational Development, contact
The Rev. Anthony Guillén Missioner, Latino/Hispanic Ministries at or phone 800.334.7626 ext. 5349.

Voices of Young Adults: A DVD

In June 2005, the Episcopal Church invited young adults from across the USA to share their opinions about the church. Some of these persons are active in congregational life, some are not, but all share a wellspring of affection for the Episcopal Church and hope for a church more engaged with the gifts that young adults have to offer.

Every congregation in the Episcopal Church was sent a copy of the DVD. On it you will find three video segments of 9 minutes each, each followed by a set of suggested discussion questions. I encourage your congregation/vestry to listen to these voices with pauses for questions and discussion.

You will also find a down loadable version, along with the featured young adults' biographical statements, a user guide for the videos, and abridged transcripts at

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Mutual Ministry in Northern Michigan

Mutual Ministry: A Primer


I am just back from a dizzying trip of church visitations, teaching and learning.

Part of this trip involved attendance at a Visitor’s weekend in Northern Michigan for those interested in learning more about Mutual Ministry. . Despite the fear of crashing the Bishop’s car which I’d borrowed during a snow storm to drive through a mountain pass (not a good idea for a San Diego native), the weekend was informative, inspirational, and provided a good opportunity for anyone wishing to learn more about the experience of congregations in Northern Michigan. The visitors were from areas across the United States, and abroad (Scotland).

In this depopulating and geographically isolated part of the United States, small congregations face many seemingly overwhelming challenges; but despite these challenges, these congregations have not just struggled to survive, they are creatively finding ways to thrive and continue to bring the message of Christ’s transformative love to their region and the world in a very vital way.

In the Northern Michigan model “ministry support teams” are raised up and commissioned for ministry from the congregation. This includes the ministers of education, music, and pastoral care, as well as the preacher, deacon and the sacramentalists (which are ordained but not seminary trained and work with out financial compensation) to name a few. Regional missioners and the bishop (all seminary trained at present) work as a support team for the individual congregational teams across the diocese.

Did I walk away with questions? Yes. Do I think it is the answer for every small congregation? No. But what I walked away with was a profound appreciation for how ministry has developed in Northern Michigan, and a challenge to continue to look, find, discover and share new and creative ways of “being church” in this post-Christendom world.

I invite your response…

If you’d like to find out more about Mutual Ministry in Northern Michigan the next visitor’s week end is scheduled for April 27-29, 2007. Contact Jane Cisluycis at or call 906.228.7160.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Church Conflict: A Good Sign?!?

Most of us cringe at the thought of conflict in our congregations. But is conflict something to be avoided? A recent study of small Episcopal Churches seems to suggest that the answer is no.

When the Faith Community Today 2005 responses of the most rapidly growing, most rapidly declining, and stable small churches are compared, both the rapidly growing and rapidly declining congregations report far more "very serious disagreements or conflict" in all areas. For example, serious disagreement over how worship is conducted occurred in 7.1% of declining churches, 6.9% of growing churches, and in no stable churches. Money was another divisive issue, with serious disagreements erupting in 18.5% for the rapidly declining, 13.3% in the rapidly growing, but in only 3.4% of the stable churches. When one looks at the areas of priest's leadership style, use of church facilities, and the actions of General Convention 2003, a similar trend emerges. Both growing and declining congregations experience serious disagreements and conflict; it is the stable congregation that reports being least conflicted.

These statistics suggest that lack of conflict may be a sign that a congregation is at a plateau, or at the point of stability in its life cycle. This point is an ideal time to begin the revisioning process, looking towards new ministry and mission in the future. What is God's intention for your congregation in the coming years?

Do you have a story about how your congregation discovered new vision? If so, please post your response. If you've never posted to a blog, you can do so anonymously. Other (sm)all congregations can benefit from your wisdom and learnings...

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Sermon for Domestic Violence Awareness Month

October is Domestic Violence Awareness month. The sermon below was preached today at the Episcopal Church Center by the Rev. Jayne Oasin ( ).
Sermon for
Domestic Violence Awareness Month
October 12, 2006
Episcopal Church Center

SAFETY – a word that many of us have traditionally taken for granted perhaps prior to 9/11 and even the tragic event yesterday. Safety – a simple word that most of the rest of the world has not been able ever to take for granted

Webster’s Dictionary defines SAFETY as Freedom from danger, injury, or the threat of harm such as
A Place where one is free of worry from potential harm
And it gives as the
example of safety -- “as safe as you are at home”

Well the irony is that for many, HOME IS THE LEAST SAFE PLACE OF ALL

When I decided to speak about safety today, I assumed that there would be several passages in the Scriptures that spoke about safety. Much to my surprise there were very few that spoke directly to the idea of safety and fewer that spoke about the safety of a home. In two passages, safety was used to speak about holding a prisoner in safety so that he couldn’t escape but somehow that didn’t convey the meaning I wanted. Perhaps that is why many people and sadly, many ministers and priests don’t seem to understand the dynamics of domestic abuse and what it really means to be and to feel safe in the family home.

In my time of serving in a domestic violence shelter, I listened with sadness and horror to the stories of how many of our colleagues, who are good men who have dedicated their lives to serving God, yet who nevertheless sent women and men back home to their abusive partners in the mistaken theology that going back home to the abuser is the best way to preserve the unity of the family. This is bad theology, my friends and I reject it. It springs from a place of power and control that negates all of the principles of love and care given to us by our Savior Jesus Christ. Some Jewish friends of mine shared with me the concept that in a Jewish home, the woman alone is responsible for keeping the family together and while that sense may not be explicitly stated in other denominations, often it is implicitly felt and so women and men, hundreds of thousands of them annually go home, go home to more abuse and often, death.

And the story does not end there - their children, the children who witness this abuse, day after day, month after month and are themselves abused, those who actually survive, carry the physical and emotional scars with them for a lifetime. Their daughters make unwise marital choices, often marrying abusive men themselves and their sons, are almost 75% more likely to grow up to be abusers themselves, have substance abuse problems and often spend many years in prison. So SAFETY is neither a word nor a feeling that is familiar to them.

I wish, sincerely I wish, that this sermon could have a happy ending. But it does not. Abuse continues and the most that we can do is to keep both the abused and the abusers in our prayers because most people who abuse have themselves been victims of abuse. And we can watch for the signs of abuse and continue to work to identify possible victims and help them to get to a safe place and pray and work to help them gain a sense of their own empowerment. We can lobby our legislators to pass more stringent legislation to protect the victims of abuse and we can examine the seeds of violence in ourselves that contribute to an overall climate of violence in our society.
And we can offer to victims and victimizers the assurance that God is present in every situation and that there is no place, no place, no place where God is not.

And we can dedicate ourselves to work for peace and safety for allLet us pray…Sheltering God…Amen
For more information on domestic abuse, including downloadable resources for programs that your church might implement, go to

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Being the Small Church in a Big Space

Are you a small-membership church that worships in a BIG space? For a creative, and humorous, look at how one congregation solved this dilemna go to Fr. Matthew Moritz’s newest v-blog (video blog) found by clicking on
It is 1:30 minutes of fun.
But in all seriousness, a "cavernous" space can be difficult for the smaller congregation. I recently heard of one congregatoin that regularly worships in the parish hall, reserving the use of the sanctuary for days when large numbers are expected. (However, if you decide to meet elsewhere it is important to keep the sanctuary tidy and "seasonally" appropriate, especially if the doors are left unlocked. Imagine it is March. A visitor travelling through your town seeks some quiet Lenten solitude. She sees your church, joyfully finds the door unlocked, and opens it. The creche is still in place, and the dry and brittle Christmas greens are still up. From personal experience, I know this has happened.)
Father Matt's suggestion of using the chapel is another valid option. What creative alternatives have you experienced, or has your congregation tried? Let us learn from one another...

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Urban Revitalization: Church of the Ascension in Western New York

This story of urban church renewal is submitted by Tori Duncan, Canon for the Development of Mission and Ministry for the Diocese of Western New York.

A Small congregation with a big vision
by Tori Duncan, Canon for the Development of Mission and Ministry

Church of the Ascension. You’ve probably seen this beautiful church building in our diocese on Linwood Avenue… gorgeous architecture and beautiful windows, with grounds carefully and lovingly tended by one of the members of the congregation. You also may or may not know that there are not many people who currently gather for Sunday worship in this space that has been the site of the prayers of many, many people over the decades. This small congregation in a large church building has every outward reason to feel discouraged, but they have a hope, vision and dedication to God that surpasses all understanding!

Over the past several months Church of the Ascension has come to a place of one mind and vision that they are going to “give their all” to become a successful urban church restart. They are committing their energy and their finances to hiring a priest experienced in re-starting churches in downtown locations. We’ve sent the word out coast-to-coast that we have a church in our diocese, brimming with potential, who is of one mind to become a national example of what big urban churches with small congregations can do. They want to spread the Good News, they want to welcome those without church homes, they want to worship God in a beautiful place that their ancestors in the faith created for them a long time ago.

“Ascension’s restart is a sign of hope for our Diocese and the City of Buffalo, said the Very Rev. David Selzer, Dean of Central Erie. “The Episcopal Church is not going to abandon the city, and we will use our facility and people resources to be the presence of God in Western New York. As former Senator John Danforth said at the 2006 General Convention: ‘The Episcopal Church is the right church for the right time.’ We in Western New York are committed to this vision, living the Gospel in the midst of the City.”

Dean DeLiza spangler of St. Paul’s Cathedral shares David’s enthusiasm. “As Christians,” she says, “we are to step out in faith, trusting that where we are being led is where we are called to go, even if we can’t clearly see every step along the way. The Church of the Ascension is doing just that, and I am grateful for the witness of faith, courage and discipleship which they are giving to us all.”

Please pray for the faithful members at Church of the Ascension, that they may have the focus and courage to live into God’s dream for them. Let your friends in other dioceses know what a little church with a big vision is doing in Western New York. Be assured that God’s joy with Ascension is like God’s joy for you, and celebrate the hope he’s given us in Jesus Christ.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Parish Health Ministry in the Small Congregation: A Free Training!

Health Ministry in the Small Church:
An Introduction

Free Teleseminar sponsored by National Episcopal Health Ministries, The Episcopal Church Center Office of Congregational Development and The eMinistry Network

November 9th from 8:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. Eastern
November 14th from 4:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. Eastern


  • The Rev. Jean Denton, past Executive Director for National Episcopal Health
  • Maryfran Crist, Regional Representative for National Episcopal Health Ministries and a parish nurse in rural Illinois

What is a Teleseminar?

A teleseminar is a conference call, which provides a focused presentation of information along with plenty of time for questions and answers.

What is Health Ministry?

Health Ministry in a local congregation is an intentional ministry focusing on both healing and health, combining the ancient traditions of the Christian community and the knowledge and tools of modern health care.

Who Should Attend?

Anyone from a small congregation (average Sunday attendance of 70 or less) who is interested in learning about health ministries and how to incorporate health ministry as part of pastoral care and outreach in their congregation

What Will You Learn?

Understand the definition of health ministry
Learn the process for beginning a health ministry in your congregation
Understand how to implement and evaluate a health ministry
Identify resources available to you for beginning a health ministry

Registration Information:

Once you have registered through, you will receive a confirmation email with the phone call information you’ll need to call in to the class. The class will have a page on the eMinistry website with notes, resources and a pre-class outline. You can learn more information about Episcopal Health Ministries at or by calling #317-253-1277 X 34.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Stories of Vitality from the Domestic Missionary Partnership

On September 16, 2006 at the Annual Meeting of the Domestic Missionary Partnership the grant proposal from the Episcopal Diocese of Alaska for a convocation and reunion of the Denaa and Dine’ was fully funded. When asked what the Diocese hopes to accomplish with this convocation, The Rev. Canon Ginny Doctor of the Diocese of Alaska writes:

Anthropologists believe that the Danaa (Athabascan Indians), who comprise almost 50% of the Diocese of Alaska, came from Asia about 35,000 years ago across Beringia. They are of the Na-Dene’ language group and they migrated into Alaska and Northwest Canada. The Denaa, however consider the migration story to be a myth and that they have always been here. There is new evidence that migration across Beringia was in both directions. The Dine’ (Navajo) diverged from this group and arrived in the Southwest approximately 1350AD.

It is time for a reunion. At the General Convention, the Bishop of Alaska was appointed the assisting Bishop of Navajoland. It is no coincidence that Mark MacDonald served in Navajoland before becoming the Bishop of Alaska. God put Mark in both places to be the bridge to bring about this reunion. We seek partnership and understanding between the Denaa and Dine’. We want to find ways to support each other in discipleship and to share resources. A Convocation for the Denaa and Dine’ is being planned for the spring of 2007. This homecoming will coincide with the Interior Deanery meeting in Alaska and twenty Dine’ leaders will be selected to come to Alaska.

This convocation will be an intergenerational event. Everyone, no matter what age, is important in the “Circle.” It will be a time for visioning, “a time to break down the barriers that have separated and a time to build up,” a time to find ways that we “fit” together. It will also be important to offer training/teachings and discussions on such issues as: sovereignty, subsistence, treaty rights, self-determination and how these are spiritual issues as well as political issues; ministry with youth/young adults and racism and internalized oppression.

The Rev. Canon Ginny Doctor can be reached at Look for more stories of diocesan and congregational vitality from the Domestic Missionary Partnership in the coming weeks. For more information on this partnership that exists to share, challenge and encourage one another to deepen and expand the vitality of their mission activities, contact new president, The Rev. Karen Lewis at

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Vitality...what is it?

When discussing small churches, vitality and abundance are two common descriptors. Next week's post will celebrate abundance, this week is vitality.

While I know vitality when I experience it (in a worship service, in an organization, or in a person) it is difficult to articulate exactly what it means.

Microsoft's Encarta offers a helpful definition. Specifically, vitality is defined as:

1. liveliness: abundant physical and mental energy, usually combined with a wholehearted and joyous approach to situations and activities
2. durability: the ability of something to live and grow

This definition suggests a possible checklist for vitality in your congregation. Specifically:

  • Do the members of your congregation exhibit abundant energy, both physically and mentally?
  • Is there a whole hearted and joyous approach to worship, fellowship, and outreach?
  • Is your congregation durable, i.e. is it living and growing?

An alternative checklist for vitality has been developed by the Consultation on Congregational Revitalization from the Presbyterian Church, USA. This group defines the Six Signs of Faithfulness and Vitality in the Church as a congregation that:

  1. Demonstrates the centrality of worship in its life, and expresses integrity in worshiping God.
  2. Cares in a variety of ways for every person participating in its life.
  3. Cares both for the community to which it is called for mission, and for the whole of God's world.
  4. Participates in denominational and ecumenical expressions of ministry and mission.
  5. Provides leadership that enlarges the vision of people, helping them to grow in their understanding and expression of the Christian faith.
  6. Struggles to discern the meaning of the Christian faith for its total life by testing its life and activities against biblical and theological traditions.
These are two possible descriptions of vitality. How would you describe vitality in your congregation?

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)

The Millennium Development Goals and the Episcopal Church

In two successive General Conventions, the Episcopal Church committed itself to eliminating extreme global poverty by working through the Millennium Development Goals (MGDs). The Goals were developed by the leaders of the world's nations, in cooperation with the United Nations. We can start by devoting 0.7% of our personal, congregational, and diocesan incomes to meeting the MGDs. Fulfilling the MGDs would mean lifting more than 500 million people out of extreme poverty. More than 300 million would no longer suffer from hunger. Child health would improve, saving the lives of more than 30 million children under the age of five.

So what are the MGDs? They are:
  1. Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger
  2. Achieve universal primary education
  3. Promote gender equality and empower women
  4. Reduce child mortality
  5. Improve maternal health
  6. Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases
  7. Ensure environmental stability
  8. Develop a global partnership for development

These eight goals are attainable with the resources we have at our disposal today. For more information visit Additionally, if you have a story about how your congregation has begun to work towards furthering any one of these goals, please consider posting it under the comments...

Wednesday, August 30, 2006


Is carrying the water of life weighing you down? Or could you just use a little break? The Louisville Institute: Sabbatical Grants for Pastoral Leaders Program may provide the respite you need.
The Sabbatical Grants for Pastoral Leaders Program, administered by the Louisville Institute, awards grants to pastors and other religious leaders in the U.S. and Canada seeking time for study, reflection, retreat, and rest for the renewal of their vocations. The program will award up to sixty grants for eight-week ($10,000) and twelve-week ($15,000) sabbaticals. Recipients must be released from all pastoral duties during the entire grant period. The program is open to Protestant and Roman Catholic clergy, church staff members, denominational and diocesan staff, and others employed full-time in recognized positions of pastoral leadership, ordained and lay. The application deadline is September 15, 2006. Visit the web site listed below for more information.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Sharing Stories: Church Vitality

"The fastest growing Episcopal Church in Nevada"
The Rev. Ed. Lovelady, Rector
All Saints’ Parish began with a worship service in the home of The Rev. Duncan McCoy on August 29, 1960 and was organized as a mission on December 12th. The letter of institution from Bishop William G. Wright, Bishop of the Missionary District of Nevada, reads that the new mission is “to have primary responsibility for churching the area of Las Vegas west of Rancho Road and North of West Charleston.”
The first church building was completed in 1961 and worship began in the new church without pews; each family brought folding chairs and the children sat on rugs on the floor. By 1963 Church school enrollment was 135, and increased by 1966 to 160 and the average Sunday church attendance was 80.
On April 11, 1969 All Saints’ was approved for parish status and in September The Rev. Donald Cole was installed as All Saints’ first rector. By 1974, All Saints’ was recognized as the fastest growing Episcopal Church in Nevada and All Saints’ Day school opened in October of that year, with an initial enrollment of 12 students.
In 1981 a joint project with Christ Church established a food pantry. Fellowship grew with the membership and an annual custom of “Alls Fair” and “Oktoberfest” celebrations still draw members and guests from all over the valley.
A new worship space was completed and dedicated by Bishop Steward C. Zabriskie on September 15, 1996, and a custom-built organ was installed and dedicated in 1999.
The parish had some difficult years and declined in membership and ministry and is now in full recovery, claiming once again the title of “the fastest growing Episcopal Church in Nevada.” Outreach programs continue, with the food pantry in its 25th year and the relationship with a neighboring middle school growing in new ways each year.
The congregation represents the full diversity of the Las Vegas valley in the geographic diversity of its membership, and the broad spectrum of ethnic, economic, and church backgrounds.
Holy Child Filipino Church began at All Saints’ in 2003, and this year became a Ministry of the parish with the full membership joining All Saints’ parish. They continue to have worship and fellowship appropriate to their culture and tradition and have their members in leadership roles of the parish.
All Saints’ Day School is now a Day Care, Preschool, and Kindergarten, with 80 children, age 3 to 6 enrolled.
The area Bishop Wright gave to All Saints’ care now has a population greater than the entire Las Vegas valley in 1960. The growing city population challenged the parish to adopt a philosophy of “keeping the doors open” to whomever comes in, and offering welcome and hospitality; good music, liturgy, and preaching. New member incorporation is a high priority to keep up with growth, as well as a growing Christian education and Youth ministry. Advertising is key in this “high tech” world where seekers are more likely to do an Internet search than read the yellow pages. A significant challenge is in the area of ethnic ministries, with an active and growing Filipino congregation whose goal is to grow into an independent parish, and to reach out to the neighborhood that has become predominately Spanish speaking.
Each week presents new opportunities for ministry and mission. The parish mission statement “To know Christ and make Christ known” is a reminder of the challenge to remain faithful to seek God’s guidance, and to be open to new ways of encountering others in the name of Christ.
All Saints’ Parish is located at 4201 West Washington Avenue, Las Vegas, NV 89107, and on the web at

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

International, Interdenominational Training Event: Auckland New Zealand

An Invitation from
Archbishop Brown Turei,
Archbishop David Moxon, and
Archbishop Jabez Bryce of
The Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand, and Polynesia
the Rev. Charles Fulton,
Director of Congregational Development of the Episcopal Church, USA
FEBRUARY 14-17, 2007

You are invited to a once in a lifetime, international, ecumenical seminar.

Colleagues from the Episcopal Church Congregational Development Office have joined in partnership with the Anglican Church of Aotearoa, New Zealand, and Polynesia in offering a four day seminar as a gift to all who have a passion for sharing the Good News.

The invitation to attend this seminar is broadly extended to all who share a commitment to the ministry of bringing people to Christ.

The first three days specifically address the concerns of leaders in parishes, dioceses, and judicatories.

The Saturday session is a Laity and Clergy Festival Day for the full parish membership, with numerous workshop options.

Items of particular interest to Aotearoa/New Zealand with wide applicability elsewhere, include:
 The Changing Culture in Which We Live
 Congregational Life Cycle
 Generational Diversity: Reaching the Oral, Literate and Electronic Cultures
 Dynamic Multi-Sensory Worship
 Leading Congregations Through Change, Decisions, and Conflict
 Using the Media for the Mission of Reaching People
 Welcoming Guests and Incorporating Newcomers
 And more

The seminar presenters are an ecumenical team of clergy and laity whose expertise is congregational health and leadership development. They draw from years of experience presenting the renowned seminars:
Start Up!Start Over! Congregational Development Seminar, USA
Upward Bound – Leading Congregations Through Change, Decisions, and Conflict, USA International Multi-Media in Worship Symposium, Ulsan, Korea

While their experience is based primarily on work in the U.S., the sessions have international relevance and applicability. It is hoped that participants will attend from around the world, including Aotearoa/New Zealand, Polynesia, New Zealand, Australia, Canada, the United States. This is a unique opportunity to participate in an international gathering of expertise and commitment to sharing the Word of Christ. There will be time to intentionally reflect about the cultural relevance of each topic presented.

As an expression of their commitment to sharing their work and passion, the presenting team is offering their time and expertise at no cost. The Episcopal Church USA is covering the cost of bringing the team to Aotearoa/New Zealand. The Anglican Church of Aotearoa, New Zealand, and Polynesia is providing their on site hospitality and is underwriting the meeting coordination costs.

Visit for full registration materials, or click on the link on the right side of this page.

We hope to see you there!

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Katrina Recovery Trip Opportunity

Katrina Recovery Work
Sheila Vossler

We passed miles and miles of devastation, emptiness, debris piles, cars upside down, barges tossed onto the land and across US 90, broken and missing homes with only cement pads showing, oak trees dressed in closet contents 40 feet up in the branches and mini memorials to lives lost to the storm. Then we saw the sign....."Camp Coast Care ....It's all about Hope and Love" and we knew this was where we would find both and give both . It was May and we came to the Gulf Coast to join this very well organized group who clean up, rebuild and restore. The Episcopal and Lutheran churches have made a long term commitment here and will supply a sleeping cot and 3 good hot meals a day to those who come to volunteer. See the website .

The work is varied. Can you use a computer, pound nails, serve food, interview hurting people with sensitivity, scrub floors, install tile, drive a truck, clean bathrooms, string electric wiring, help cook meals, hand out tools, install a sink, lift wallboard, be a gofer, be a team leader for construction? Skilled workers would be wonderful but all hands do the work of God and come away tired but refreshed by the Holy Spirit. Joy springs forth out of destruction and despair. There is much to learn from those we help. Lessons of faith, perseverance, thankfulness, and hope. This is truly God's work of renewal in the world, one home, one person, one life at a time.

We are going again. In truth, we cannot stay away. We will arrive November 11, 2006. Not all of our team need to arrive or leave on the same day. Join us and you will be renewed and enriched. Check out the website above and e-mail me with questions and your itinerary. I will make sure you are met at the Gulfport/Biloxi Airport and transported to the camp. Alternatively you may fly into New Orleans and rent a car for the 75 mile drive to camp. I feel called to bring many workers to the vineyard and also to transport a fist full of checks made out to Camp Coast Care to continue the work. One way or the other, won't you join us?

Contact: Sheila Vossler

Monday, August 14, 2006

Location, Location, Location...

Small Episcopal Churches: Geographic Distribution

Where are the greatest number of small Episcopal Churches located? While one may intuitively think of small church as synonymous with rural country location, in the Episcopal Church this is simply not true. Surprisingly, a review of the 2004 Parochial Report finds that the Diocese of New York has the greatest number of small churches! Second to New York is the Diocese of Albany, and third is South Dakota.

When Small Churches are grouped by Province, Province IV (which includes the Diocese of Alabama, Atlanta, Central Florida, Central Gulf Coast, East Carolina, East Tennessee, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Lexington, Louisiana, Mississippi,, North Carolina, South Carolina, Southeast Florida, Southwest Florida, Tennessee, Upper South Carolina, West Tennessee, and Western North Carolina) contains the greatest number. Province III ( Bethlehem, Central Pennsylvania, Delaware, Easton, Maryland, Northwestern Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania, Pittsburgh, Southern Virginia,, Southwestern Virginia, Virginia, Washington and West Virginia) is second, and Province II (Albany, Central New York, Churches in Europe, Haiti, Long Island, New Jersey, New York, Newark, Rochester,, Virgin Islands, and Western New York) is third. Nearly half of all small Episcopal Churches are located with in these three Provinces.

This information is relevant because it dispels some of the misconceptions and common myths surrounding the small church. By defining the locations of our small churches by fact rather than intuition, we are better able to identify and address small church issues. Therefore, in looking over the diocesan and provincial distribution, what new avenues for small church development are suggested?

Monday, August 07, 2006

Adapting To Change: Creative Funding Suggestions for Small Church Outreach

The post below if from The Rev. Steve Kelsey, Missioner to the Greater Hartford Regional Ministry (GHRM). The GHRM is a cluster of churches located in Hartford, Connecticut (Northeastern United States). The church about which he writes, and seeks assistance, is one that is located in an area of rapidly changing demographics, and the church is adapting to that change. Interestingly, the ability to adapt to change is one of the congregational characteristics found in growing small churches.

The purpose of sharing the Rev. Kelsey's GHRM appeal is twofold. First, I am certain they would welcome contributions, but it also invites the opportunity for other small churches (including clusters) to share creative ways that they have been able to fund outreach ministries.
Faithfully in Christ, in whose body and mission we are all united,

We have had an interesting experience this Spring and early Summer, at St. James', Hartford. Now, we need your help.

In early June, we faced at once the closing of the Headstart program which used our Parish Hall, and word that the Bishop's Fund for Children in our Diocese had decided not to fund our after-school literacy program for children, after years of support.

We started immediately to meet with local, neighborhood leaders and parents, as these two losses within one week would hit the young families of the south end of Hartford very hard ... and we have, today, signed a contract with a local resident of our neighborhood who will be starting her own business, running a pre-school program out of our facilities, starting in the early Fall !!! Great community organizing, we think!

Now, we turn to how to resurrect the "CHILD" ("Children's Hour in Learning and Discovery") program at St. James'. This is the afterschool literacy program we have been supporting for a number of years now. The good folks at St. John's, West Hartford, encouraged us to explore further how we might advance this program, and out of those conversations, St. James' has initiated a program advancing "English as a Second Language" and "Spanish as a Second Language" courses, which will begin this September.

Meanwhile, the parents of those attending our CHILD program have pulled together to urge us to find a way to continue to offer the CHILD program, despite the sudden withdrawal of funding from the Bishop's Fund for Children. A group has been meeting to explore what it would take to make this happen, and today, we have met to clarify what this would entail.

We have the local leadership lined up, and most of the tutors and other leaders. St. James' is ready to provide the space and other on site support. What we need, plainly, is funding to pay for the one paid staff member needed to pull the program together.

BOTTOM LINE: we need to raise $10,000 within the next month ... and we will be able to resurrect the program.

We believe this is doable -- but we need your help.

We have until August 17th to get an indication that we have a lead on that money, and if we have that sense, we are prepared to "step into the breach" and work to make this happen. We have people locally looking at different possibilities, and we think they will be productive. But we need more help!

If you can help us in any way, or have any suggestions as to where we might go to raise such money, as a one-time, emergency support, we are convinced that we can use the next year to explore and develop other sources of support and keep this vital program alive.

If you can help us with even a nominal contribution, or have any suggestions as to where we might look for support, please contact Louise Loomis at and let her know, before August 17th.

Thanks so much for any support you can give us, and please keep us in your prayers,


Steve Kelsey, Missioner
Greater Hartford Regional Ministry
12 Rector Street
East Hartford, CT 06108
(860) 559-0347

Monday, July 31, 2006

Rural Church: The Connection Between the People of God and God's Spirit in a Depopulating Rural Community

From a Rural Church Pastor:

I serve a rural United Methodist Church in north central Kansas - a county
seat community.

The two characteristics of this community are:

1.) The impact of agriculture on the economy. The three major employers
beyond the government are agriculture related. There is a farm implement
mfg., a farm chemical business, and the Coop. The government is a key
piece as we have public schools, state, county and city government
employees as well as the support checks funded by the gov't - Social
Security, social services and farm subsidy.

2.) The family / church relationships that are generations deep in the
community. Since many families in this community are several generations
deep, the impact of family history is an integral part of the way in which
families relate within the community.

There is a significant Roman Catholic population that is balanced by a near equal population that relates to the protestant churches in the area.

These dynamics in a part of the United States that is depopulating and
being significantly impacted by the drought changes the way in which we
are able to do church.

In light of the above thoughts, there is still a place for the church as
it continues to seek that relevant connection between the people of God
and God's spirit.

Congregational Characteristics of Growing Small Churches

A recent study of rapidly growing congregations with an average Sunday attendance of 70 or less identified key congregational characteristics.

Specifically, the most rapidly growing small Episcopal congregations in the United States are places that:

  1. Report that they are spiritually vital and alive
  2. Have a clear sense of mission and purpose
  3. Have many members in the congregation who work for social justice
  4. Inculcate strong values and beliefs
  5. Focus on deepening members' relationship with God
  6. Keep the surrounding community well informed about activities taking place in the congregation
  7. Help members struggle with tough questions
  8. Are fun places to be.

What about your congregation? Where do you see these characteristics in the community in which you serve, and in what ways can small congregations creatively strengthen these traits?

Let us share with and learn from one another to the end that our congregations are even better equipped to grow, strengthen and send forth servants of Christ.

Faithfully in Christ in whose name and mission we are all united,


Thursday, July 27, 2006

What is a small-membership church?

Welcome to the small-membership church blog! While the definition of a small-membership church varies from denomination to denomination, for the purposes of this site a Sunday attendance of 70 people or less is used. Nearly half of all congregations in the Episcopal Church (the denomination in which I serve) fall into this category.

Small membership churches are located in a variety of different settings. In the Episcopal Church 30% are in rural and open country (in the Episcopal Church the Diocese of Virginia has the greatest number of congregations that fall into this category), larger town or small cities (50%), downtown (5%), older residential (7%), older suburb (6%) and newer suburbs (2%).

Their membership may also be growing (26.5%), stable (26.7%) or declining (46.8%).

Those that worship in small membership churches have a great deal to offer the broader church. Additionally, leaders with in small membership churches are a creative and gifted lot, and have much to share with other leaders in similar circumstances. Connecting with others can often be the biggest barrier. It is my hope and prayer that this site will become a place where people can share and learn and gain inspiration from others who serve through small congregations.

Faithfully in Christ, in whose name and mission we are all united,