Wednesday, January 31, 2007

eMinistry Classes Announced

From The Rev. Elizabeth Hasen:

eMinistry's February newsletter is available for download. It has information on all of our classes, how to become a class leader, and statistics on eMinistry's first six months. New and upcoming classes are noted below. For more information on eMinistry visit their website at

Classes in the next two weeks:
Designing a Confirmation Program that Speaks to Youth and Invites Ministry -- new expanded (90-minute) format, this Thursday, February 1 at 7:00 pm Eastern.

Praying in the Celtic Way -- Monday, February 5 at 7:00 pm Eastern. Leader: The Rev. Mary Earle

How to Find and Do God's Work in Today's World -- Begins Tuesday, February 6 (two sessions) at 7:00 pm Eastern. Leader: Wayne Schwab

Knowing and Loving Scripture: A Class for Adults Who Work with Youth -- Thursday, February 8 at 7:00 pm Eastern. Leader: Greg Syler

The Women Jesus Knew Begins Tuesday, February 27 (two sessions) at 8:00 pm Eastern. Leader: Bonnie Ring

The Spirituality of the Labyrinth (with Lauren Artress) -- Begins Monday February 19 (two sessions) at 7:00 pm Eastern. Leader: Lauren Artress

The Millennium Development Goals: Strategies and Resources for Adult Education -- Thursday, March 8 at 8:00 pm Eastern. Leader: Lallie Loyd

Progress and Strategies for Millennium Development Goal 1: Eradicate Extreme Poverty and Hunger -- Thursday, March 29 at 8:00 pm Eastern. Leader: Lallie Loyd

Creating A Singles-Friendly Congregation: Ministry To and With Single Adults -- Begins Tuesday, March 13 (2 sessions) at 7:00 pm Eastern. Leader: Dr. Kay Collier-McLaughlin

Faithful Words: A Class for Lay Preachers-- Begins Thursday, March 1 (2 sessions) at 7:00 pm Eastern. Leader: Elizabeth Hasen

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Your Story--God's Story

As a previous comments reflected, a key to evangelism and faith development is becoming aware of how our own story, and that of our congregation, is part of the larger unfolding story of God's redeeming and saving work in the world.
A tool was developed through the Episcopal Church's Office of Congregational Development by the Rev. Charles Fulton and Susie Miller to help people become more aware of how God has and is acting in their lives. This exercise, which I have pasted below, can be used individually or in small groups (or even reprinted in your church or diocesan bulletin or newsletter.)
Personally, I have worked through it a few times. Most striking was seeing clearly how God is and was always active and truly present in my life, even through those times when I had turned away from God's love or thought I was all alone.
I'd encourage you to take some time to do this exercise (I did it for the first time on the train on my way to work.) Then share it. And of course, let me know (and others if you are brave) what you discover...S.
Preparing to Tell Your Faith Story
Charles Fulton and Susy Miller

Draw a time line from left to right on a sheet of paper, the left being your birth, the right being the present.

Time line:


On the time line mark and identify (by year) significant events that were turning points in your life.

Above the line describe the context within which the event occurred. What else was going on in your life at that time?

Below the line describe your awareness of God at that point. Was God present or absent?
What was God doing with you in that event—comforting, challenging, provoking, teaching, giving, providing, loving, affirming, etc.?

Look at the whole time line. Are there patterns in the turning point events of your life? What initiates turning points, what is required of you, how were you different after these events?
What are the patterns in your experience of God and your relationship with God? Is there a consistency in God’s actions and responses in your turning points?
Remember: God is the main character in this story, what God has done and is doing in your life. You are the acted upon.
Imagine telling someone about your insights into God’s presence and working in your life.
Tell your story of how God has come into your life and what has been the result when you have recognized God’s presence.
Tell the story to yourself, then tell the story to a friend. Listen for the story your story will trigger in your friend.
Tell your story to someone outside a faith community.

Commit to inviting God into your life as your life line lengthens into your future, regularly engaging the Gospel with others.

Spiritual Direction

From the Spiritual Directors International Web Site, found at

Seek and Find a Spiritual Director

Are you looking for some direction in your life? Do you have a feeling there just must be “something more” than what you are currently experiencing? Use the Seek and Find Guide to find a spiritual director, companion, mentor, or guide to help you along on your journey of discovery. Use this FREE interactive database to search for spiritual directors in your area. Not sure how to choose a spiritual director? Don’t worry. The Seek and Find Guide includes a handy set of review questions to help you.

What Is Spiritual Direction?

Spiritual direction is the process of accompanying people on a spiritual journey. Spiritual direction helps people tell their sacred stories everyday. Spiritual direction exists in a context that emphasizes growing closer to God (or the holy or a higher power). Spiritual direction invites a deeper relationship with the spiritual aspect of being human. Spiritual direction is not psychotherapy, counseling, or financial planning.

What Is Spiritual Directors International?

Spiritual Directors International is a global learning community of people from many faiths and many nations who share a common concern, passion and commitment to the art and contemplative practice of spiritual direction.

Monday, January 29, 2007

International Rural Church Conference Announcement

The Canadian Rural Church Network &
The International Rural Church Association
invite you to participate
in Brandon 2007...
Cry of the Heart: How Can we Find Hope in the Rural Landscape?
Dates: July 3-9, 2007
Location: Brandon, Manitoba, Canada

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

The Gift of God's Church to the World

From the Rev. Canon Victoria D. Duncan, Canon for Development of Mission and Ministry, Episcopal Diocese of Western New York

I have a "building as evangelism" story for you from Church of the Ascension in Buffalo, New York (pictured above). Ascension has welcomed in their worship midst for years now a "homeless" man, who draws from the offering plate as often as he contributes. He's there every Sunday at exactly the right time for church. When I've met him, we've had moments when we've connected, eye to eye, and I've blessed him and greeted him. Then his eyes would roll and he'd be somewhere else....
The Ascension folks missed him for a few weeks, then saw in the obituary a person whose basic description was like his, and had the same name. It was their "homeless" Paul.
They shared the news amongst themselves and independently went to the funeral home wake. They met Paul's cousins who all live in the area, and found out that he was a Marine Corps officer in Vietnam who never successfully reintegrated into society and became a drug addict. Ascension learned that he never made it anywhere and hadn't seen his family in over 15 years. The family learned that Paul had a faith community, and that it was the one
appointed time he made -on time- every week. The family welcomed Ascension's presence, and they celebrated the Eucharist together.
Ascension is experiencing his loss, but celebrating the blessing that they both received and were able to share. Amazing people. An example to me of the gift of God's Church to the world.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

The Great Commission


Submitted by Susie Mosly from Christ Church, Mena, Arkansas

Our tiny mission church in the Ouachita Mountains of western Arkansas is experiencing an awakening. Since Sept. 3 eleven individuals have joined our little church.

THE brief recent history:
Over the summer of 2006 eight members left to form a conservative Episcopal church in our town. They took their story to the statewide newspaper which ran a front page story which included quotes from several Arkansas dissidents including Mena. Before the exit, we had 40 on the roles with the average Sunday attendance of 15. After the exit, we all made a commitment to each other and the church. Individuals stepped forward to do the everyday chores of a church. Individuals renewed their efforts as lay readers and the reading of sermons on Sundays. We did not gossip or say hateful things. We were just very sad. We were making it but...

THE story:
Why are we experiencing this awakening?
For the first time in decades we have a missionary priest. His name is Father Jos Tharakan. He comes to Mena twice a week from his isolated farm 110 miles north of Mena. His biography is fascinating: born a Catholic in southern India, became a Franciscan monk at 16, worked as a priest with lepers for Mother Teresa for three years, came to America and was assigned as a priest to Arkansas, decided priests should be married, left the Catholic church, became a hospital chaplain, met and married an ordained American Baptist minister, had a child, was called to be an Episcopal priest, and his first Episcopal church is Christ Church--Mena, Arkansas.
Father Jos is a very special person!
THE rub:
We are desperate to keep Father Jos. Why? We are being spiritually fed. It is as if an angel has been placed in our lives. There are so many in our area who are in need of a spiritual family. We are poor financially. The people of Ouachita Mountains are poor. Our tiny congregation has pledged $6,000 more than last year for a total of $24,000. We are pledged out and are now trying to find ways to pay for Father Jos and his family to be fulltime in Mena. It will take $72,000 according to the salary and benefits required by the Diocese of Arkansas. The irony is our little church for years has given 18% to the diocese which is above what is requested by the diocese. We are a sister church for an Episcopal mission on an Indian reservation in the Dakotas. We now have special needs of our own.

THE question:
We are willing to do what we can to fulfill the Great Commission. Do you have any suggestions or ideas?

Susie Mosley ( )

Monday, January 22, 2007

The Right Rev. C. Christopher Epting Joins the Blogging World

The below is from Bishop Epting, who serves as the Episcopal Church's Deputy for Ecumenical and Interfaith relations. He announces the launch of his new blog...
Well, friends, I have decided to take the plunge into the “blogosphere!”

That We All May Be One will contain periodic reflections from me about unity – in the church, among people of faith, in the human family.

You can access it at

The good thing is, you may choose to go to it – but it will never come to you (in your inbox) again!

Happy New Year!.

C. Christopher Epting, Bishop
Deputy for Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations
The Episcopal Church
815 Second Avenue
New York, NY 10017

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Diocese of Western New York

Mission Renewal in the Diocese of Western New York!

On January 12 and 13, 2007, over sixty people representing several small Episcopal congregations in the Diocese of Western New York gathered to explore how they are living out God’s mission as individuals, congregations, and as members of their larger community. The event was organized by the Rev. Victoria Duncan, who also served on the design team with The Rev. George Martin and me. Both George and I presented. Church of the Ascension in Buffalo served as the host congregation.

The focus of the event was on Sharing Your Story…On Friday evening, participants worked in small groups, together becoming more aware of the ways God has worked, acted, and touched their individual lives (an awareness of how God has worked and acted in our lives and an ability to articulate this awareness is at the heart of evangelism). Saturday morning was devoted to learning more about the particular community in which each congregation is located (with the goal of encouraging congregations to look outward to identify where and how they might make Jesus’ reconciling love known on a local level). Saturday afternoon explored the degree of rapidity of secular change and looked at the tremendous field of mission opportunity that exists today; the question becomes are our congregations willing to change to meet the changing circumstances?

I came away from this gathering with great hope for many reasons. First, the number that gathered exceeded our expectations, once again exemplifying how hungry people are to find ways to become more effective communicators of our faith (the fact that every Start Up Start Over books to capacity is another example) The thoughtfulness, experience and insight on the part of the participants was also inspiring. And, quite simply, this group was one of the most hospitable I have encountered. May God continue to bless the people of the Diocese of Western New York, and I can not wait to see how they will continue to live out the Great Commission and the Great Commandment in new and motivating ways.

From a still unthawing blogging priest

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

A Lighthearted Wednesday

They're Back! Church Bulletin and Announcement errors. This is from a widely distributed e-mail with out an identified author/editor. There are some of the old ones I've seen a bunch of times, but some new ones as well. Even the second or third time through they are good for a laugh...

The Fasting & Prayer Conference includes meals.

The sermon this morning: "Jesus Walks on the Water." The sermon tonight: "Searching for Jesus."

Our youth basketball team is back in action Wednesday at 8 PM in the recreation hall. Come out and watch us kill Christ the King.

Ladies, don't forget the rummage sale. It's a chance to get rid of those things not worth keeping around the house. Bring your husbands.

The peacemaking meeting scheduled for today has been canceled due to a conflict.

Remember in prayer the many who are sick of our community. Smile at someone who is hard to love. Say "Hell" to someone who doesn't care much about you.

Don't let worry kill you off - let the Church help.

Miss Charlene Mason sang "I will not pass this way again," giving obvious pleasure to the congregation.

For those of you who have children and don't know it, we have a nursery downstairs.

Next Thursday there will be tryouts for the choir. They need all the help they can get.

The Rector will preach his farewell message after which the choir will sing: "Break Forth Into Joy."

Irving Benson and Jessie Carter were married on October 24 in the church. So ends a friendship that began in their school days.

At the evening service tonight, the sermon topic will be "What Is Hell?" Come early and listen to our choir practice.

Eight new choir robes are currently needed due to the addition of several new members and to the deterioration of some older ones.

Scouts are saving aluminum cans, bottles and other items to be recycled. Proceeds will be used to cripple children.

Please place your donation in the envelope along with the deceased person you want remembered.

The church will host an evening of fine dining, super entertainment and gracious hostility.

Potluck supper Sunday at 5:00 PM - prayer and medication to follow.

Ladies Bible Study will be held Thursday morning at 10 AM. All ladies are invited to lunch in the Fellowship Hall after the B. S. Is done.

The pastor would appreciate it if the ladies of the congregation would lend him their electric girdles for the pancake breakfast next Sunday.

The Low Self Esteem Support Group will meet Thursday at 7 PM. Please use the back door.

The eighth-graders will be presenting Shakespeare's Hamlet in the Church basement Friday at 7 PM . The congregation is invited to attend this tragedy.

Weight Watchers will meet at 7 PM at the First Presbyterian Church. Please use large double door at the side entrance.

The Associate Minister unveiled the church's new tithing campaign slogan last Sunday: "I Upped My Pledge - Up Yours!"

Friday, January 05, 2007

Welcoming and Incorporation

Yes, this is really true…

I recently became reacquainted with an old pal from college who I had not spoken with for over 20 years (says the geriatric pastor). We’ve been enjoying our renewed friendship, and he’s intrigued by the fact that I went on to pursue ordained ministry. To more fully understand this development in my life, he decided to attend an Episcopal Church last Sunday (we live in different regions of the country.)

Why is it a big deal that he went to church? The rub is he has never, ever entered a church in his life. Any church. Any worshipping community. And off he goes to St. Swithens…this is how he described the experience:

I looked in the phone book and found two Episcopal Churches listed. I went by the first one, but there was no sign and I thought it was abandoned. I wondered, “Can a church go out of business? I didn’t think they could.” I then went on to a larger church a little further on. I sat in the parking lot for a long time with my knees shaking, watching as people got out of their cars, and wanting to go in a little late to just sneak in to the back. However, when I finally mustered the nerve and entered the courtyard where I had seen people enter, I was faced with two closed doors. Not knowing which to choose, I opened one and entered. Unfortunately I had selected incorrectly and entered the front of the church. Trapped with everyone staring, I quickly found my way to the first row.

I was unable to follow anything anyone was doing, and no one brought me the program that they all seemed to be using. I was kind of freaked out--everyone stands, then they sit, they say prayers and words, they cross themselves, they change books. I didn’t know what on earth they were doing or what was going to happen next. Increasingly intimidated, as I sat in the front row the preacher suddenly decided to “preach” from the center aisle, right next to where I was sitting. As he was preaching he then said something that made everyone start mumbling some phrases again, and the preacher, still in the center aisle, totally freaked me out and grabbed my hand. I thought I was being singled out, but then realized that everyone was getting up and moving all around the church hugging and shaking hands with each other.

Next, something happened at the table up front, and then everyone got up to leave. But they all headed for the front door where I’d entered. As I followed them up I realized that they weren’t leaving; instead, they all kneeled and someone brought around some bread, then we all went back to our seats.

Finally, after it was all over, someone came up to me with a card and asked me to write my contact information and answer a question. The question asked what my interest at St. Swithens was. As I really didn’t know what to put, I remembered that I’d often heard Christians talk about baptism, so I wrote baptism. All the people then disappeared off into another building, I watched, and then left in my car.

That evening, when he shared this story by phone, I couldn’t help but want to redeem the situation. I asked if the preacher perhaps said something that made him think, or that might be relevant to his life (he has recently began to care take his elderly mother). He said that the preacher mostly talked about something called a diocese, and asked me what a diocese was. Sigh.

While his story reads like a farce, it is, once again, instructive to those of us who profess to be followers of Christ. We never know who it is that will walk in the door (maybe even the wrong door), what issue that person may be experiencing, and if this is the only opportunity they will ever have to be introduced to the transformative love of Jesus Christ.

What guest might you have among you this Epiphany?

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Resource for Sunday, January 7

Nancy Ann McLaughlin, in her new book Do You Believe? Living the Baptismal Covenant (Morehouse Publishing, 2006) offers a tremendous resource for Sunday, January 7, the Baptism of our Lord. On page 26, McLaughlin offers an opening prayer, the body of a sermon, a guided meditation, the renewal of the Baptismal Covenant, and concludes with the peace.
In addition to the liturgy, McLaughlin's book presents the findings from her examination of forty Episcopal parishes in the Untied States. Specifically, she sought to discover what an "active, intentional, energized awareness of baptismal ministry looks like." In a focused and clear way, she looks at each section of the baptismal covenant, chapter by chapter:
  • Do You Believe?
  • The Church
  • Will You Continue?
  • Return to the Lord
  • Will you Proclaim?
  • Christ in All Persons
  • Every Human Being
  • God's Help

The book is especially helpful in that it provides study questions at the conclusion of each very readable chapter, making it an excellent resource for a vestry or a Lenten Study group. I highly recommend it.

Establishing a Health Ministry Program in the Small Church

Health Ministry in the Small Church: An Introduction Tele-seminar

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

Leaders: Jean Denton and Maryfran Crist

Date: Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Time: 8:00 pm Eastern (one-hour teleclass)

Cost: $12.00

Class size: Limited to 12

Class#: OMC-NEHM-100

To Register:

Health Ministry in a local congregation is an intentional ministry focusing on both healing and health, and combining the ancient traditions of the Christian community and the knowledge and tools of modern health care. This introductory class will have a focused presentation of information along with plenty of time for questions and answers.

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

The presenters are the Rev. Jean Denton and Maryfran Crist.

The Rev. Jean Denton has been active in health ministry and parish nursing for fifteen years. Drawing on her background in medical-surgical nursing, community health, teaching, and administration, she began serving as the full-time Director of Health Ministries at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Indianapolis in 1989. She co-chaired the national task force that incorporated Health Ministries Association, and served as its first vice president. Ordained to the Vocational Diaconate in 1992 and to the Priesthood in 2005, Jean served as the Director of National Episcopal Health Ministries for several years and is now Senior Associate Rector at St. Paul’s Indianapolis,. She has written the booklet An Episcopalian Answers Questions about Health Ministries and Parish Nursing, and the manual Steps to a Health Ministry in Your Episcopal Congregation. She helped develop and now teaches the health component of CREDO, the clergy wellness program of the Episcopal Church. She is the author of Good is the Flesh: Body, Soul and Christian Faith (Morehouse Publishing, 2005).

Maryfran Crist is Regional Representative for National Episcopal Health Ministries and a parish
nurse in rural Illinois. She has been a registered nurse for over 25 years and a parish nurse since 1994. Currently she balances her work between a rural health center in LaSalle County Illinois as a family nurse practitioner, an asthma educator and as a parish nurse for a cluster ministry of four small Episcopal churches. Maryfran has worked with multi-staff churches as well as very small churches and feels that health ministry is for all churches. She speaks throughout the Midwest as well as leading workshops from finding joy to dealing with grief. In her spare time, she enjoys time with her husband John, an Episcopal priest, is a clown (Marygold) and plays with eight grandsons.

Gulf Coast, USA Mission Trip Opportunity

The below is posted by Shiela Vossler ( )
There will be another trip to Mississippi Camp Coast Care in the spring. The dates are March 17 - 31, 2007. The Fearless Leader and Resource person on this trip will be Emilie Holder ( . She would like to have a big group accompany her for all or any part of that time. She will need to know as soon as she can as reservations for a cot must be made with the camp director of volunteers. Al and I had such a marvelous experience in our last 2 trips that if you haven't been, we encourage you to lend a hand to help those who have lived through such devastation and are finding hope and joy during the rebuilding of their lives.

If you cannot go in person, please consider a donation to send along. Also we ask that you PLEASE talk to your friends about joining the team. We especially welcome those with construction type experience, however, all willing hands and feet will find meaningful work to do. Please prayerfully consider this invitation to take your spiriitual life up a notch by becoming God's Ambassador on the Gulf Coast of Mississippi.
Love and Peace, Sheila Vossler

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

New Year's Blessing

Watching the ball drop in Times square as 2007 dawned, thoughts and new learnings about congregational development from 2006 swirled through my head (similar to the confetti falling from the buildings—while those pieces of confetti had secular inspirational messages, my own thoughts were of a decidedly Christian nature.)

In particular, I thought about congregational development, the area where God has gently led my ministry over the past year. What really is the mission of congregational development? (Equipping congregations to better experience, grow in, and make known the transformative love of Christ would be my answer.)

So many factors contribute to small membership congregational development, and what makes these congregations unique. If the factors were to fall like confetti, among them would be members’ profound sense of belonging and acceptance, the congregation’s fortitude to not just survive but to adapt and thrive under sometimes challenging circumstances, and the single-cell system dynamics. Financial sustainability and creative models of leadership are also factors. As is an innate ability to know the wider community and reach out in incredible and inspirational (Herculean) ways.

Therefore this New Year’s post serves as a virtual toast—to the small church. To all who worship, minister, and serve in small churches. May God continue to bless you with the mission, passion and energy to reach out with Christ’s love for decades to come…I consider it an honor to be part of the journey.