Monday, December 24, 2007

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas to all who serve, worship, and grow in Christ's love in (sm)all congregations...

Suz +

Thursday, December 20, 2007



Episcopal Relief and Development Announces the Arrival of the 2008 Lenten Devotional

Episcopal Relief and Development is pleased to announce the publication of the 2008 Lenten Devotional, entitled “Seeking to Serve: A Lenten Exploration of the Millennium Development Goals,” by the Rev. Jay Sidebotham, Rector of Church of the Holy Spirit in Lake Forest, Illinois.

The devotional features illustrations and meditations on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and offers ways for parishioners to help achieve these life-saving goals.

Serving as a complement to the Daily Office Lectionary, the devotional invites Episcopalians to reflect on the role of God’s grace in our lives and how we may act as instruments of God's healing in a hurting world. The 2008 Lenten Season will be a special one thanks to the Presiding Bishop’s declaration of Sunday, February 10th as Episcopal Relief and Development Sunday.
“We are extremely proud of this year’s publication and its focus on raising awareness of the Millennium Development Goals,” said Robert W. Radtke, ERD President. “We hope that congregations nationwide will support our efforts worldwide to help our neighbors in need by participating in Episcopal Relief and Development Sunday,” said Radtke.

Devotionals are now available. Please order an adequate supply of devotionals and other resources for your congregation as soon as possible.

To order, please call Episcopal Books and Resources at 1.800.903.5544 or visit CONGREGATIONS PAY ONLY FOR SHIPPING AND HANDLING.

To ensure delivery by Ash Wednesday, February 6th, orders for 2008 Lenten Devotionals must be placed by January 14th.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Standing Commission for Small Congregations

Standing Commission for Small Congregation

This past week I had the pleasure of serving as the staff liaison to the Episcopal Church's Standing Commission charged with "concerning itself with new directions for small congregations" in Kansas City.

An agenda was created upon arrival by participants, and included the following:


Building resources of Best Practice (Music, Stewardship, Ethnic Ministry, Small church handbook, Style of worship)

Summit on Small Church

General Convention and Resolutions

Relief for Small Church Professionals (Pension Fund, Health Insurance, Debt)

Seminaries role in formation (Lay and Ordered)

The conversation was good and I look forward to seeing more fine work from this committee (especially the possibility of an event to be held just prior to General Convention 2009 which I will share more about as plans progress.)

What I would be interested in right now is learning (and sharing) from you, small church enthusiasts, what other issues you would like to see this committee address? If you were at the table last week, what else would you have added to the agenda? What "new directions for small congregations" would you hope that we, collectively, will articulate and possibly legislate?


Monday, November 19, 2007

New Service Idea

Greta, MyBerner

St Francis Episcopal Church, Stamford, CT
Monthly Service for Pets and Their People

Yesterday Greta (my Bernese Mountain Dog, pictured above. who is now 80+ pounds of energy), children and I attended a Eucharist designed for pets and their people. It is a simple Eucharist (no music, except for the growls, barks, whines, and excited yips), held in the sanctuary, with an especially relevant message and prayers for pets and the people that love them. Perhaps most touching was the story of the family that drove from two states away for a special healing prayer for their very ill dog. They had heard about the service through a Google Internet search.

At communion we all gathered at the altar with our pets (all dogs). The people received communion and the pets received a blessing (spontaneously it appeared, Greta’s blessing—as she dropped the half chewed bulletin from her mouth and opened her huge puppy mouth to tug on the end of the priest’s stole—was for “a long life of continued friskiness!” Right now I could do with a little less frisky.)

Besides enjoying worshipping with our new four legged addition, I was struck by this congregation’s ability to connect with pet-loving people from the wider community that were not members of the congregation. The priest said that many people attend services only on that one Sunday per month for the pet service, thus forming a new pet/people centered congregation.

Do you live in an area where dogs and other pets are a vital part of the community? If so, you might consider a monthly pet service. Post signs at the dog park, at the beach, or other places dog lovers frequent. Or even consider holding the service at one of these popular dog spots.

St. Francis in Stamford offers the service at 4PM (a great time for even the most tired teenager to attend!). If you would like more information, or to speak with the staff, visit
or call 203.322.2949.


Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Member Welcome and Incorporation

Greetings small church friends!

As welcome and incorporation has been a topic of discussion in the past (remember "John's Story?) I would like to recommend a book I just finished. It is Beyond the First Visit: The Complete Guide to Connecting Guests to Your Church, by Gary L. McIntosh.

This book will be especially helpful to any congregation seeking to develop an INTENTIONAL plan for welcome and incorporation. It is filled with interesting facts (ex: A person makes eleven decisions with in the first seven seconds of arrival), step-by-step instructions (ex: a four step plan for follow-up, page 121) and suggestions (loose the word visitor and replace it with guest, drawing a metaphor between how we plan for a guest at our home vs. how we receive a visitor).

What I liked about this book is that it goes beyond "the problem is" thinking, and instead offers positive ways forward. It also grasps the fact that we are in a changing world and our ministry context is changing, that it is about the needs of our wider community, and that opportunities for spiritual transformation must abound in the healthy and vital congregation.

A great read for a group study...


Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Thanksgiving Liturgical Resources

Two Free Resources for the Thanksgiving Season!

Celebrate God's gifts for which we give thanks...

The National Council of Churches Eco-Justice has created two agriculturally-themed worship resources for congregations to use this Thanksgiving season. They both focus on the intersection of food, faith and farming and the importance of a healthy environment to make it all possible. Both resources contain background information, sermon starters, liturgy, and small group discussion guides.The resources are FREE and down loadable.Go here to read about the resources and to download:

Please contact Adam Bray ( for any questions.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Kanuga Joy!

October 7, 2007, over 135 people gathered at the Kanuga Conference Center in Hendersonville, NC, for a four-day conference to explore “Creative Models of Sacramental Leadership in the Small Church.” Participants included small church leaders from the Methodist Church and ELCA, and Anglican representatives from the provinces of Canada and New Zealand. The Episcopal Church was represented by 8 provinces and 44 dioceses, including Northern Michigan, Wyoming, Western Kansas, Texas, Easton, Western New York and Northern California. Also represented were the Episcopal Divinity School and Virginia Seminary, as well as organizations that serve the small church such as Living Stones, Episcopal Appalachian Ministries, Rural Ministry Network, New Directions North East, and the Domestic Missionary Partnership.

The gathering was marked by excitement and enthusiasm, as this diverse group came together to address fresh expressions of how small congregations live out their part in God’s greater mission.

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori addressed the group, inviting an expansive understanding of sacramental leadership to include the ministry of all baptized people and the ministry they exercise in their daily lives. Archbishop David Moxon of the New Zealand Dioceses further challenged assumptions by inviting participants to consider social action groups that gather to break bread as a way to live out the gospel. He also encouraged increased understanding of the scope of small church mission by inviting participants to view our gathered communities as “a mission with a church, and not a church with a mission.” The life and ministry of the late Rt. Rev. Jim Kelsey, who had planned to present at the event, was remembered with a time of silence as the podium was left vacant, followed by a co-presentation on local collaborative ministry by his brother, the Rev. Steve Kelsey, along with the Rt. Rev. Donald Phillips.

Because of the overwhelming interest in this sold-out event, a DVD will be produced and available as a free download in early 2008. An initial planning meeting was also held to discuss the feasibility of a Small Church Best Practices summit to be held in 2009.

The conference closed with a lively Eucharist where Archbishop Moxon presided and Presiding Bishop Jefferts Scori preached. Two Anglican Archbishops uniting in worship was symbolic of all that had occurred: as a (sm)all church, we can do great things when we come together to live out our part in God’s greater mission.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Final Upward Bound Seminars Announcement

On behalf of the Rev. Charles Fulton, Director of Congregational Development, this is to announce the final two seminars of “Upward Bound, Leading Congregations Through Change, Decisions, and Conflict”.

The last seminar scheduled for the western region will be held November 12-15, 2007 in Santa Fe, NM. Three spaces remain available – please call promptly if you would like to register.

The final seminar will be held May 5-8, 2008 in Fort Lauderdale, FL. Full registration materials are at:

Below is an overview of the seminar content. Do not hesitate to call if you have any questions. We look forward to seeing you at one of the upcoming Upward Bound events.

Leading Congregations Through
Change, Decisions, and Conflict

Transformational leadership begins with a transformed leader. Upward Bound addresses the personal work leaders need to do in order to lead in challenging times of growth and change.

Upward Bound is for the congregational development leader who is ready to address the following situations:
· Your primary goals are sabotaged by distracting mini-fires.
· Emotional responses are disproportionate to the situation.
· You are leading ‘process’ with people operating in a ‘yes or no’ world.
· You are caught in a problem that is not yours to solve.
· There is a negative force that drains time and emotional energy.
· Passive-aggressive behaviors have reached an artful level.

The work is personal, intensive, and transforming. Agenda items include:

►How to examine both a conflicted situation and your place in it.
►Explore your individual awareness of how you receive approval and support.
►Different levels of needs and the implications for congregational behavior.
►Skills to stop participating in destructive games and negative cycles.
►Renegotiate relationships after conflict has erupted.
►Increase listening and feedback skills for clarity rather than inference or judgment.
►Distinguish between problems that are yours and others.

Upward Bound the primary congregational leader who has primary responsibility for leading and managing the congregation through change and growth. The goal is to heighten your awareness and skills required to lead congregations in times of change and transition. The training is highly interactive, includes teaching, role-play, conversation, and personal reflection.

You will be invited to carefully explore your individual awareness and competence, examine the congregational setting in which you lead, and apply new models of interpretation to effect change.

Space is limited to 35 registrants. Upward Bound is sponsored by the Office of Congregational Development and coordinated in partnership with the Episcopal Church Building Fund. To learn more call 800-334-7626, ext. 6003.

Friday, October 12, 2007


Too often, popular culture depicts mental illness in ways that reinforce stigma and misunderstanding. But today, we have a special opportunity to support a film that poignantly captures the effect of mental illness on a family, and contains powerful and accurate messages to help reduce stigma.

CANVAS is a feature film written and directed by Joseph Greco, depicting his experience as a young boy whose mother has schizophrenia. It stars Academy Award winner Marcia Gay Harden and Emmy Award winner Joe Pantoliano. More information about Canvas is at

The movie is opening in very limited release. If ticket sales on opening day are good, it will go on to national release. But if sales are disappointing, the film will have no further theatrical distribution at all.

Opening day ticket sales will determine whether this film has a future. If you do live in one of the cities below, please consider seeing the film and bring your friends.

NYC - October 12thRegal Union Square Stadium 14850 Broadway(212) 253-6266
Chicago - October 12thAMC Loews 600 North Michigan 9600 N. Michigan Ave. (312) 255-9347
Los Angeles - October 19thLaemmle Sunset 58000 Sunset Blvd. (323) 848-3505
Scottsdale - October 19thHawkins Shea 147354 E. Shea Blvd Scottsdale, AZ 85260
Fort Lauderdale - October 19th Location TBD

Please visit for updates.

Request for Small Church Input

The following is from The Rev. Lindsay Hardin Freeman who requests input from small church leaders:

In the next issue of Vestry Papers, we will explore how vestry meetings and Bishop's Committee meetings can be most effective. What makes for a good meeting in your eyes? Wardens, clergy, what are your hopes and expectations? How can such a meeting both accomplish church business and be faith-centered?

As we're working with some tight space, shorter answers work best. We won't be able to print all of the replies, but it would help greatly to know what people are thinking along these lines. Deadline: October 24th. Please reply to Lindsay Hardin Freeman at:

Thanks so much -


The Rev. Lindsay Hardin Freeman
190 Cygnet Place
Long Lake, MN 55356
(952) 449-0166

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Solomon's Porch

Solomon's Porch, pictured above, now gathers in a rented space that used to be a Methodist Church. Note the mismatched and worn sofas; as one member said, "The sofas are worn and frayed around the edges, just like the people who sit on them."

A New Generation of Gathered Community: Exploring the Emergent Church in Minneapolis

From September 15-17, 2007 the semi-annual meeting of diocesan congregational development officers gathered in Minneapolis, Minnesota. We travelled out in teams to worship with different emergent church communities and other new generations of gathered communities (I personally worshipped with four communities with in 24 hours). We had a DVD production crew along who captured clips of the different worship services, as well as filmed a three hour discussion about what we observed, what was different, and how an Episcopal congregation might gather in a similar way.

What I witnessed (and this is my own perspective) was communities of people gathered in Christ's name, seeking authentic worship (and small groups) that is (are) relevant to their daily lives, and a clear message that God loves each of us as we are and welcomes us. There was a rawness to the worship, it was never perfect and didn't aim to be. Rather, imperfect people (like all of us) shared their faith journey, came as they were, and looked to experience Christ's transformative love.

One community, "Spirit Garage" (The Church with the Big Door) met in a music theater. I knew I was in for a different experience when I was offered ear plugs with my "worship menu." What might be relevant to Episcopal congregations is that Spirit Garage is a daughter congregation of a traditional ELCA church, and is still part of that congregation. While the service is loose, the communion prayers and baptismal liturgy were still ELCA liturgy (there was a baptism on the day we visited. I was surprised that the worship was multi-generational with lots of babies and not just youth and young adults).

If this subject is of interest to you, look for a free DVD from our office to be released early next year...

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Episcopal Church Center Reorganization Announced

On September 5, 2007 a new organizational structure for the Episcopal Church Center (ECC) was announced. This structure arises from the new mission statement for the ECC which states that the purpose of the Episcopal Church Center is to further God's mission, interpreted by the General Convention. As the Presiding Bishop's staff, we serve the people of the Episcopal Church by:
  • Listening and responding to the needs of the Church and its leaders
  • Sharing good news about what God is doing in the Church and in the world
  • Advocating for justice and peace, respecting the dignity of every human being
  • Building partnerships and networks for mission
  • Making available usable resources based on creative ideas and existing best practices
  • Developing and managing human, financial and material resources for mission
  • Promoting measurable work standards of excellence and accountability.

To fulfill this purpose the new structure is built around four new Mission Centers to include the following activities:

Advocacy Center
Social and Economic Justice
Ethnic Ministry and Anti-Racism (advocacy component)
Migration (advocacy component)
International Affairs

Evangelism and Congregational Life Center
Christian Formation (all ages)
Congregational Research
Congregational Vitality
Ethnic Congregations
Evangelism and Church Planting
Migration: Resettlement
Worship and Spirituality

Mission Leadership Center
Ordained Ministry (including Transition)
Lay Ministry (including Ministry in Daily Life)
Young Adults (including Campus Ministry and PLSE)
Missionary Personnel
Chaplaincies (including Prison Ministries)
Theological Education

Partnerships Center
Anglican Communion
Diocesan Services
Ecumenical & Interfaith
Grants and Covenants
United Thank Offering

Concurrently, the General Convention Office will:
Coordinate Committees, Commissions, Agencies and Boards
Plan and execute General Convention and Executive Council
Publish General Convention and Executive Council documents
Provide support for the President of the House of Deputies

A new Administration unit, meanwhile, will coordinate:
Facilities Management
Human Resources
Translation Services
Travel and Meeting Arrangements
The Communication Office is reorganized into two units:
Episcopal Life Media
Public Affairs
The Finance Office will continue to include two units:
Treasurer's Office
Controller's Office

Another new addition is the creation of a Mission Funding portfolio including a Development Office.

Okay small church community, what are your impressions? Thoughts? Reactions? And, if you are serve in another denomination, what are your stories of restructuring? Or, if you are part of a for-profit organization, what are your stories of restructuring?

Thursday, August 30, 2007

2008 Summer Collegium in Virginia

Applications are available for the third Summer Collegium--a nine-day ecumenical conference for clergy of small congregations and their spouses and partners. The date of the 2008 Summer Collegium is June 25-July 3.
The theme of the 2008 Summer Collegium is Worship and Preaching in the small church, and includes keynote addresses by Anthony Pappas, Christine O-Reilly and Peter Bush.
Application forms are available for download at or by calling Marilyn Johns, Project Manager, at 703.461.1760. Application deadline is December 15, 2007.

Position Open

Dear Small Church Community:

I received the following e-mail today. It of course illuminates the challenges small churches face when it comes to sacramental leadership. I am hoping that someone will share some of the other options and creative ideas that St. Peter's could consider, or that perhaps this will find its way to a priest that might be called to this community.


Dear Suzanne,
I am writing to hopefully get some help with a big problem that we, at St. Peter's Episcopal Church in Jackson, Alabama, are having. We are without a Priest and we can't find one. We are a small church with 30-50 members in attendance each Sunday. We have been very fortunate to have been able to secure Priests from nearby Mobile, AL. for several years. Our latest Priest was wonderful, but he left for Houston, TX (bigger church - more money). We are not able to pay big bucks (about $20-25,000) so we really need a retired person or someone with another occupation. Jackson (6,000 population) is a great place to live and raise a family. We have contacted our Diocese and there are no available Priests. Maybe you could post our plea on your website or maybe you could put us on to someone that knows more. Thanks so much!

For more information contact Lawrence Garrett, Senior Warden at

Transformation & Renewal V To Energize Fresh Evangelism

Transformation & Renewal V To Energize Fresh Evangelism

HENDERSONVILLE, N.C. – Held at Kanuga Conferences, the upcoming Transformation and Renewal Conference will prepare historically black Episcopal congregations to throw open their church doors and do the holy work of evangelism, bringing new faces to those doors.

T&R V, to be held Nov. 11-16, will explore the theme People Get Ready: A Fresh Start in Proclaiming Christ. Since 1999 Kanuga has co-sponsored this biennial program along with the Episcopal Church’s Office of Black Ministries and the Union of Black Episcopalians.

It attracts clergy and laity from throughout the United States and beyond, who take home information and inspiration to strengthen their parish or mission, regardless of its size or situation.

Returning as conference coordinator will be the Rev. Lynne Washington, executive director of the Peter Paul Development Center, Richmond, Va.

The opening speaker will be the Rev. Dr. Susan Newman, who directs the Washington, D.C. office of The Balm in Gilead. This organization seeks to improve the health of people of the African Diaspora by helping faith communities address diseases such as HIV/AIDS.

Another plenary session, “Evangelism 101,” will be led by the Rev. Dr. Benjamin Watts, director of the Black Ministries Program at Hartford Seminary.

The Rev. Canon Angela Ifill, the Episcopal Church’s canon missioner for Black Ministries, will speak on “Highlights and the State of the Black Church” and “Evangelism and Congregational Development.”

Other workshops and their leaders include “Tell Me Something Good,” conference design team; “Radical Welcome,” Stephanie Spellers; “Liturgical Evangelism,” Martini Shaw; “Stewardship and Evangelism,” Anne Ditzler; “Let’s Get Moving,” Vincent Harris; and music workshops, Carl MaultsBy. Horace Clarence Boyer will be the featured musician for one day and the St. Ambrose Jazz Quartet will perform throughout the week.

For information visit or telephone 828-692-9136.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Roanridge Funds in Action

Located in the north Western corner of New Jersey, Saint Luke's Episcopal Church is a small rural congregation of 43 families. St. Luke's Church always had a passion for outreach ministries, but was confronted by no longer being able to afford a full time parish priest. Responding to this reality two years ago, the congregation developed a new model for dynamic life-giving ministry that can serve as a prototype for the many small caring congregations facing similar financial circumstances.

Utilizing a small two bedroom cottage owned by and adjacent to the church, the congregation formed Haven of Hope for Kids that now provides up to 6 day vacation retreats to urban lower income families caring for critically ill children. The program opened in June of 2005. Over twenty five seriously ill children and their families have now had a vacation in the country and a respite from the constant stress and worry that illness and hospital treatment bring. The children are selected by the social workers from seven participating hospitals. Over forty five volunteers from both inside and outside the parish actively participate in the program.

For the surrounding community and for the existing congregation, this program has transformed the identity of St. Luke's Church. The Rector of St. Luke's now also serves as the Director of Haven of Hope for Kids and receives approximately 1/2 of his compensation through this 501(c)3 non-profit corporation. For its ministry Haven of Hope for Kids has attracted wide financial and volunteer support well beyond the existing parish.

St. Luke's/Haven of Hope applied for a 2007 Roanridge Grant to recruit a seminarian intern who has a passion for rural ministry beyond the traditional parish model. The intern, Jon Owens (pictured above), began in June, 2007 and will complete his 10-week training in September.

Congratulations Jon, St. Luke's and Haven of Hope for Kids. May God's blessings of abundance be with you...

If you would like to learn more about St. Luke's/Haven of Hope, contact Executive Director William A. Potter at or visit

Friday, August 03, 2007

Group for Congregations that Have Experienced a Split

Copied from the House of Bishops/House of Deputies list with permission from The Rev. Jim Liggett:

I have recently accepted a call to a parish that split a couple of years ago over the current unpleasantness. While fairly small, the congregation is well motivated and energetic. I am wondering if there is a network of such parishes--those rebuilding and developing a new identity after a divisive split. If you know of such a network, please let me know--and if you are interested in starting such a network, also let me know. I'll start officially in about a month, but would welcome any stories or ideas that might help. There is no need to re-invent the flat tire.

Father Liggett can be reached at

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Beijing Circles Conference Announcement

The Office of Women's ministries is beginning a NEW series of brief conferences across the country to introduce you to Beijing Circles!!

You're Invited to Join The Circle at the first event, scheduled for 10/12/2007 - 10/13/2007 in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Beijing Circles are a tool which can help people educate themselves and one another about the issues affecting women globally and then to advocate within our church and the world to bring about positive change.
For more information contact:
Office of Women’s Ministries
815 Second Avenue
New York, NY 10017
800 334-7626 x 5346

Monday, July 30, 2007

Episcopal Health Ministry and Parish Nursing


National Episcopal Health Ministries (NEHM) announces an intensive 5-day course that emphasizes Episcopal traditions in the theology of health and healing, liturgy, polity and prayer. Practical aspects of developing Health Ministry in a local congregation are addressed. The course will be held at the Virden Retreat Center, University of Delaware from Aug. 27 – Sept. 1, 2007. Go to the following web link for further information:
or call the NEHM office at 317-253-1277 X34.

***Registration is limited to the first 20 participants. Health professionals other than nurses are welcome to enroll, as well as other non-professionals interested in learning more about general health ministry as a lay vocation. CEU credits are available.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

St. Mark's, Moscow: Love Spoken Here

Written by The Rev. Kristi Phillips, Diocese of Spokane, and reprinted with permission:

Once in a while I notice a sign in one of our churches that gives a clue about how that church sees itself in the community. Something like “Love Spoken Here,” or “Servants’ Entrance.”
A few weeks ago, St. Mark’s, Moscow, opened its heart to its town and practiced servanthood in some poignant ways in the midst of a tragic weekend. Late on Saturday night, May 19, a sniper sprayed dozens of bullets across a parking lot and into the Latah County Courthouse, killing a police officer, wounding a sheriff’s deputy and a civilian and then, apparently, killing a caretaker and himself at the First Presbyterian Church across the street. Earlier he apparently had shot and killed his wife at their home.
Just after 6 a.m. officers entered the church and found the bodies of the shooter and another man, later identified as the church custodian. Many in Moscow had heard the shots during. the night and across the Inland Northwest there were live television broadcasts early Sunday morning.
St. Mark’s is about four blocks from the Presbyterian Church in this ordinarily quiet college town. St. Mark’s Sunday service went on as usual with the Rev. Chris Coppen as supply priest. The small congregation had an opportunity to offer prayers that day for their town and for the victims and their families.
But later in the week, St. Mark’s and some of its parishioners had other opportunities to open their hearts to the community. Dr. Sharon Kehoe, director of the Campus Christian Center and a member of St. Mark’s, offered hospitality to the staff of the Presbyterian Church, displaced by damage to the church and an ongoing investigation. The church’s worship services also moved temporarily to the University of Idaho campus. Some St. Mark’s parishioners attended prayer vigils that were offered in Moscow during the week and a large, public memorial service for Lee Newbill, the police officer who had died. Still others from both Pullman and Moscow assisted with grief counseling.
But there was a smaller memorial service for Newbill that not many knew about, organized by St. Mark’s Senior Warden Ben Jeness and Newbill’s parents. They had been members of St. Mark’s in the 1970’s and 1980’s before Newbill’s father was transferred by the Marine Corps. Lee Newbill was confirmed at St. Mark’s in 1979.
Jenness and Newbill’s widow and parents planned a small memorial service, for family and close friends at St. Mark’s. He kept in touch with the family daily, invited the Rev. Mary Beth Rivetti from neighboring St. James’, Pullman to officiate, arranged for a musician and found people to furnish food for a reception.
Jenness said he learned to value of being present to the family and also of being flexible as the service grew from a handful of people to close to 60. “The prayer book is a pretty good guide, too,” he said.
Rivetti said that people in both the Pullman and Moscow congregations were called on to help with many aspects of the tragedy and responded generously.
She was honored, she said, to be invited “in the midst of something so profound to help gather people – to point to Christ in the center of pain.”
Rivetti concluded her homily at the memorial service,
“A police officer is called to protect and serve the community. Like a shepherd, the officer walks with the people in his care, and knows that it is possible that he will lay down his life for their safety. On Saturday night as the shots rang out, a young woman on her first night as a dispatcher crouched behind a filing cabinet in the dispatch office in the courthouse, and prayed the 23rd Psalm. Outside, Lee Newbill laid down his life for the community he had sworn to uphold.
“As Lee lay dying, as he walked through the valley of the shadow of death, our Easter faith proclaims that he was carried home by the one who laid down his life for us all, who washes away every tear, who has swallowed up death forever. Our Easter faith proclaims that the tears we cry today are being collected in the bottle of the One who made us know life and joy and sorrow and death. Our Easter faith proclaims that no part of the world is free from the love of God in Jesus Christ.”
Love spoken here? Absolutely. A small congregation answered the call to be servants in the midst of tragedy -- to minister quietly to a community stricken by pain and grief.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Church on the Beach

As an example of creative gatherings, I wanted to share information about a service my family and I attended yesterday. It was called “Church at the Beach” and is a ministry of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Fairfield, CT.

It is a simple Episcopal service (drawn from Enriching Our Worship) held at 8:30 AM on the beach. People brought folding chairs, ushers distributed bulletins from sand buckets, the sermon was short yet powerful, being scripturally based with a practical emphasis and multi-layered in its message, and we stood in a circle for communion and offered bread and wine to each other. Music was a singer and a guitarist.

The service is summer only, and has grown to about 80 people on any given Sunday. It's a great example of thinking outside the walls and bringing Christ’s message to the people.
It might be something for your congregation to consider. Is there a lake near by? An ocean? A river? Are one of these places a popular weekend tourist destination? If so, maybe a satellite summer service is a way for you to reach out and meet people's spiritual needs in a new way...

Saturday, July 21, 2007

2008 Roanridge Application Period Open

June 1 opened the three month window for the submission of applications for 2008 grants from the Roanridge Trust. ALL applications must be postmarked by September 1, 2007. An application, and full information, can be found at

Specifically, the interest generated from the Roanridge Trust is to be used for the “training of town and country clergy and rural Christian workers of PECUSA” (now known as The Episcopal Church).

If you have further questions, please contact Sarah Johnson at or me at

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Free Resource!!!

The Rev. Katharine Hunt and Gail Loken from Christ Church Episcopal in Anchorage, Alaska, offer your congregation the following (free!) weekly resource. They produce the resource and e-mail it to your in-box so you can then easily e-mail it out to interested members of your congregation. It is a great lectionary-based resource and I am happy to recommend it for your further review.

Greetings from Alaska!

Join us in using Lectionary Life Links, a new, vibrant resource that
nourishes the spiritual growth of people of all ages. These weekly
bulletin inserts are free to you, funded by a grant through the
Roanridge Foundation.

Preview a sample at
(F.R.O.L.I.C - Fully Renewing Our Lives in Christ)

This resource is serving parishes in Germany and 19 states throughout
the United States in a multitude of ministry areas including shut-ins/LEM
ministry, Hospital visits, prison ministry, Intergenerational
Christian Education, Self/Home Study and as a sermon resource.

We invite you to contact us at to begin your free
e-mail subscription.

Blessings and Peace, and we look forward to hearing from you,

Rev. Katherine Hunt and Gail Loken
Christ Church Episcopal, Anchorage, Alaska

Monday, July 09, 2007

El Camino Real

Guest preacher and presider, Diocese of El Camino Real...

Greetings from the Diocese of El Camino Real--from another Diocese where the small church is alive with God's mission.

I'm here for one week, presenting in three different parts of the Diocese--Paso Robles, San Jose, and Marina. The first event was Saturday, and 48 congregational leaders (lay and ordained) from the Southern Deanery were in attendance. It was a day rich with sharing--statistics and resources (my part) and stories of vitality and examples of God's presence at work in the congregation (the leaders part). Sometimes I think I am the most blessed priest to be able to do this work, to share my own perception of where God's presence seems palpable and to listen to other's stories of God's amazing hand at work. To be able to share and hear these stories between diocese and Anglican provinces is truly phenomenal.

I wonder, where does God's presence seem most intense in your congregation?

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Priest Wanted for Congregation on Fire with a Sense of Mission!!!

The letter below was received today from Susanne Miller, from Oneida, New York. This is a wonderful group of people that I met at Start Up Start Over. They clearly understand mission, both personally and as a gathered Christian community and the priest that accepts this call will be blessed indeed!!!

Last October, the three of us along with our rector, Alan Smith, attended Start Up Start Over in San Antonio. For all of us, it was a life-changing experience, and the changes in our congregation, worship style, and focus reflect what we learned from you all.

The purpose for our church is clearly to bring people who are spiritual but do not have a church nearer to God. We have enriched our worship service with dancers, elaborate processions, Prayers of the People, sermons, hymn lyrics on screen. We have embraced the concept of door-to-door evangelism and have developed a team of 10 people for this mission. We have written and earned a $13,000 grant to be used toward the purchase of multi-media equipment and have asked our diocese to look to us to be a poster child of parishes working to redevelop ourselves.
We are serious and want you to know how much we appreciate what you did to inspire us.

Now we seek your help once more. When Alan came to us three years ago, we knew he would be leaving in three years. November is the end of his time here. We hate to see him leave, but we feel his best gift to us was to energize us to continue to move forward without his leadership.

We are, however, looking for a new leader. Because you both have had experience with starting new congregations and helping small parishes thrive, we are hoping you might know of someone who would fit our needs: a spiritual person with high energy, creativity, and commitment to working to move parishes up and into the 21st Century.

Unfortunately, our position is, of necessity, still a part-time position. We do have a wonderful bonus of being close to Syracuse University, Colgate University, Hamilton College, Cazenovia College, SUNY Morrisville, and LeMoyne College.....each within 30 minutes of Oneida and wonderful sources for advanced degrees in philosophy, medicine, law, sociology, and numerous other fields. Many opportunities for bi-vocational positions are available in our area as well. To learn more about our diocese, check out the Diocese of Central New York. Skip Adams is our Bishop......a wonderful and caring pastor.

Our deployment form is in the national church computer, but we are looking beyond that to you because the codes available to us didn’t suit our newly defined needs. Since you have so much contact with folks who become engaged with the Start Up Start Over premises, we think you may be excellent resources!

If you know of someone who might be interested in this position, please e-mail us at the following e-mail addresses:

Susan Slaunwhwite:
Kellie Lanz:
Sue Miller:

We would greatly appreciate it if you could steer us toward anyone who is excited about taking the church into the 21st Century!

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Average Sunday Attendance and Percept Info

Since the release of the "Where Two or Three Are Gathered" Pilot, I've had many people contact me that did not know about the Study Your Congregation web site. On this site, anyone can access the Average Sunday Attendance chart for any Episcopal congregation or Diocese. To view/print this information, visit

Additionally, the First View Percept Report (a faith based demographic report) is also available FREE for the zip code in which the congregation is located. (An $80+ value. However, if you would like a profile for a larger zip code visit )

On the Study Your Congregation page you will also find links to specific information presented for congregations that match yours in terms of size, geographic location, and growth trend. This area is still under development (the material is ready and we are working with the web design team.) Check back to this area in the coming weeks as it promises to be an interactive site packed with information, stories, resources and more.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Pilot Project Announcement

Where Two or Three are Gathered:
Creating Multiple Worship/Gathering Options in the
Small Congregation

“For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them”
(Matthew 18:20)

The 2005 Faith Communities Today (FACT) report reveals that:

Small congregations that offer multiple worship services are more likely to be growing (39% of small congregations that offer three worship services are growing; 20% of small congregations that offer only one worship service are growing.)
Small congregations that offer innovative and diverse worship services are more likely to be growing (37% of small congregations offer innovative and diverse worship services are growing).

These findings suggest that offering multiple services that differ in style can be an effective way for the small congregation to reach new people.
Therefore, the Episcopal Church Center, in collaboration with Dr. Charles Arn (author of How to Start a New Service: Your Church CAN Reach New People), is launching a pilot project, “Where two or three are gathered”. This project is aimed to assist small congregations interested in introducing a new style of worship service/gathering. This new service/gathering will be in addition to the congregation’s current service(s).

This pilot project will be limited to 25 congregations with an average Sunday attendance (ASA) of 70 or less who seek to nourish the unmet spiritual needs of people in their wider community.

Over a period of approximately 18 months, the Office of Congregational Development will provide these congregations support and materials. Additionally, a two-day training conference with Dr. Arn and Episcopal Church Center staff will be offered January 25-26, 2008.

If you would like to consider participating in this exciting pilot please contact:

The Rev. Suzanne E. Watson
Staff Officer, Congregational Development
The Episcopal Church Center
815 Second Avenue
New York, NY 10017

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Mandatory Pension for Lay Employees of Episcopal Churches

In resolution A125 of the 2006 General Convention, the Office for Ministry Development was directed to ascertain the best possible way of determining a feasibility study which would review whether lay pension benefits should be made compulsory and, if so, whether or not a single service provider should be made available for pensions of lay employees in the Episcopal Church. To fulfill this direction the Office for Ministry development determined that a study group of approximately twelve people be gathered to offer collective wisdom about these issues. I was asked to be part of the group, an invitation I gladly accepted.

Today concluded two days of meetings. And there is great collective wisdom in the group, and I am honored to be the “voice of the small congregation” in the dialogue. However, that is where I need your help.

What are your views about the feasibility of mandating pensions for lay employees in the Episcopal Church? What is the recommendation when viewed from a theological perspective? From a stewardship perspective? From a social justice perspective? And what are the financial implications for the small congregation? Are the theological and stewardship considerations different when one looks at the financial realities of small Episcopal churches? If you are not part of the Epsicopal Church, does your denomination or faith group have pension mandates for employees?

I value your opinion and wisdom, and welcome your comments, either posted anonymously below or via e-mail at

Friday, May 18, 2007

Introducing Our New Small Membership Church Intern

Greetings Blososphere:

The Office of Congregational Development is pleased to announce a new intern in our mix. Her name is Licia, and she will be working with Dr. Charles Arn and me on the development of our pilot program--Multiple Choice Church: Reaching the Unchurched with a New Style Service.

Now it's your chance. Licia's statement of introduction is pasted below. She's a bright, energetic seminarian anxious to know all there is about the small Episcopal Church. Share your wisdom...what would you like a "rising senior" seminarian to know about the small church? What would you hope that she gain from her experience here in our office? From her work? From our pilot?

Licia (and I) look forward to your response...

Hi there!

My name is Licia and I am a student at General Theological Seminary in New York City. I am a “rising senior” which means that in September I will begin my last year of school. I was born and raised in Italy and I moved to the US in 2000 due to my husband’s job. He is Italian too and works in the field of cancer research and we have a beautiful, incredibly smart, sweet, and funny (but I may be biased…) almost-five-year-old daughter.

I became an Episcopalian at St Bart’s (the church, not the island)in 2003 and one year later my family moved to Scottsdale, Arizona, where I went through the discernment process and was accepted as a postulant for ordination.

I always joke that the people of my sponsoring parish are so nice that I fooled them into sponsoring me, but to tell the truth they are a wonderfully supportive community who embraced my whole family and lifted me up in my spiritual journey with great love and constant prayers.

Last summer, thanks to a dear mutual friend, I met Suzanne and became interested in the process of helping churches reach out to people in Christ in new ways. I am very excited at the prospect of working on a pilot project aimed to support congregations interested in introducing new types of services in their schedule in order to share Christ’s message with a variety of different people.

Since my whole experience with the Episcopal Church has been mainly through medium and large sized congregations I am particularly intrigued by the dynamics of “smaller” churches and believe that my experience in this internship will help me become a more effective leader in times of growth and transition.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Suggested Strand: Reaching Out

A reader of this blog writes:

Hi there! I am the Senior Warden at St Swithen's Episcopal Church. We are a small congregation with typical Sunday attendance around 60. There are so many other small Parishes like ours and we have a lot to share. We are currently trying to come up with ways to attain growth. I'm sure you know the struggles of doing such a thing.
Another endeavor we are embarking on is to develop an Outreach program. But we were wondering what other Parishes are doing to reach out to the Community. We're trying to find out how we could be the most effective in helping out our neighbors. Could you possibly start a thread going concerning what others might be doing to reach out to those in need? If you could provide any information, that would be wonderful! Thanks!!
Okay readers, time to stop being shy and share. With 100+ readers a day I know there are many stories and wisdom to be shared..what is your small congregation doing to reach out and help your neighbors? And if you are not part of a faith community, when you look around at "church", at what we profess to be, and see our neighbor's need, how would you answer this faithful senior warden?

Friday, April 27, 2007

Episcopal Congregations in Europe

On April 20-22, 2007 my son (pictured in striped sweater on right) and I had the honor of attending the first ever mission festival celebrating the ministry carried out by the Episcopal mission congregations in Europe. The gathering was held in Rastatt, Germany.

The Rt. Rev. Pierre Whalon (pictured above addressing the children at the closing Eucharist) was in attendance for the entire celebration, and played an integral role in terms of teaching, vision, and encouragement.

I look forward to sharing the pictures and stories of these congregations in the days to come --including the stories of the two missions that will be closing shortly, the booming new church plant of ex patriots and the new church sprout of refugees from Rwanda. What a gathering!

This trip reinforced (once again) that as Episcopalians we are a diverse group of people who are united by the experience of knowing the transforming love of Christ on a heart, mind and soul level, and who want to share this experience with the wider (and increasingly secular) world. I continue to be warmed by the spiritual depth and beauty of our brothers and sisters in Christ, both at home and abroad...


A jet lagged blogger

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

ECC Resources

In preparation for an upcoming visit with the Convocation of Churches in Europe, I have gathered a collection of resources produced by colleagues from the Episcopal Church Center. While I was aware of many of these resources, to see them all gathered in one place (on my office floor no less--all in preparation for shipping to our brothers and sisters in Christ in Europe), to see the breadth of knowledge and passion, and to imagine the new ministry that they can catalyze is incredible.

I wrote out the name of each resource by department, and included contact information. While this document is long (probably too long for a blog) I am quite anxious to share. Departments are listed alphabetically with resources listed beneath each one. While this is by no means an exhaustive list, it is a beginning...

Blessings friends, and I look forward to sharing photos and stories of our mission festival in Germany upon my return.


Episcopal Church Center Resources

Office of Anglican and Global Relations

“Windows on Mission-stories of DFMS missionaries around the world” highlights eleven unique mission journeys with missionaries who share their joys and challenges of doing God’s work throughout the world. 2 DVD Set, $39.95. (each of the eleven segments run between 15 and 25 minutes in length.)

An accompanying study guide will soon be available, also through Episcopal Books and Resources, and available for download with out charge at

Contact Episcopal Books & Resources
212 716-6059
800 334-7626

Colleges and Universities of the Anglican Communion

Guide to Episcopal Colleges Contact the Episcopal Colleges Office at 1.800.334.7626, ext. 6148 or visit

Congregational Development

Stewardship Handbook
Visit the Stewardship pages of The Episcopal Church web site at At this site you will find a large amount of downloadable and very useful information designed to help leaders in congregations and dioceses to development stewardship programs that help carry out the work God is calling them to do. Most of the information found in the Stewardship Handbook (on the display table at events) is also in downloadable format at this site. For more information contact
Terry Parsons Stewardship Officer Congregational Development
or 800.334.7626, ext 6284

Small Church Growth Strategy Handbook (Summer 2007 edition to be uploaded soon) Contact Suzanne Watson at 1.800.334.7626, ext. 6185 Or e-mail

Voices of the Young: Listening to twenty-somethings talk about the Church (DVD)

Truth and Hope: A Time of Truth and Hope for the Episcopal Church by Charles Fulton and James Lemler available from Forward Movement Publications

FACTS on Episcopal Growth (and much more statistical data) Kirk Hadaway Visit

Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations

Interfaith Education Initiative: A Manual on Interfaith Dialogue Available through Episcopal Books and Resources at using reference number 60-0416.

Handbook for Ecumenism Available through the Office of Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations at 800.334.7626, ext. 6127 Or e-mail

Episcopal Life
Visit e-Life on line at

Episcopal Migration Ministries
“A Map of Faith-Sharing the Journey with the Uprooted” DVD Available through Episcopal Migration Ministries at 800.334.7626, ext. 6057 Or e-mail

Episcopal News Service
Visit the new interactive Episcopal Life site
To receive Episcopal News Service via e-mail, subscribe at

Episcopal Relief and Development

For brochures, magnets, and more information about the Millennium Development Goals and the Episcopal Church
For gifts that will make a lasting difference in the lives of children and families living in extreme poverty, consider giving from the Gifts for Life catalog
For more information call 1.800.334.7626 ext 5129, or visit for information about the vital ministry of Episcopal Relief and Development.

Office of Ethnic Congregational Development

A Disciples Prayerbook available through the office of Native Ministries at 800.334.7626 ext 5350 or e-mail at

Hispanic Ministry: Opportunity for Mission And The Hispanic Mission: Things to Consider in Starting an Hispanic Mission by The Rev. Isaias Rodriguez. Both Available through the Office of Latino/Hispanic Ministries at 1.800.334.7626 ext 6328 or e-mail at

Black Ministry Resources
Contact The Rev. Angela Ifill at 800.334.7626 ext 5343 or e-mail at

Asian Ministry Resources
Contact The Rev. Winfred Vergara at 800.334.7626 ext 5344 or e-mail at

Office of International Partnership for Service Learning and Leadership

For more information on the Service Learning Summer or Semester Programs or the Master of Arts in International Service, visit or at 212.986.0989 or e-mail at

Ministries With Young People

· For all handbooks, publications, DVD’s, and music resources contact Luke Fodor at 800.334.7626 ext 6158 or

· Handbooks and Publications (most available for download with out cost):

· Handbook for Ministries with Young Adolescents in the Episcopal Church
· Handbook for Ministries with Older Adolescents in the Episcopal Church
· Discovering: Called to Teach and Learn—A Process to Explore the Church’s Primary Teaching Resource
· Called to Teach and Learn: A Catechetical Guide for the Episcopal Church
· Youth Ministry in the Age of AIDS
· In Dialogue with Scripture: An Episcopal Guide to Studying the Bible
· Awake My Soul: A Liturgical Resource for use with Children and Adults
· Youth and Young Adults: Resource Book For Ministries With

DVD and Music Resources:
· Voices of the Young: Listening to twenty-somethings talk about the Church (DVD)
· REMix: Greatest Hits from Ministries with Young People

Announcements of Mission Opportunities:
Young Adult Service Corp
Short-Term Domestic Internship Program
Young Adult Internship Programs

Mission Program

2020 The Vision for Mission Today and Tomorrow James Lemler Available from Forward Movement Publications

Groundwork (Lenten Study Guide) Available to download with out fee at

Truth and Hope: A Time of Truth and Hope for the Episcopal Church by Charles Fulton and James Lemler available from Forward Movement Publications

Office of Ministry Development

Supporting Christians at Work: A Practical Guide for Busy Clergy by Mark Green, available through Episcopal Books and Resources at or at 800.903.5544

Theological Education for All: Knowledge of God, not a forbidden fruit. Go to

Ministry in Daily Life: Go to

Office of Government Relations

Visit or 800.2280515 for more information on:
God’s Mission in the World: An Ecumenical Christian Study Guide on Global Poverty and the Millennium Development Goals
Corporate Engagement by the Episcopal Church on Issues Related to Israel and the Palestinian Territories

Office of Peace and Justice Ministries
Engage God’s Mission: Policy for Action—The Social Policies of the Episcopal Church, USA
Anti-Racism Training and Material
Jubilee Ministry: Outreach Ministry Program of The Episcopal Church for the Past Quarter Century
"Changing Lives: Behind the Walls at Angola" is a new feature-length video documentary following the effects of an Episcopal chaplain's ministry inside a prison once considered the bloodiest in America: the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola, Louisiana
Contact 800.334.7626, ext 6050 for more information or e-mail

United Thank Offering

UTO 2006: Grants List
Contact 800.334.7626 ext 6022, or e-mail Steven Bailey at

Women’s Ministries
Shall We Gather: Anglican Women Together (DVD)
Anglican Women’s Empowerment (AWE) Brochure
Beijing Circles: Resource for Women of Faith Changing the World
Beijing Circles: East Timor to Yonkers (DVD)
For more information contact Kim Robey at 800.334.7626 or e-mail

Additional Resources on Table:

Changing Lives for Good: visit

Happy Easter

from Connecticut...

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Continuing Christ's Mission of Making Disciples

Should Your Congregation Consider Starting a New Church Service With a Different Style?

Charles Arn, in his book How to Start a New Service: Your Church CAN Reach New People begins with a chapter on which congregations should, or should not, begin a new church service. By new, he means new-style, with the goal of reaching out to new people to continue Christ’s mission to make disciples. Should your congregation consider starting a new-style service? The following questions help determine the answer:

1. Is your congregation’s highest priority being “like a family”?
2. Is your congregation’s highest priority preserving “correct” doctrine and “correct” interpretation of Scripture?
3. Has your congregation split from a more liberal church or denomination in the past 50-75 years?
4. Is your congregation’s highest priority survival (i.e. with avoiding death than pursuing life)?
5. Does your priest/pastor/leadership team plan to leave in the coming year?
6. Does your congregation seem too small to add another service?
7. Is your congregation’s attendance declining?
8. Is your congregation’s sanctuary less than filled on Sundays?
9. Does your congregation lack the personnel to add a new service?
10. Does your theology or liturgical beliefs not allow for a different style?
11. Is your church in a bad location?

Response: Did you answer yes to question number 1, 2, 3, 4, or 5? If so, starting a new service is probably not the best strategy for your congregation at this time. About 50% of congregations fall into this category.

Did you answer yes to question number 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 or 11? Guess what? These are excuses for not starting a new service, but they are not reasons. If the idea of a new service (despite the excuses) seems like it might have merit, consider purchasing Arn’s book which is widely available ( . )
Additionally, watch this space (or e-mail ) for the announcement of a new pilot program for small churches interested in making new disciples through a new-style service.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Start Up Start Over

Start Up Start Over, the congregational development seminar in its twentieth year (!!!) is launching a new blog.

While attending the event, community quickly forms among the participants. Participants then return from Start Up Start Over energized to equip their congregations to bring Christ to the post-Christendom world in new ways.

What has been lacking is a way to stay in touch, to share stories, struggles, accomplishments, ideas, etc.

If you have attended Start Up Start Over in the past, please visit and share your experience. If you have not yet attended, please feel free to visit and see what others say. It may be a seminar worth your (and your congregation's) consideration.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Growth in ASA vs. Transformation: Lent 3 Reflection

One of my fondest memories as a child is of spending time with my grandmother in San Diego. She was a loving, down-to-earth woman who loved and served God with her whole heart and soul. And it was through her, and the times we spent together, that I began to learn about what it is to be a person who follows Christ.

Her lessons were never overt. Instead, they were taught in subtle and earthy ways. Ways that I could somehow hear, and that took root to sprout later in life. For example, she had a many fruit trees in her back yard. She would save her kitchen scraps, and after meals, we would march out and spread the organic scraps around the base of the trees. She told me that the sandy soil in coastal San Diego made growing fruit trees difficult, but with proper care and extra nutrients it was possible. I remember one day harvesting several ripe figs from her garden, warmed from the sun, and then returning to her porch swing to enjoy our feast. As we enjoyed the figs, she read me the parable from Sunday's (Lent 3) gospel.


Let me dig around it and nourish it…if it bears fruit next year well and good. If not, you can cut it down…

Today’s gospel raises the question, how can we, as communities who profess to follow Christ, dig around and nourish ourselves so that we bears fruit?

How do you know if your congregation is “baring fruit”? A great deal of my work involves traveling and speaking at provincial and diocesan conferences, both in the US and overseas. I always ask people why they made the choice to take a Saturday and attend. Almost universally the response is “because we want our congregation to grow!” It’s always a set up, because the one characteristic most linked with decline in attendance in a congregation is the desire to grow. Most often, wanting to grow means a congregation is looking a little empty on Sunday mornings, or maybe that the congregation is aging a little bit, or that finances are getting a little tight. Growth, or wanting to grow, is not how we tell if a congregation is baring fruit.

Instead, a congregation is baring fruit when people are being transformed by the love of Christ. This means that with in the congregation member’s lives are being transformed, and that the congregation is reaching out, and transforming their corner of the world and, possibly, beyond…Transformation is the fruit of the congregation in full bloom. A bi-product of transformation is that the congregation that transforms people and wider community usually does grow, but growth in numbers in the congregation, in and of itself, is not the end.

This Sunday I'm attending a new's hoping that as my family and I walk in we find a place as welcoming as my grandmother's porch swing, and discover a community of people happily producing plump figs, warmed by the sun...


Tween Talk

When speaking to gatherings of congregational leaders, one of the most common frustrations voiced is an inability to keep the "young people" engaged in the church.
One of the issues might be the gulf between how different generations profess belief in Christ.
As a mum of teens and tweens myself (four of them!) I am keenly interested in this subject, and frequently challenged by my kids about generational "church-speak."
As an example, I share something written by a teen to profess his belief in Christ to back up an assertion he made about a controversial issue:
"Yes,>> >>as a matter of fact I AM a...>> >>Wideyed Sanctified >> >>blood bought spirit taught>> >>Bible totin' scripture quotin' Satan bashin' sin trashin' Christ>>followin`>> >Pride swallowin hard prayin' truth conveyin' >> >>faith walkin' gospel talkin'>> >>BONAFIDE BIG TIME BELIEVER>> >>And proud of it!!!" (original source not cited in post)
Compare these words with the form of language used in worship to profess faith--words which speak to my soul at a deep and resonating level. I see a huge gulf between the two (although a Lenten discipline of "faith walkin' gospel talkin'" has a rather appealing ring to it--even for this boomer mom!)
So friends, what is the way forward? Is it to try and train up the young in "our" ways so that they understand when they hit the tween and teen years, or is it beginning to reach out, understand, and listen to these meaning-seeking kids and help them to develop and grow in Christ through worship in ways that touch their soul at that deep and resonating level. If it is the latter, are we ready to facilitate that process?

Friday, February 23, 2007

Living Stones: A Gathering to Focus on Total Ministry

On February 17-20, 2007, I was honored to be included as a guest at the annual gathering of Living Stones in Spokane, Washington. Living Stones is a partnership of dioceses and communities of faith engaged in Christian mission, committed to the ministry of all the baptized. In the context of theological reflection, the Living Stones Partnership exists to support, challenge, and strengthen ministry in their respective jurisdictions.
The gathering included over twenty diocese and communities of faith from ECUSA and the Anglican Church in Canada. Those present formed "cluster groups" in which four different groups presented a situation for peer evaluation and consultation. Many of the presentations focused on the "nuts and bolts" and "strengths and opportunities" of living out the ministry of "locally identified and trained teams" as congregational leaders (called total ministry, ministry of all the baptized, local shared ministry, or many other names...this is a model where teams with in the congregation are identified, locally trained, and ordained--including the ministry of priest and deacon--and are then facilitated by a regional missioner who is commonly seminary trained and works with several congregational teams.)
The gathering in Spokane was filled with life, and it is exciting to see such a large group of dynamic church leaders creatively working together to find ways to continue to proclaim the gospel locally in these changing times.
If you are part of a diocese that has small churches that might wish to explore the concept of total ministry, attending Living Stones as a visitor would be a great opportunity to explore this option. Many of the congregations present initially looked to this alternative model because of finances and budget, but now embrace it and clearly state that they would not return to the one-priest one-altar model.
Unfortunately Living Stones does not have a web site for further information. If you would like more info. send me an e-mail and I will forward it to someone who can assist...

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Bringing Christ to the Post-Christian World

Greetings friends from the Seattle airport! I am in transit from New Zealand, where myself, and a team of ten other Americans (from three denominations), presented the seminar entitled "Bringing Christ to a Post-Christian World."

Over 60 leaders from New Zealand (both North and South Island), Canada, and the United States gathered to look at where and how God is calling us to proclaim Christ in this rapidly changing world.

The design of the conference included a 30-minute cultural relevance discussion to follow each presentation. These sections were informative and much cross-pollination of thought, learnings, and passion for Christ's mission were exchanged. However, it was also abundantly (and quickly) clear that the churches in New Zealand, Canada, and the United States are all facing similar circumstances. What was also clear is that we together, as brothers and sisters in Christ, are on fire with the mission of Christ, and hungry for ways to proclaim Christ's timeless and always relevant message in new relevant ways to this post-Christendom world. I, for one, am honored to have been part of this event.

Blessings mates...S.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007


The meditation below is written by the Rev. Donald P. Fuselier (, who serves at St. Dunstan's Episcopal Church, Carmel Valley. Don is also a Volunteer Chaplain at Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula, Chaplain for the Monterey County Chief Law Enforcement Officer's Association, and Chaplain for Monterey Peninsula College Police Academy.

Don's reflection warmed my heart--even on a day when it is well below freezing in New York City--and brought a tear to my eye. It especially touched me because it reminded me of my own grief and that of my four young children when my husband died suddenly several years ago. It was other people's ability (and willingness) to just be present that somehow helped us to know that God really was present, even through the darkest of valleys...S.

"Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh" (Luke 21:21b)

As volunteer hospital chaplains, we become accustomed to ministering to individuals facing life threatening illness in their own lives and those of family members. Recently, however, I found myself in a situation that overwhelmed me and left me feeling completely helpless and speechless.

After completing my "rounds", I returned home only to be paged and directed to return for an emergency. On arrival at the hospital I was informed that a 28 year old mother of two had just died very suddenly and unexpectedly. I was told that this young woman's mother, brother and sister, and fiancee had just been informed and were sequestered in a "quiet room" just 30 feet away. The charge nurse asked me to go to them and "bring them comfort".

As I slowly walked the short distance I felt as helpless and inadequate as I have ever felt in my life. What could I possibly say to a mother who just lost a beautiful young daughter? What could I say to her brother and sister? What could I say to her finance who just saw his hopes and dreams vanish in a heartbeat? Everything I could think of seemed flat and empty.

When I entered the room I found it was even more complicated than I thought. The mother was foreign born and spoke little or no English. She was wailing and pulling at her hair as the others in the room sat weeping. I stood there trying to find something to say.

Nothing came to my mind other than this woman's uncontrollable and overwhelming grief. At last I simply reached out and hugged the woman to me and held her as we rocked back and forth in silence. After quite some time she regained her composure and wept silently. After a while I offered a prayer in English and she prayed in her language. I could not understand her and doubt she understood me but we were united in prayer. As she left with her remaining children she gave me a slight smile and nod of her head.

Sometimes there are simply no words to offer. There is just being there for a brother or sister in pain and holding them, just as God holds us all.