Staying connected as community is challenging these days. One of the things people say they most miss from their usual involvement in faith congregations is the lack of connection. We are distanced by masks, two meters' space, Zoom and especially our joyful social times enjoying coffee hour or a potluck supper. Explore the importance of these connections in John Wimberly's article, called, The Secret Sauce of Congregations.
Local. Local. Local. Our congregation members live out their faith lives in local communities all week long. Sunday worship is a kind of spiritual well-filling station and a time to reconnect as faith community. The other six days are for joining God in the neighbourhood. Read this inspiring article about turning outward and engaging in missional ministry, making a discernable difference as we do life together in community.
Tim Soerens: 'Where is the church on a Tuesday afternoon?'
Christmas with COVID means this year will be different, but it we can still share the Nativity Story in impactful ways! Several parishes in our Diocese are already planning their Christmas programming, especially involving families. Here's a great little resource to help with your Advent/Christmas/Epiphany dreaming:
Christmas Pageants 2020: Recorded, Zoomed, Live Outside, from Building Faith, Virginia Theological Seminary.
This season of harvest and Thanksgiving helps us consider how we are stewards of all that our generous God has given us. October is an excellent time to discuss stewardship and the serious impacts of the pandemic upon our ability to resource ministry. The most critical question is outlining our priorities for the 'why' of church. What are we about, really? What is our purpose as a faith community? Who are we called to serve?
Explore these questions and read, Stewardship and Abundance During a Pandemic, written by Mark McKone-Sweet and Demetreus Gregg, published by the Episcopal Church Foundation Vestry Papers.
Helping new people integrate into the faith community is the key to a thriving congregation. When people have budding friendships in the local church, they are more apt to put down roots. Theodore Roosevelt said, "People don't care what you know until they know you care." Read about how to make relationship connections in this article by Ron Edmonson called, 7 Common Connectors for People.
Thanksgiving is nearly here! Need some creative ideas?
Explore these links for resources that engage.
"How do you make God laugh? Tell God your plans." This humorous saying is especially poignant as we frequently change course and adapt our parish ministry plans during the pandemic. Anglicans tend to prefer order, an organized schedule of how we conduct worship, our seasonal calendars and run meetings. COVID-19 has forced us to let go of 'business as usual', improvise and innovate.
Interestingly, we are rediscovering the importance of listening to the Spirit and responding to the opportunities that God presents. Read, We’re In the Innovation Business, written by
Dwight Zscheile, published by Alban at Duke Divinity School.
Getting better! Online worship is going be with us for a long time. Maybe forever.
As we move into the seventh month of COVID-19 restrictions and continue to develop our virtual worship gatherings we have opportunity to make adjustments to ensure we are connecting intergenerationally. Here are some pratical tips in an article published by Building Faith, a ministry of Virginia Theological Seminary, called, A Framework for Intergenerational Worship or Family Worship Online. The Rev. Miranda Hassett and Sarah Bentley Allred, are authors from the Episcopal Church.
Parishioners' prayerful support during back-to-school time.
Stress levels are pretty high these days for parents, students and all school staff.
How might congregations engage their community and offer much-needed pastoral supports?
Like all things it begins with prayer. Other ideas are letters, cards and notes of compassionate understanding and appreciation.
Read this article called, Five Things Teachers Wish That Congregations Knew, by Dr. Sherry Martens, Associate Dean of Education and Assistant Professor of Education at Ambrose University, Alberta. (Flourishing Congregations Institute - August 27, 2020)
A recent trend in our Diocese is the growing interest in hosting quiet online worship opportunities.
A number of parishes are hosting contemplative gatherings for meditation, liturgies of Compline and various Evening Prayer rites. Perhaps people are seeking solace from the stresses of COVID-19 and daily life, or maybe they are just longing for prayerful community.
There are ways to ensure the virtual faith gatherings are kept simple, yet offer the balm of healing for a hurting heart. Read Cara Modisett's article from Building Faith (Virginia Theological Seminary) called,
Compline As Pastoral Care.
Contemplative online worship can be offered using traditional rites from the Book of Common Prayer, the Book of Alternative Services, Supplementary Night Prayer (contemporary version of Compline) or other liturgical sources.
Praying with the Book of Common Prayer on Facebook creates a structure for daily prayer that builds community.
The COVID-19 pandemic is forcing parishes to transition.Some of the ways we be and do church are not working. Yet, the Spirit continues to call us to minister and our congregations are needed more now than ever in our communities. Here are some good next steps for a healthy pivot when the structures you’ve built no longer function: How to lead when things are falling apart, written by Shannon Hopkins.
I have spent my entire ministry believing that disruption can be a good thing. Maybe that’s hard to accept in the midst of a pandemic. But when things are disrupted, something new can break in. My ministry was born out of a frustration that too often we perpetuate models that no longer apply to the world in which we live, excluding and leaving people behind. To me, that is the
One way to engage these spirituality seekers is through easily organized outings in our communities.
Here's an article from Building Faith website, A Ministry of Virginia Theological Seminary, that offers ideas for all ages. Read, Holy Hikes With The Psalms by author, Noah Van Niel.
The Rev. Noah Van Niel is the Associate Rector at The Chapel of the Cross, in Chapel Hill North Carolina. One of the things he loves to do most with his family is explore the wonderful trails and forests around their home.
Excellent leadership is going to make all the difference in just about every organization during this pandemic. Restrictions, anxiety and the need for substantial change means those who have leadership roles must adapt, wisely guide and inspire others to do the same . "Leadership in this moment requires a greater understanding of and commitment to solidarity and shared sacrifice," says Adam Russell Taylor, Executive director of Sojourners. Learn more in his article, Pandemics have a lot to teach us about those who lead us.
Thrive or survive during COVID-19? All congregations are faced with some steep hills to climb with this pandemic. Some will rise to the occasion and flourish in their missional ministry. Sadly, others will choose to slide into a valley of decline. There are a few essential, albeit challenging, steps parish leaders can take to move towards vitality and a hopeful future. Learn about these as you read, Churches Who Survive the Pandemic Will do Three Things, an article written by Fresh Expressions consultant, Chris Morton.
Virtual worship and other online gatherings are a great way to stay in touch with many of our parishioners. It is convenient, safe and a reasonably inexpensive way to continue to build relationships. Although there are some drawbacks and not everyone is able to take advantage of it, church leaders recognize that there are wonderful benefits to hosting online faith community. Read about some of these in Heidi Campbell’s article, 6 Traits People Value in Online Faith Communities. https://www.churchleadership.com/leading-ideas/6-traits-people-value-in-online-faith-communities/
The pandemic has changed us so much. Like never before church leaders find themselves connecting with existing parishioners and the wider community in a variety of ways. Before COVID-19 struck our main mode of communication was the Sunday bulletin and paper parish newsletters. Now that we've had to (primarily) move away from large in-person gatherings we are expanding our methods to continue building those relationships.
Here's an article by Darrell Girardier, a congregational digital strategy director, that explains how we need to focus our efforts to keep connecting: Four Immediate Effects of COVID-19 on Your Church’s Communication.
SIX-MINUTE STUDY #209
Opportunity knocks for local churches...even during a pandemic! We are in the midst of a change of era and the dust has not settled. However, like any crisis there are always silver linings. Read this article called, Five Reasons Churches Will Have an Incredible Window of Opportunity, by author and researcher Thom S. Rainer.
SIX-MINUTE STUDY #208
Are you exhausted? These last few months have our leaders pivoting from church as we once knew it to a new pandemic reality. The learning curve for many is steep as we move from in-person worship and congregational activities to online, the phone and mail. If you and your companion ministers are struggling to keep the energy and focus on mission, that is understandable. Here are five key learnings from leaders across the country that may be helpful to overcome missional paralysis.
The article in Ministry Matters, is titled, My Church is Tired! How do we overcome missional paralysis?, by Michael Adam Beck, Director of Re-Missioning for Fresh Expressions U.S.
SIX-MINUTE STUDY #207
July is typically PRIDE month for parishes in our Diocese who celebrate the LGBTQ2+ community. Here are a number of resources for worship and activity planning.
A PRAYER FOR PRIDE SUNDAY - from Trinity Church, Wall Street
LGBTQ PRIDE LITURGY - St. Mary's Episcopal Church, St. Paul MN.
EQUALLY ANGLICAN Facebook page - This is for LGBTQ friends and family
in the Anglican Church of Canada. Includes couples' stories on videos.
SONGS FOR THE HOLY OTHER - Affirming Hymns. A collection of hymns by, for, or about the LGBTQIA2S+ community — accessible to a wider range of congregations.
SIX-MINUTE STUDY #206
Online Worship Makes Evangelism Less Intimidating for Many
One apparent advantage of an online worship format is that people seem to be more inclined to extend and respond to invitations to check out church online. Virtual evangelism is proving easier, less intimidating, and more spontaneous than face-to-face evangelism. An article by Doug Powe and Ann A. Michel, from Leading Ideas (Lewis Centre for Church Leadership).
SIX-MINUTE STUDY #205
10 Questions to Ask Now - Parish leaders are prayerfully reflecting on the life and work of the church in the midst of a pandemic. Many are saying this is a perfect opportunity to engage in conversations about who we are and how we be church. Susan Beaumont in her June 1, 2020, article says, “moving from reactivity to reflection calls for three kinds of work: acknowledging our losses, exploring unstated assumptions, and noticing what wants to emerge. Good questions will create a holding space for this transformational work.” Read more in her post from The Congregational Consulting Group.
SIX-MINUTE STUDY #204
Seventy-three of our parishes are hosting some type of online worship these COVID-19 days.
Courageously our clergy and lay leaders have been exploring the finer practices of this virtual Sunday gathering.
Here is a great YouTube video and article called, Tips for Online Worship for Liturgical Churches.
It’s from Rev. Aaron Zimmerman, rector at St. Alban's Episcopal Church, Waco, TX.
SIX-MINUTE STUDY #203
Technology and the online world is impacting ministry.
Opportunities abound to connect with existing parishioners and new people through advancements in electronic communication. However, phone calls, visits and snail-mail greeting cards by congregants are also important ways to stay in touch as faith community.
Read, How is Shifting Technology Impacting Local Ministry by Greg Syler, posted in Episcopal Church Foundation Vestry Papers.
SIX-MINUTE STUDY #202
Coming out of annual meetings, many Church council members are asking questions about revitalization and missional ministry. How can we use what our generous God has given us to make a difference in the lives of our congregants, and most importantly, how can we positively impact our communities?
Councils (or sometimes called Vestries) have the responsibility to set priorities and make decisions about the direction of ministry. Read this article from the Episcopal Church titled, Five Ways to Become a Transformational Vestry, by Donald Romanik.
SIX-MINUTE STUDY #201
Can a declining congregation turn around?
It starts with these basics: Life, hope and a vision.
Read this inspiring story of an Anglican Church in Ontario that did just that.
An article by Rev. Stephen Drakeford called How a dying church came back to life.
SIX-MINUTE STUDY #200
Meaning, Belonging and Values.
The basic ingredients for any vibrant faith community.
Providing opportunities to be a part of something bigger than ourselves, being accepted as a part of the church family and reinforcing of important beliefs and practices, these can help newcomers integrate into a congregation.
Learn more in David R. Brubaker’s article, 3 Keys to Congregational Success: Meaning, Belonging, and Values.
SIX-MINUTE STUDY #199
Transition often leads to tension.
Every congregation in the Diocese is working through some type of change, especially related to engaging with the fast-changing culture around us. Others are welcoming a new priest or discerning a redevelopment of some sort.
How can congregational leaders support a Christ-honouring, loving approach to conflict?
Read Lawrence Peer’s article, Keep Calm and Drop the Rope, from Congregational Consulting Group.
SIX-MINUTE STUDY #198
WOW! Only a couple of weeks until LENT begins! Here are some ideas for seasonal worship and other activities. Pancakes to Ashes – An Ash Wednesday Service on Shrove Tuesday This may be helpful for those families who are able to share in pancake supper, but are unable to come to the church two nights in a row for Ash Wednesday worship. https://buildfaith.org/pancakes-to-ashes-an-ash-wednesday-service-on-shrove-tuesday/ READ MORE from “Build Faith”, including ideas for families for Ash Wednesday, devotional activities for home, Lent in a Bag, and more! This is a great resource site sponsored by Virginia Theological Seminary. https://buildfaith.org/lent/
SIX-MINUTE STUDY #197
End of life and funeral topics are of interest to many people these days.
Our faith tradition and our parish leaders also have a good deal of experience and expertise in helping people journey through this difficult life passage.
For example, recently the Parish of St. John the Evangelist, Middle Sackville, held a well-attended funeral planning workshop.
Several others have expressed an interest in hosting similar events. Read this article from Faith and Leadership (Duke University), called, Ministry on death and dying teaches people how to plan for the end of life, by Philip Martin.
SIX-MINUTE STUDY #196
Whether it’s a new start with a new rector, the establishment of a different ministry or reaching out to plant a new missional initiative, beginning well is critical. There are several important best practices to consider. Read this article called, Starting New Things: Two Essential Steps, by Episcopal priest, Jon Davis, to explore these founding principles of new starts.
SIX-MINUTE STUDY #195
Most of our churches host popular, well organized fundraisers.
How can we use these strengths to build relationships and respond missionally?
Read this article from Fresh Expressions US about how a small congregation of about 40 people
turned a flea market into something so much more.
Luke Edwards writes, Church in the Parking Lot: A Fresh Expressions Story.
SIX-MINUTE STUDY #194
A new year a new start.
How can church leaders set some basic goals to flourish in 2020?
Here are some holistically healthy and practical resolutions to consider.
Read Derwin Gray’s article, 5 NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTIONS EVERY CHURCH LEADER SHOULD MAKE—AND KEEP from LifeWay’s Facts & Trends webpage.
SIX-MINUTE STUDY #193
Connecting Sunday morning worship with faith at home is a great way to help parishioners grow as disciples. Seasonal opportunities like the feast day of Epiphany are perfect for special activities. These spiritual disciplines can also help connect with younger generations and those who don’t actively participate in church life.
Here’s an idea from Virginia Theological Seminary, Building Faith resources: Intergenerational Epiphany With A “To Go” Bag.