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Seeing the Face of Jesus

11 Feb

The Rev. Canon Frank Logue preached this sermon at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Albany, Georgia on February 11, 2018.

Seeing the Face of Jesus
2 Corinthians 4:3-6

How might we see Jesus?

We get the answer tucked into our reading from the second Letter to the Corinthians. Follow me as I work through this and I will show you not only what the Bible teaches about seeing Jesus, but where I have seen Jesus lately. I hope that if you take this journey with me, you will see Jesus in this coming week too.

First, let’s hear what our reading says about why we should want to see Jesus. In our epistle reading we heard that one can see the light of God in the face of Jesus, “For it is the God who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness’, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”

So the same God who called light into being in creation, shows us the glory of God in the face of Jesus. In a world that seems all too full of darkness and fear, finding the face of Jesus is all the more important. If that were not enough, just a few verses before today’s epistle, we read, that those of us who see the glory of the Lord, “are being transformed into the same image” (2 Corinthians 3:18). So not only can we learn to see Jesus, but in seeing him, we become, little, by little, more Christ like along the way.

In a parable of the last judgment, Jesus told that people will be separated as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats saying, “to those at his right hand, ‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me’ (Matthew 25:34-36).

And when the righteous wonder when they cared for Jesus, he will say, “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me” (Matthew 25:40).

So when we serve others, we are serving Jesus. We find the face of Jesus in the faces of others, especially those in need. Now this is something St. Paul’s is well suited to understand. From Barney’s Run to Feed My Sheep, this is a church that serves. You are also a church that has both benefitted from the ministry of deacons, like Deacon Jim Purks, but raised up fine deacons like Ri Lamb and Joy Davis. And finding the face of Christ in others is certainly part of the role of a deacon. In the words of the ordination liturgy for deacons, “At all times, your life and teaching are to show Christ’s people that in serving the helpless they are serving Christ himself.”

A week ago, as I was praying through the scriptures for this Sunday, this reading from Second Corinthians stood out to me. I have referenced it before in preaching at the ordination of deacons. I also knew St. Paul’s had the excellent examples of deacons. What I did not know as I first wrote out this sermon was that I would spend some time with Deacon Jim Purks before I arrived in this pulpit.

On Saturday morning, Father Lee and I went to the hospital to pray with Jim in SICU around lunch time and Deacon Purks gripped our hands firmly. Lee told Jim, about the bevy of ladies in the waiting room there for him and I added we are going to need a bigger waiting room. Jim laughed and it set off alarms on the machines in his room. I thought we were going to get kicked out.

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Make room for Ash Wednesday – celebrate Valentine’s a day early

07 Feb

The Diocese of Georgia created the short video above for congregations to download from here and then upload to their Facebook page to use in drawing attention to a post listing service times on Ash Wednesday. The video is meant to be a reminder that Ash Wednesday is February 14 while also speaking to the issue of having one of two fast days of the church year (the other is Good Friday) fall on Valentine’s Day.

 
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The Revival Has Come and Gone, Now What?

01 Feb

The Holy Spirit showed up in ways beyond our ability to prepare or arrange for the recent Revival. In the morning, the Presiding Bishop made a pilgrimage to Good Shepherd in the Pennick Community west of Brunswick to offer the gratitude of our church for the fearless faith of Deaconess Anna Alexander. Just after lunch, the Presiding Bishop gave a rousing sermon about the boundless love of God as experienced in relationship with Jesus Christ. But with the tent meeting ended, the work of revival continues.

Reviving Our Presiding Bishop
To revive means to bring back life. That is beyond the ability of any preacher, even one as gifted as Bishop Michael Curry. Reviving a person and a church is the work of the Holy Spirit. I have seen how the day in Georgia revived our Presiding Bishop. The next week, I was meeting with the Executive Council of the Episcopal Church as he preached the Eucharist and told our denomination’s Board of Directors of the life and legacy of Deaconess Alexander.

Pointing at me, he said he knew of one Christian who really lived out the love of God like Paul and the Apostles. I realized that I reminded him of the revival in Georgia when Bishop Curry said, “I am pointing at Frank, but I don’t mean Frank…of course, I don’t mean Frank.” He went on to say that he was pointing at me as we were both in a packed Good Shepherd Church where older parishioners, including a few former students of Deaconess Alexander filled the pews and youth packed the aisle all the way to the altar rail sitting on the floor. Then this past Friday, Bishop Curry preached at length again about Deaconess Alexander at Grace Episcopal Church, Charleston, for Forma, a gathering of Christian educators (Click here to watch that sermon). As several people who sent me texts and Facebook messages told me, Bishop Curry was clearly changed by his visit to Georgia.

Reviving Our Churches
Real revival is the work of the Holy Spirit and the time has not passed on God using the two liturgies from January 20 to change lives. Videos of the full liturgies at Good Shepherd and Honey Creek are online. You can also watch just the two sermons (see below). I recommend that churches of the Diocese use these resources. Gather a group of adults to watch each and discuss. You can do the same with teens or an intergenerational group. The benefit of watching via video is that this offers an opportunity to discuss the sermons after watching them. Make notes as you watch and share what jumped out for you. What is the Good News of Jesus you heard anew? How might you need to change because of the Good News you heard?

Revival 2018Having decided what stands out for you, share the video on Facebook letting people know what you heard to encourage them to watch. Something like, “I really hear the love of God in this sermon, but when Bishop Curry spoke of what the opposite of love is, it really got my attention. I have been thinking about this sermon a lot in the past week or so.” That is much more likely to catch attention and gives you something you can discuss with those who watch it thanks to your sharing the sermon on Facebook.

Making Room for the Holy Spirit
Asking a given hour and a half service of Evening Prayer to move our church may be too much to ask. But if we use the Revival as a starting point, then we can really make room for the Holy Spirit. For if we really hear the call that the opposite of love is self-centeredness, than there is much each of us can and should do to re-orient our lives outward. The Agape love of God Jesus demonstrated in caring more for others than himself is life changing. Living into that re-oriented life is the ongoing work of a lifetime. Let us know how your congregation is using the videos from the revival to share the Good News in your community.

peace,
Frank
The Rev. Canon Frank Logue, Canon to the Ordinary


Sermon – Presiding Bishop Michael Curry – Deaconess Alexander Event – Diocese of Georgia – January 20, 2018 from The Episcopal Church on Vimeo.


Sermon – Presiding Bishop Michael Curry – Diocese of Georgia Revival – Waverly, GA – January 20, 2018 from The Episcopal Church on Vimeo.

 
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Freedom to Put Others First

28 Jan

The Rev. Canon Frank Logue preached this sermon St. Anne’s Episcopal Church in Tifton, Georgia on January 28, 2018

Freedom to Put Others First
1 Corinthians 8:1-13

What does a Christ-like life look like? Really? When does someone’s life look like Jesus?

You are probably better at this than I am, but I can let myself off easy when it comes to trying to be like Jesus, because, I figure, he was God the Son. I assume I might fall short of being like Jesus. I get around this by my ongoing fascination with saints. These are regular people like you and me who rose above all expectation to more closely resemble Jesus than the typical Christian.

In 2006, I represented the Diocese of Georgia at the General Convention of the Episcopal Church when we were asked to vote on Florence Li Tim-Oi for the calendar of saints. I was opposed to naming her a saint. She had been the first woman ordained a priest in the Anglican Communion. “So what?” I thought. Who cares who happened to be first? That doesn’t make someone a saint! We could mark the occasion, remembering the ordination of women, without making the first person a saint.

Then I read her story and was humbled. When she was born on May 5, 1907 in the fishing village of Aberdeen on Hong Kong island, boy babies were highly prized. At that time, in that culture, a bowl of ash could be at hand to smother unwanted new-born girls. Her parents were Christians so delighted with their baby girl they wanted everyone who met her to know it. They named her Li Tim-Oi, meaning ‘Much Beloved Daughter’.

At her baptism, she chose the name Florence for the famous nurse, Florence Nightingale. While a student, she attended a liturgy at the cathedral in which an English woman became a deaconess. The Chinese preacher asked if there was a Chinese girl also willing to sacrifice herself for the Chinese church. She knelt and prayed: “God, would you like to send me?” She felt then a call that never left her.

While a student at Union Theological College in Canton, she led a student team rescuing the casualties of Japanese carpet bombing, nearly becoming a casualty of the Second Sino-Japanese war in the process. Then in 1941, she was ordained a deacon by the Bishop of Hong. Before long her Bishop sent her Macau, a Portuguese Colony crowded with refugees from the Second World War. The photograph from the excellent website It Takes One Woman shows Li Tim-Oi, her mother, Bishop Mok, her father, Archdeacon Lee Kow Yan after her ordination as Deacon by Bishop R.0. Hall at St John’s Cathedral HK. Ascension Day 22 May 1941.

In 1943, Li Tim-Oi prepared 72 for baptism. Her Bishop would write amazed, “No other man pastor has yet had that experience in the Anglican Church in South China.”

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Like and Share Your Way to Being an E-vangelist

17 Jan

This weekend’s revival offers the perfect chance for you to try some E-vangelism. On Friday and Saturday, the Episcopal Church and the Diocese of Georgia will post a steady stream on online content, which will be shared on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Even if you don’t attend in person, you can take part in the revival and share the experience with your friends almost effortlessly.

For example, we will show the Eucharist at Good Shepherd, Pennick, the choirs singing at Honey Creek from noon to 1 pm, and the Revival itself live on Facebook. You can share this feed to your page with a comment like, “I am watching this live, please join me.” Your friends will see the event in their news feed.

If you attend the Revival, please post your own photos or quotes from the sermon using the hashtags #PBinGA and #GArevival2018. The Episcopal Church will be gathering and sharing the posts shared using these hashtags.

I know this works because I follow with interest the life of (among others) a Primitive Baptist congregation whose elder I know, two Presbyterian churches where I know the pastors, and First Baptist in Statesboro as a friend and former co-worker takes pictures for them. I enjoy the glimpse into another way of being a follower of Jesus here in south Georgia and because of the “likes” and comments I get on my own photos, I know that friends of mine who may never attend an Episcopal Church also enjoy this peak at what our Revival.

Beyond this, the Holy Spirit can and will use our E-vangelism to reach people who may not otherwise hear such a clear and compelling statement of the love of God as found in Jesus. Never underestimate what God can do using a little faithfulness. Whether in person or online only, don’t miss the opportunity to share that love with your family and friends.

Peace, Frank
The Rev. Canon Frank Logue, Canon to the Ordinary

 
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The One Who Serves

13 Jan

The Rev. Canon Frank Logue preached this sermon at St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church in Savannah, Georgia, on January 13, 2018

The One Who Serves
An Ordination Sermon for Dewayne Cope, Arthur Jones, and Bunny Williams
Luke 22:24-27


Arthur, Bunny, and DeWayne, I owe it to the three of you to be clear at the outset: The church does not trust you to be priests. I don’t just mean St. Matthew’s Church or the congregation gathered this morning, the Diocese of Georgia or even the Episcopal Church. The Church with a capital C does not trust the three of you to be priests, at least, not yet.

Yes, you felt the Holy Spirit speaking to your hearts. Not only, did you feel called to the priesthood, but the Diocese of Georgia affirmed that call. We sent you off to get a seminary education and you have all done very well. But we don’t trust you to be priests. Not yet.

You are certainly three impressive individuals:

Dewayne, your home church here at St. Matthew’s has every right to be proud of you. They know your skill at preaching and your gifts for working with children and youth as do Episcopalians around this city from your work with the Savannah convocation youth group. Your experience working with the Teen-Age Parenthood Program and the Adult Education Program certainly help you bring important experience to this call.

Bunny, you too have a supportive church family at Good Shepherd, Augusta, who is pleased you have come to this day. They know you not just as fellow parishioner and friend, but as a leader through adult education and the parish life committee. Your work in nursing from the operating room to earning your doctorate and teaching a new generation of nurses provides a wealth of experience to draw from in ministry.

Arthur, you are an impressive man here with the support of both Christ the King Valdosta where you tested this possible call and Good Shepherd Thomasville where you strengthened that sense of call. And as someone ordained previously in the Baptist Church, the Pastor who knew you well at New Jerusalem Missionary Baptist Church supports your call to ministry as an Episcopal priest as do many others.

So it is not any particular concern about each of you, the Church just doesn’t trust anyone to be a priest who has not spent time living into serving others, particularly the poor, the weak, the sick, and the lonely. That is why centuries of practice among the many millions of Christians in not just our Anglican Communion, but also the Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Lutheran and other churches ordain a prospective priest as a deacon first.

We don’t intend this to diminish the Sacred Order of Deacons, but to show how vitally important servant ministry is to any Christian community. The Christian church found the need for the servant ministry of deacons very early. The Acts of the Apostles recounts the story of the first seven persons selected to serve as deacons. In time, the tradition developed to have those called to the priesthood to serve first as a deacon. This is now usually a time of six months to a year.

The work of real deacons is the work of a lifetime. You are, however, called to be what we sometimes refer to as “transitional deacons,” meaning that you will serve as a deacon during this time of further preparation for the priesthood.

This certainly is not just in line with church tradition, but also with the example of our Lord. Our Gospel reading for this day recounts a dispute arising among Jesus’ disciples as to which of them was to be regarded as the greatest. Jesus reminded them that they are not to look to the example of the world. He said, “Rather the greatest among you must become like the youngest, and the leader like one who serves.” Then he brought this home in saying, “I am among you as one who serves.”

Jesus turned the world upside with his ministry, showing how the least were the greatest and the last would be first. Jesus who valued the windows and orphans, the lost and the left out. Jesus touched untouchables, healed those not even welcome in the Temple courts because of their infirmity, and invited tax collectors and other notorious sinners to share a meal with him.

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5 Things Churches Need to Know About Yelp

03 Jan


Started in 2004 as a service to assist people in finding a good mechanic, doctor, or hair salon in their area, Yelp now has 142 million active users each month. Here’s the top five things you need to know:

1) Google and Siri drive searches to Yelp
I just asked Siri, “What are the top churches in Savannah?” and my iPhone offered me the top three Yelp reviewed churches in the city as an answer. Millions turn to Google and Siri each day. Make sure they find your congregation.

2) Yelp already lists your church
Your congregation is already listed on Yelp. If you don’t take the steps below, however, your listing will remain confined to your name, address, and phone number.

3) Churches can claim their listing
Go to https://biz.yelp.com to claim your church’s listing at no cost. All you need will be your street address to get started. You will need to be able to take a call at the listed phone number of your church in order to complete this process, so be in the church office when you start. Once you claim your listing, you can add hours, a website, and other helpful information. Be sure to add photos. It’s free and will greatly improve your listing.

4) Encourage Reviews
Yelp encourages you to attract attention to your Yelp page by putting a link to your page on your website, with a link through social media, and by encouraging people through the bulletin to check-in at your church on Yelp. The caveat is that Yelp stakes its reputation on honest reviews by screening out reviews it deems to be bogus. Because this is their business model, they won’t tell you exactly how this works. But there are things you can and should know, so finally…

5) You can’t game the system, so don’t try
St. John’s Episcopal Church in Savannah encouraged congregation members to review the church on Yelp and what they learned will help other churches. St. John’s helped us discovered two key issues:

  • Yelp favors reviews by people who review widely and screens against new users who create a new account and then make one glowing review.
  • Yelp seems to screen against overly religious language (Eucharist, for example).

The best way to deal with this is to engage with Yelp on their very reasonable terms. Let people know through your bulletin that if they review other businesses on Yelp, you would also like their honest appraisal of your church. This may result in candid views from visitors that you don’t appreciate alongside reviews that share the love. This is how Yelp works. If you have claimed your Yelp listing, you can at least respond as the business owner to issues named in a review, so that you can be in conversation with people.

You can become one of the top churches listed in your town with just two or three reviews. The process is not that difficult and it is free. As search engines are using this data anyway, why not improve the one way of inviting people to worship with you?

Peace, Frank
The Rev. Canon Frank Logue, Canon to the Ordinary

 
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Scattering Seeds of Invitation to Christmas Worship

13 Dec

For “The kingdom of God is as if someone would scatter seed on the ground,
and would sleep and rise night and day, and the seed would sprout and grow,
he does not know how”
-Jesus, (Mark 4:26-27)

Christmas will be upon us sooner than I care to imagine. With it, as with Easter, comes one of our two best opportunities to invite friends, family and co-workers to join you for worship. Survey after survey shows that most southerners who do not have a church home will react favorably to an invitation to church at these times of year. Even in this post-Christendom age many are culturally conditioned toward Christmas and Easter worship.

First: The Basics
Have you updated your answering machine to include the Christmas schedule? Is your website up to date with the Christmas services clearly listed on the home page to be seen by any first time visitors at your site? How about the Facebook page with a post pinned to the top giving Christmas service times? You can use one of two Christmas videos I created with some friends for a free eye-catching post with worship times. Click here for the videos. Are there photos there to give them a feel for Christmas at your church? Have you used every free and low cost means to get out your service times for Christmas, such as a targeted Facebook ad, a notice on community bulletin boards, and a notice in nearby community association newsletters? A small (real estate size) sign or larger banner visible to cars passing by can also let those who drive by your church know what time your services will be. Albany State singers are pictured at St. Paul’s Albany

Then: The Secret to Getting More Visitors

The single best way to get newcomers to church is a personal invitation from a trusted friend (See the 1-minute video above). The secret is, of course, no secret. We know this. So support one another with some tools. This is a great time of year to make sure that you have flyers about your Christmas liturgies and any other special events, such as Lessons and Carols. Encourage everyone in your congregation to give them to friends, family and co-workers with an invitation to join your church family for Christmas. The one caveat is this: even if the person reacts favorably, and even says they will come, they might well not darken the church doors this Feast of the Nativity. Most of us then decide that the seed has been scattered on soil not yet disposed toward growth and then never make another invitation. This is where we can easily fail in scattering seed.

Low Key Persistence
It may well take a Christmas invitation, followed by an Easter invitation, followed by yet another Christmas invitation before your friends actually show up for church. Never underestimate the inertia that must be overcome to make the move from not attending church to worshiping faithfully. Keep the invitations persistent and low key, always making sure folks know they are welcome, without ever making someone feel bad for not showing up. That is how such seeds are consistently scattered.

Then the Preacher Brings the Gospel Home

Clergy know that these occasions bring newcomers and will be working hard on their homilies to give real meat on which a non-churchgoer can chew (Right? We are doing that aren’t we?). Evangelism is not just a matter of getting folks through the doors for the liturgy, but certainly that is a key part and one in which any Episcopalian can help with a no pressure invitation, “Why don’t you join us for Christmas Eve? The candlelight service is always breathtaking.” How hard could that be? It’s easier than you might think. Christmas altar at St. Michael’s and All Angels’ Savannah

-The Rev. Canon Frank Logue, Canon to the Ordinary

PS: It is a great time to use the high level assessment from Invite Welcome Connect

 
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Celebrating Advent in the Home

29 Nov

Daily devotions practiced at home are the best way for parents to teach children to value our faith in Jesus. To recapture the season of Advent as a time for preparing for the second coming of Christ even as we prepare to celebrate his birth in Bethlehem, an Advent Wreath can help.

To assist in these devotions, I created a booklet with a brief liturgy based on a Service of Light in the Prayer Book: Celebrating Advent in the Home

These daily devotions are a way to incorporate liturgy into your daily life. The liturgy takes five minutes or less, yet permits a family to bring the Christian year into the home with a tangible reminder of the new church year, which starts this coming Sunday. The season of Advent has been set aside as a time of preparation for Christmas since at least the last half of the 6th century, though Advent Wreaths date to German Pietists in the 1800s.

Grow Christians
If you want to use this Advent devotion to launch you or your family into more daily practices of faith, I suggest the website growchristians.org for resources for families. Started by two friends of mine, the website has grown into a helpful resource with honest discussions of the challenges and joys of bringing faith home. I subscribe to the feed, so that I get the articles via email.

Celebrating Fourth Advent and Christmas
I have been more than a little dismayed to hear of churches (not Episcopal ones) cancelling their Sunday morning worship on December 24 as they will hold Christmas Eve services that night. While getting to church on a Sunday morning is always a challenge for young families, I just note that nothing can show how much we value Sunday morning worship like attending both morning and evening liturgies that day as the anticipation of Advent builds to the coming of Christ.

Peace,
Frank
The Rev. Canon Frank Logue, Canon to the Ordinary

 
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How a small percentage of the budget built capacity to start new Episcopal ministries

20 Nov

Leveraging a very small percentage of the Episcopal Church’s budget since 2012 has moved the denomination into a new era of evangelism as we have created a network of new ministries reaching out in ways both traditional and innovative. These range from The Abbey, a coffee shop and church in Birmingham, Alabama, and Grace Yukon, the bold restart of a church in Oklahoma, to Hope Sandwiches, a cutting edge idea that uses a food truck to create jobs, feed hungry persons, while funding a church. Here is a quick recap of the movement taking shape in the past five years:

Matching Grants – 2013-2015
In 2012, the General Convention invested $1.8 million of the Episcopal Church’s $111.5 million budget for 2013-2015 in matching grants to fund new ministries. This included 13 church plants and 25 Mission Enterprise Zones, which are “mission and evangelism that engages under-represented groups, including youth and young adults, people of color, poor and working-class people, people with a high-school diploma or less, and/or people with little or no church background or involvement.” Of those, 85% of the new church starts continue today. This compares to the best data on new church starts in a study by LifeWay (The State of Church Planting in the United States) which found across forty denominations that just 68% of new churches are still going as of the fourth year.

But that same LifeWay study from 2009 showed how the number of churches staying sustainable went up markedly when the church planter was assessed for gifts, trained, and coached. While other denominations–including the Lutherans, Methodists, and Presbyterians–had the infrastructure to support that work, the Episcopal Church did not. That has, thankfully, changed in the past two years.

Creating a network of support – 2016-2018
Funding from the 2015 General Convention of the Episcopal Church earmarked $5.8 million for evangelism out of its $125 million 2016-2018 budget. This figure included $3 million in new ministry grants, and an additional $2.8 million for Latino-Hispanic ministry initiatives, new ministry infrastructure, and other evangelism initiatives. Those funds have allowed the Episcopal Church to require an assessment of the new ministry developers for any grant applicants. Those selected to get a grant also receive training, with three events held in 2017 and another coming in early 2018 and more to follow. Then the new ministry developer receives a trained coach to provide an additional level of support and self-accountability. Adding the assessment, training, and coaching are the most significant changes in the Episcopal Churches support of new ministry in recent decades. Not only does this network of support increase the odds of new ministries receiving grants reaching a point of self-sustainability, but the network benefits new ministries not receiving grant funds. In this way, we have leveraged a very small percentage of the overall budget to increase the Episcopal Church’s capacity for new ministry development.

Reaping the benefits of a support infrastructure
Having trained coaches and a pattern for assessment and training will permit the Episcopal Church to offer more support to new ministry developers than in previous years without an ever increasing budget for this area. While the matching grants program is exciting, the assessment, training, and coaching also benefit new ministries that don’t need denomination funds to get started. There are dioceses with capacity to start new churches, but these too will benefit from the infrastructure for supporting new ministries. Then the grant funds can concentrate on the places where new ministries will not start without some monies from the churchwide budget. The confirmation class of Christ’s Beloved Community in Winston-Salem, NC is shown here. Episcopal Bishop Anne Hodges-Copple and Lutheran Bishop Timothy Marcus Smith confirmed them on November 6, 2017.

If we want to reverse the decline in the Episcopal Church, then we should invest in starting new churches. I don’t, however, get excited about reversing decline in the church. This work energizes me because through these new ministries people who are not otherwise being reached are discovering the Good News of Jesus Christ.

What a difference from 20 years ago!
Two decades ago, I was working with a new church start while in seminary. The Diocese of Virginia let me take part in their church planter’s network, which was quite rare at that time. The Dioceses of Texas and Virginia accounted for much of the new church planting taking place in 1997. From 2000-2010, I planted King of Peace Episcopal Church in Kingsland, Georgia. During my last couple of years as a planter, I got to work with Tom Brackett, who has overseen Church Planting and Redevelopment for the Episcopal Church for the past eight years. For much of this time, he simply did not have the budget needed to create this network. Now we see the benefits of the assessment, coaching, and the trainings that gather new ministry developers. Far from social gatherings of like minded people, the communities of practice are networks of support and learning that I know would have benefitted me had they existed when I was planting a church. New Ministry Developers are shown gathered for a training in May at a Franciscan Retreat Center in Arizona.

Today, we see creative new ministries taking root all across the church. Continuing to build and sustain the network of support while offering some matching grants will keep this movement going. I look forward to seeing 20 years from now how the Holy Spirit has enabled this work to reach many more lives with the life-giving Gospel of Jesus.

peace,
Frank
The Rev. Frank Logue, Canon to the Ordinary | The Episcopal Diocese of Georgia


Click this image to see a map with all the grant recipients including those in Europe, Central, and South America.

 
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Being a Community of Good News and Blessing

15 Nov

“The Church is the only institution that exists primarily
for the benefit of those who are not its members.”
-Archbishop William Temple

In her four presentations to the Diocese of Georgia’s annual convention, Carrie Headington led delegates and clergy through the Being a Community of Good News, Being a Community for Others, and Being a Community of Blessing as the ways to more fully engage with the Invite essential in Invite-Welcome-Connect.

Being a Community of Good News
This work begins with transforming ourselves as we get in touch with the Good News of Jesus in our own lives. Congregations nurture this first step with Bible study and congregational retreats and other means of building followers of Jesus. At the diocesan level this involves Happening, Cursillo, and prayer retreats.

Headington emphasized the importance of prayer and how every church needs people to gather to pray for their community and the congregation. She named specific free resources any congregation may use, like Sharing Faith Dinners and the Transforming Questions Course, which are also gathered online here: Episcopal Church Resources Online

Being a Community for Others 
Before ascending into heaven, Jesus told the apostles as he sent them out, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to ends of the Earth.” Headington challenged the convention to consider the concentric circles of the apostles moving out from their homes in Jerusalem to the surrounding countryside, through the territory of the other to the ends of the earth as an ongoing call to the Church.

These spheres of influence begin with family, friends, acquaintances, work or school colleagues, volunteer groups, social groups, and hobbies. Pray for people within these groups, asking God to show you how best to love them. Are there three people within these groups that you could invite to the Revival on January 20?

This area of being a community for others is where using social media, such as Facebook, so people in these spheres of your influence see your faith as part of your life. Checking in to church on an app, sharing the sermon online, or posting photos from your congregation, are all ways to leverage your existing time on social media to share your faith with others in a non-invasive way.

For congregations, she recommended that a group within the church look together at the make up of the community around you through a free demographic study already online and then going on a Neighborhood Prayer Walk as described in detail on pages 12-14 of the convention packet.

Being a Community of Blessing
In the last session, Headington summarized the journey so far and then encouraged those at the convention to practice the Art of BLESSing (developed by Leslie Stewart, a church planter in Plano, Texas):

  • Be – just be present
  • Listen – create a listening space where people can share stories\
  • Eat – welcome people to the table, just like Jesus did
  • Serve – love and care for people’s felt needs
  • Share – share your story and the story of God’s love and life

The tools in the convention packet help make this more real including Hospitality 101 (on pages 14-16), a Hospitality Checklist (on pages 17-18), and Ideas for Turning Your Church into a Center for Blessing (on page 19).

The links in this Loose Canon give tools you can continue to use as your congregation continues to work with Invite-Welcome-Connect presented by Mary Parmer at our diocesan convention in 2016.

Peace, Frank
The Rev. Canon Frank Logue, Canon to the Ordinary

 
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Thoughtfully Keeping the Sacraments Weird

01 Nov

Parishioners more fully feel the seasons of the church calendar as church decorations change with the move from Advent to Pentecost. I have been reflecting on this in light of Rachel Held Evans encouraging Episcopalians to “Keep the sacraments weird” when the two of us provided keynote addresses last year at the Church Leadership Conference at Kanuga. Last night I worshipped with the students at our Episcopal Campus Ministry at Georgia Southern and saw a wonderful example of this in the liturgy crafted by the Rev. Charles Todd using a Service of Light with the liturgy for the Eve of the Feast of All Saints as the Liturgy of the Word. Truly liturgy done well that was completely faithful to our Prayer Book and the Book of Occasional Services.

One way to do this is thinking through the changes of the church year anew. Advent and Lent both offer opportunities to make changes week by week in the season. The shift can begin even before Advent as these last weeks of the church year offer an opportunity to move from flowers grown in a greenhouse to incorporating local foliage like a stem of fall leaves. Though challenging in south Georgia where pine predominates the landscape, I have still been able to find some branches to cut that help make the move from the vibrant flowers of summer toward the harvest season which marks the move into the waiting and expectancy of Advent.

An unfolding journey
Both Advent and Lent can benefit from making changes week by week that reflect the journey of the season. So a Christmas tree bare other than “angel tree” tags will remain green through the fourth week of Advent and then get decorated for Christmas. Some churches use Chrismons, symbols of Christ created by Frances Kipps Spencer to be used in this season of preparation as they tell the story of Christ.

The move to both Christmas and Easter need to mark bold changes from a more austere space to an exuberantly decorated church befitting the joy of those Feasts. (Palm Sunday and Pentecost at King of Peace are pictured here)

At King of Peace, we would change the cross in the back of the nave from a Christus Rex to a plain rough hewn wood cross in Lent. At Pentecost, a long bright red cloth bolt of cloth draped over the cross behind the altar would mark the day with a splash of color which matched the parishioners wearing red.

A helpful reference
An important reference for me on this as a parish priest was H. Boone Porter’s book Keeping the Church Year. Published in 1977, the book sought to help make the changes in the then new prayer book visible. His thoughts remain helpful. Though out of print, the book is readily available in used copies online.

One more tip: whatever you do to mark the season, write up a brief description and put it in a binder. Keeping up with what your church does through the seasons need not set the template for the next year, as you adapt and change. But it helps to recall exactly what you did do when you come back to planning a year later. 

The goal is to make the journey through salvation history visible as we use all of our senses in worship. No matter your current pattern, getting a group together to think through how the seasons might be more fully marked within the space in which you worship is well worth your time.

Frank
The Rev. Canon Frank Logue, Canon to the Ordinary

 
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Invitation Includes Connecting through Events

18 Oct

As congregations consider Invite-Welcome-Connect and work through the resources at invitewelcomeconnect.com, one key part of invitation comes through events that take the congregation out into the community or bring the community to the church grounds.

A Case Study – St. Luke’s Festival  
For four years, St. Luke’s Rincon has held both a monthly yard sale and an annual St. Luke’s Festival. The two events coincided this past weekend, bringing hundreds of people to the church grounds, including 100-150 children. Neither event is designed to make money, but instead to connect the community to the church. The church sells chicken meals during the festival which cover the costs of the the bouncy house and the band, so hosting the large gathering does not cut into the church budget.

The church’s second Saturday of the month yard sale is open to people in the community or community groups to have free table space to sell their goods. The church always sells concessions at that monthly event. The Rev. David Rose, Vicar of St. Luke’s notes that one of the vestry members started coming to the church because of the yard sale.

To make sure there was a connection, among the nearly 40 parishioners putting on the festival, several church members’ only role was to meet people at the festival, and hand out invitation cards together with a personal invitation to worship. Rose also said, “Beyond bringing new people to the church grounds, the festival helps connect those who do attend the church and to one another even as we connect with Effingham County.”

A Case Study – Dogtoberfest and the Scarecrow Stroll
While King of Peace Kingsland just held a Holiday Bazaar that brought a crowd to the church, the Rev. Al Crumpton also named two recent events that has kept the church and its preschool visible out in the community. King of Peace took its Blessing of the Animals out into the community, partnering with a local business that boards pets to hold the liturgy away from the church. The event coincided with a heavy rain, and yet about 30 pet owners and their pets took part. Crumpton noted that the attendance might have been better if it hadn’t been raining cats and dogs, but still people enjoyed taking part in a liturgy where their pets were welcomed and blessed.

For King of Peace Day School, Crumpton and the preschool director Gillian Butler handed out candy during the Scarecrow Stroll presented by the St. Marys Downtown Merchants Association. Kids dress in costume to trick or treat along the route from 5-7 pm as the town kicks off October. They allow a group to put a display up for the Scarecrow Stroll that stays in the median of the main road leading into the historic downtown through Halloween. The two gave out roughly. 3,000 pieces of candy and only one person thought Crumpton’s clericals might be a costume.

Crumpton also starts one of the two the Kingsland City Council meetings each month with prayer. That connection is helping the church as city officials know Crumpton and just offered to work with him in creating a solution to alleviate a traffic headache that a Department of Transportation Plan for widening the road in front of King of Peace was about to create. The median being added in front of the church would require westbound traffic to pass the church and go about a quarter mile further before making a U-turn to go back to the entrance. A new plan is now in the works that could bring church and preschool traffic through the neighboring high school entrance more directly to the church. If he were not out in the community, Crumpton feels sure the city officials would not have even considered the issue.

What works in your community?
Many of our congregations similarly use signature events to connect to their community, A signature event is something people in your area associate with your church and make part of their plans. What is working in your community? Share it with me so other congregations can be inspired to consider connecting to their town.

Frank
The Rev. Canon Frank Logue, Canon to the Ordinary

 
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Good News for Those on the Outside Looking In

15 Oct

Painting by Terry Moeller

The Rev. Canon Frank Logue gave this sermon at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Rincon, Georgia as they celebrated the Feast of St. Luke on October 15, 2017. The painting above was created by Terry Moeller for St. Luke’s and was visible in the church during the sermon.

Good News for Those on the Outside Looking In
Luke 4:14-21

I don’t have my own house in order. I need to confess that truth before I even begin this sermon. I want to preach today about how we find God in unlikely places, caring for people others might find unloveable, if they think about them at all.

But my own house is in turmoil. All day and night our cat, Olive, frets over a cat that has taken up in our yard. She looks out the window on constant guard, upset that the orange tabby cat continues to breathe. Never mind that Olive eats well and enjoys lots of lap time with her new Mama. Never mind that she lives in climate controlled, bug free ease. Olive is angry.

I will get to Luke the evangelist in just a moment, but I do believe the situation in my home speaks to the Good News of Jesus as the physician Luke tells the story in the two books of the Bible he wrote, now known as the Gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles. So, hang with me for a minute more about the cats.

Olive came to live with us a little over a year ago. She was the beloved cat of my wife Victoria’s sister Kate. Kate enjoyed living with Olive for five years, but Kate’s fiancé was so allergic to Olive, that the two could not have shared a home. So Olive came to live with us. And she has become our girl. That was a year ago this past June. Then sometime around the first of the year a skinny orange tabby started appearing occasionally in our yard. By summer, he was a more frequent site and you could count his ribs from my wife’s desk that looks out on our small mid-town Savannah back yard.

Nature took its course as Victoria started feeding the cat we now call Aloysius. Even the name is a sign that the outdoor cat is not an animal of whom Olive should be jealous. For a quarter of a century, every time my daughter wanted to name a toy, a stuffed animal, or a pet, I suggested the name Aloysius. Every time I was rejected. Every time until this feral cat who gets food from our back steps. My wife and daughter relented. This cat gets to be Aloysius. The cat who get the scraps of our attention, is the constant preoccupation of the cat who enjoys a life of leisure, and more belly rubs than most cats can handle.

I will come back to that image as today, we celebrate the Feast of St. Luke, the patron saint of this church. Today, we will dedicate Terry Moeller’s three paintings, which now hang so that everyone entering the church will encounter the central themes of Luke’s Gospel. Terry, as you may know, is a professor of Foundation Studies at the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD). A Master of Fine Arts, her work is in numerous private and more than 60 corporate, government, and museum collections. And for this church, she has in a single Triptych capture the essence of how Luke tells of the Messiah, Jesus of Nazareth. In her paintings, we see how God is working at the margins, in ways we might not expect.

In the painting on the left, the Angel Gabriel appears to Mary and proclaims, “Greetings, favoured one! The Lord is with you.” Mary of Nazareth was not a woman others would like have noticed. While we look to outward signs of success, God looks to the content of the heart. And it is so appropriate for this image to be a part of the triptych as Luke is the only Gospel to include Mary’s side of the birth of Jesus. As Mary wonders about the greeting, the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favour with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus.” After the young girl asks for specifics, Gabriel tells her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God.” Mary’s response is, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” Mary’s yes to God is how the story of the Messiah really begins. Luke’s Gospel tells more stories of strong women throughout the Gospel in stories we only read in from Luke.

The central panel of Jesus’ baptism in the River Jordan. This shows what Luke’s Gospel holds in common with the other three Gospels. All agree that Jesus’ ministry began with this act of faithfulness on the part of Jesus. Just as we read in today’s Gospel, that Jesus was faithful in week-by-week worship in his local synagogue, here we see Jesus faithful to the Holy Spirit prodding Jesus out to the desert. This is all the more appropriate as our own baptisms are central to our own identities. But Jesus’ baptism takes place on the edge of the wilderness as the wild and wooly prophet on the margins calls Israel to repentance.

Then on the far right, we see the faithful father welcoming home the prodigal son. This story, together with seventeen other parables, is found only in Luke’s Gospel. More than anything, Luke recorded Jesus’ stories, especially those concerning the outcast and the poor. In this story he captured our cat Olive who envies Aloysius.

You will recall the son wanted to receive his inheritance, which he squandered. Having wandered far in a land that is waste, he recalls how even the servants in his father’s house lived better and he goes home. Then Luke gives us the wonderful details of Jesus’ story writing, “But while he was still far off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion; he ran and put his arms around him and kissed him.”

Then we see that the parable was less about the son than it is about God the father, who is always looking for us to return home, ready to offer forgiveness and love. But, wait, there’s more. The elder son is furious that his father would welcome home his no good younger brother. The elder son, like Olive, doesn’t see how he has lived a life always in his father’s favor. He has not experienced the life of the lost or the left out. He has only known love and now he directs his rage at the faithful father sharing his love with the brother who doesn’t deserve it.

The three paintings then capture the essence of Luke’s Gospel, from Mary saying yes to God, through Jesus’ faithfulness to the Spirit in his baptism, to the father welcoming home the prodigal son. Luke’s Gospel captures how the love of God is alive and active and working beyond us and through us.

But the love of God knowing no bounds is not always received as Good News. For the theme of the love of God knowing no bounds upsetting those who already have known and experienced that love weaves through Luke and Acts. We need look no further than today’s Gospel reading.

Jesus is home in Nazareth at the synagogue where he grew up as a boy. Following his baptism by John, Jesus began his ministry filled with the power of the Holy Spirit. Going to the synagogue as was his custom, Jesus read the scroll in the liturgy with the reading for the day coming from a passage in Isaiah which succinctly described Jesus’ ministry. Jesus reads of “Good news to the poor; Release to the captives; Recovery of sight to the blind; To let the oppressed go free; To proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

He put away the scroll and Luke tells us, “The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. Then he began to say to them, ‘Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.’”

We read that all thought well of him, but seven verses after our reading for today, “When they heard this, all in the synagogue were filled with rage. They got up, drove him out of the town, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they might hurl him off the cliff. But he passed through the midst of them and went on his way.”

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The King Who Became a Servant

01 Oct

The Rev. Canon Frank Logue gave this sermon to the Community of St. Joseph on October 1, 2017 for the second anniversary of the ministry with and for homeless persons in Savannah, Georgia .

The King Who Became a Servant
Philippians 2:1-13

I want to start with a once upon a time kind of a story, in order to open a window on the life and ministry of Jesus: This is the story of two boys born on the same day. Though they lived quite near one another, their lives could not have been more different. Tom was born to a poor family who did not want him. Edward was born to a rich family and the whole nation celebrated his birth.

Tom grew up with his large family packed into a room on the third floor of a decaying building. As soon as he was old enough, Tom’s father sent him out into the streets dressed in rags to beg for money, a small child fairing much better at getting hand outs than his dad. Often his father beats him when he returns home for not bringing home enough money. His lot was a common one in his poor neighborhood as “Drunkenness, riot and brawling were the order, there, every night and nearly all night long. Broken heads were as common as hunger in that place.”[1] Life was tough.

Meanwhile Edward grows up with more than enough food, wearing the finest of clothes and receiving the best possible education. You see Edward was the much anticipated son of King Henry VIII. Edward is the crown prince, the future King of England.

One day poor Tom passes the Palace at Westminster and sees a boy of his own age walking the grounds inside of the imposing gates. Excited by a glimpse of the future king, Tom unthinkingly rushes up to the golden gates of the palace and presses his face against the bars. As the guards attempt to get the ruffian to leave, Prince Edward spies the commotion. He walks closer and sees a boy much like himself, but living in rags. Prince Edward invites Tom into the palace.

Once inside, the prince peppers the pauper with questions, learning such surprising facts as not only does Tom and everyone he knows only have one set of clothes, Tom doesn’t understand why he would need two sets of clothes as he only has one body. The two exchange outfits and in the process discover that with a change of clothes, they look so much alike that each could be the other. Edward sees that Tom is bruised and he runs to chew out the guards for their rough treatment of the boy. But the guards see not the young prince, but a boy in rags. They assume he is the poor boy they admitted not many minutes before. The guards laugh when Edward proclaims himself the prince. They toss him out of the palace.

Tom becomes the prince, as no one believes his protests that he is not. And Edward is now a poor boy in the streets, as no one can believe when he says that he is the future king of England.

This is the story The Prince and the Pauper written under the pen name Mark Twain by a newspaperman, Samuel Clemons. The story of the Prince who changes places with a poor boy was Clemens was of getting at the truth by telling it slant. You see, Clemens had noticed how the poor were treated worse by the court system, and how once in that system it was hard to get out. He travelled to England and France and found the situation in those more ancient civilizations just as bad, if not worse. Everywhere he looked, the poor were more likely to end up in prison or even put to death for crimes they did not commit. So Samuel Clemons wrote the story of The Prince and the Pauper to tell readers of the problem in a way he hoped they might hear it.

In the book, the Prince ends up in prison for a short stint and faces a beating. Every where he goes Edward discovers how the world is tilted to make life easier on the rich and even harder than it has to be on the poor, especially once they find themselves in jail. Meanwhile, the poor boy Tom proves himself an able judge as when he stands judgment, his street smarts make him better able to ask questions that get at the truth. He is not as likely to trust someone just because they have money or to distrust someone just because he is poor.

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Angels Ascending and Descending

29 Sep

The Rev. Canon Frank Logue preached this sermon at
the Collegiate Church of St. Paul the Apostle in Savannah, Georgia on September 29, 2017

Angels Ascending and Descending
A sermon marking 30 years of the Very Rev. Dr. William Willoughby III
serving as Rector of St. Paul’s Savannah
Genesis 28:10-17 and John 1:47-51

Angels are ascending and descending as we celebrate this feast of St. Michael and All Angels. In our reading from Genesis, Jacob is traveling to his mother’s family to find a wife from among his kin. He stops for the night at a random spot along the way as the sun sets. In a dream, Jacob sees ladder set up on the earth, the top of it reaching to heaven with angels ascending and descending. When he wakes up he declares, “Surely the Lord is in this place—and I did not know it! How awesome is this place. This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.”

Then in the Gospel of John we heard Jesus promises Nathanael, “Very truly, I tell you, you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.”

But first came the first impression. It can be difficult to shake off a first impression. When Jesus saw Nathanael he said of him, “Here is truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit!” Nathanael asked him, “Where did you get to know me?” Jesus answered, “I saw you under the fig tree before Philip called you.” That is all it takes for Nathanael to be all in, because Nathanael goes from questioning Jesus’ judgment to saying, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!”

First impressions don’t always go so well. In fact, the first impressions St. Paul’s made on the Willoughbys were perhaps not a lie, but not strictly the whole truth. That’s how it works when a church courts a priest. In hindsight, Father Willoughby sees that he hadn’t known the full situation before he arrived.

That’s more than fair, because I know for a fact that the picture the parish had of Mary Willoughby was a literal photograph of Mary with a very young Katie, both wearing matching Laura Ashley dresses. If a photo can lie, that picture’s pants were on fire. I worked closely with Mary Willoughby for years and love her dearly, but I consider that their sending a photo of her and baby Katie in romantic English dresses to be pushing the courtship part of finding a church too far.

To get a clear-eyed view of first impressions, I called Kay Saussy, who works in the office here at St. Paul’s, to ask her about young Father Willoughby. I wanted her impressions from thirty years ago today. Kay said, “If I tell you, you will scream with laughter.” Then she added in a hushed voice, “Let me go to the phone in the sacristy.” Click. A couple of minutes passed. I waited in anticipation.

“I am going to tell you exactly how it was,” Kay told me. Then she launched into her tale, “Obviously we knew he was coming and so the Altar Guild wanted to spiff everything up. We spent from 9-3 that day fixing and doing. We were ready to go home dead tired. This young man comes up in bib overalls and ugly shoes.” Kay paused. “You better leave out the part about the shoes” she told me and then continued, “I said to a woman on the Altar Guild, just what we need, a homeless person.

“He didn’t introduce himself for a few minutes and we still thought he was a homeless man who wandered in. He realized that he was getting strange looks and introduced himself as our new priest, and he was, but when I met him he was a street person.”

This is perfect for this feast of St. Michael and All Angels as the Letter to the Hebrews warns, “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it.” The St. Paul’s version of this verse would read, “Do not neglect to show hospitality to homeless persons, for by doing that some have entertained Rectors without knowing it.”

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Keep Connected to What Makes Your Heart Sing

28 Sep

There is the story in my wife’s family of how her grandfather was elected to the vestry of a church of this Diocese and what followed. As a business law professor and lifelong Episcopalian, he was sought out for the position. He came home from his first vestry meeting fuming mad. No stories to tell. He just couldn’t stand how the group functioned (or didn’t). The next month he came home from the meeting having resigned. He never entered any church again. Church work can take its toll on the faith of the otherwise faithful.

There is much work in the church that, while essential to the functioning of the body, is not likely to make one’s heart sing. Certainly, there can be a great feeling of satisfaction in good budget work, or crafting endowment policies, but the meetings that go into getting to that end result can be demanding. This is why lay people need to be able to stay connected to what interested them in the church even while serving in otherwise demanding and thankless tasks. Likewise, deacons and priests must stay grounded in those actions that bring life and give energy.

I hope you will allow a digression into my own ministry as an example before turning to the broader issue. I have been thinking about this recently as I seek ways to keep myself grounded in being a priest even as I serve as a Canon to the Ordinary (which is an official title for an assistant to the bishop, often, as here, alongside a Canon for Administration). There is no question that I am a priest and am to continue to live into that calling which the church affirmed and for which I was ordained. The priesthood is more than performing the functions of a priest.
One way is through spiritual disciplines such as the daily office and its scripture readings, and other practices in my Rule of Life. Certainly, I celebrate and preach in congregations most every week, and often more than once a week. But beyond these, I also seek ways to not simply serve as a Canon, but to continue to be a priest while I continue with this job to which I feel very much called and which I am not tempted in the least to leave (a recent episcopal election not withstanding).

What Makes Your Heart Sing?
What about you? Whether you are a committed Christian taxed by volunteering for your church or a priest trying to juggle being pastor and wife and mother, the dilemma of balance is the same. Do you risk losing your religion by doing the work of the church? What about when vestry meetings go far too long or budget discussions that turn into battles and are carried out in ways that do not speak well of the faith that is in us?

My personal answer is to balance the work of the business of the church with staying grounded in spiritual disciplines and importantly making sure I am involved in sharing the Gospel in meaningful ways. I have also kept up a continual flow of efforts that immerse me more fully in my call. Across my time in this position, I have served on teams for Kairos, Happening, Project Smile in Belize, visited refugee camps with Episcopal Migration Ministries and did pilot work toward our homeless ministry in Savannah. I also work with new church plants at a denomination-wide level. These are not add-ons to what I do as Canon, but essential to staying grounded in the call God has for me. What might you do to balance your church work with something that makes your heart sing?

Frank+
The Rev. Canon Frank Logue, Canon to the Ordinary

 
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A Maintenance Reserve Study Avoids Surprises

14 Sep

Churches always seem to have more needs than dollars to meet the needs. Even when finances are doing well, there is always more that can be done than any congregation can do. Unfortunately, buildings tend to suffer for it. It is rare to speak up for the roof, or the heating and air system until sometime just before or during a crisis. Yet, there is no need for surprises. Setting up and funding maintenance reserves can assist a congregation in avoiding most surprises.

The vestry needs to be assured that the money will be on hand to replace the air handler, water heater and so on when they go out. As these and other pieces of equipment come with typical life expectancy, it is possible to plan for the future and set aside money at a steady rate, rather than dealing with issues arising when maintenance has been put off to the breaking point. (Chapel of Our Savior got a new roof in 2012)

Vestries can plan for eventual maintenance issues with a maintenance reserve study. Set up a task force of 2-3 people headed by the Junior Warden to tour the campus, making note of areas of possible concern including the parking lot and the buildings from roof to foundation with all significant electrical and plumbing issues in between. Seek input from professionals (often available in the parish) who can estimate the remaining life and replacement costs at the time action is needed. Then budget to set aside a little money each month toward the maintenance reserve fund. Then when the water heater tank ruptures or the heat pump dies, funds will be ready to apply toward their purchase. Revisit the study each year and adjust the maintenance reserve line item as a apart of the budget process.

Deductibles and Exclusions
It is important to review clauses, deductibles, and exclusions in your policies. Each policy documentation should include information on exclusion and deductible changes in the event of, for example, hurricanes. These deductible calculations can be different based on the location and type of loss coverage. If you are in the Diocese of Georgia and are interested in estimations for your potential deductible for budget planning and reserve purposes, please reach out to Canon Katie Willoughby (at Diocesan House) and your insurance representative.

A small, routine line item
This practice keeps maintenance of your building a small, routine line item in the budget, which is as it should be. I know there is no money for this lying around waiting to be allocated to a future need. But considering the high cost of leaving an old roof in place, you can’t afford not to set aside a little each month toward this eventual need. If Jesus does not return first, your congregational WILL face these maintenance issues. If Jesus does come before the heating and air system gives up the ghost, imagine how pleased our Lord will be to see you had prepared to care so well for his house.

Frank
The Rev. Canon Frank Logue, Canon to the Ordinary

 
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The Charism of Christ Church Savannah

27 Aug

The Rev. Canon Frank Logue preached this sermon
at Christ Church Savannah on August 27, 2017

The Charism of Christ Church
Romans 12:1-8

We can stumble through our lives learning little more about ourselves than a complete stranger could tell us within 15 minutes. Sure, I know myself in a way you never can, Thanks be to God. But some of you may see me more clearly than I can see myself, and in this is the potential for us both to grow spiritually.

I want to draw our attention this morning to how Paul’s Letter to the Romans speaks to the varied gifts God has given each of us. To show you what I mean, let me tell you a story of how some parishioners of a church helped me find my voice and then turn to share how I see that Christ Church is helping Savannah find its voice as well.

As I entered seminary, I needed to find a congregation where I could complete my field education. I told the Director of Field Ed that I wanted to serve at the smallest possible church that was vital to its community. He introduced me to St. Philip’s in Baden, Maryland. The historically black church had an Average Sunday Attendance of 44 when I arrived. I learned that the rural church had the clothes closet and food pantry for the community. They also had received a grant that supported a transportation ministry to pick people up at their homes and take them to the doctor or to the grocery store and other essential trips. Beyond this they had created an 8-bed assisted living facility so the elderly could stay close to home when they could no longer care for themselves. The church might have been small in number, but if the doors of the church closed, the community would have a sizeable hole to fill. St. Philip’s would be missed.

In that context, I began to lead Morning Prayer one Sunday a month and to preach on another Sunday. I had been there for some months when my seminarian committee challenged me. Mittie Gross said, “There is something we all agree on, but it is awkward to bring up.”

“What is it Mittie,” I replied with a little trepidation.
“We want you to preach more black,” he said.
“More black?” I asked.
“You know what I mean,” Mittie said.

I paused, trying to get my bearings. I told them that I didn’t want to do anything that wasn’t me or that some might see as offensive. Then Mittie said, “The thing is Frank. We are not asking you because we want you to be someone else. We are asking, because we see something in you. We want you to stop holding back.”

He explained that they thought a looser style, less tied to the text, and working more with the congregation in a give and take fit who I was made to be as a preacher. And he said, “The best way they knew to put it was to preach more black.”

That was Monday. I was to preach the following Sunday. I decided not to write out my sermon, but to know what I wanted to say and to note the movements of the sermon and then just preach it. On Wednesday morning, I did something I had not done before. After chapel at the seminary, I asked Victoria if she would like me to bring some breakfast from McDonald’s to her and Griffin. She said they would like that and as I left the seminary and headed to pick up fast food, I started preaching the Sunday sermon in the car. And I mean I preached it. I didn’t hold back. Who knows what people in other cars saw, I was preaching.

I pulled up to the microphone at the drive-through, placed the order and then waited my turn to pay. I saw that I could do what my seminarian committee asked of me, but I was wondering if I should. When I came to the first window and a man leaned out to take my money, I looked up and saw his name tag and I knew that come Sunday, I would have to really let go and trust God to get me through. I was going to have to do this thing. I needed to preach.

You see he was wearing a regulation McDonald’s nametag. But there was no name on the tag. Where the name would go, his nametag had one word. It read “Preach.” I paid Preach for my breakfast, drove to the next window to pick up the food and started preaching again as I drove home. That Sunday, I did loosen up and preach. I recall how the first response back from the congregation, that would be followed by a number of amens and the like was Mittie’s Mom said, “Take it slow now” and I knew that the Holy Spirit was in what was happening as that congregation lovingly called something out of me.

I told the story of the nametag to parishioners after church. I shared it with seminarians. Time passed. I began to doubt my own story. I went to the McDonald’s as lunch was ending. I saw the man from the drive through at one of the cash registers inside. His nametag said “James.” I asked him if we could sit and talk for just a minute. He seemed quite unsure, but agreed. They were not that busy and he asked me to give him a minute. When he sat down, I told him my story. He listened quite attentively and smiled. And when I got to the part where he leaned out the window, he jumped in, “It said ‘preach’ didn’t it?’ I said it sure seemed to and nodded toward his badge that said, “James.”

Click here to read the rest of The Charism of Christ Church.

 
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Invite to worship folks who meet at your church

09 Aug

Does your church host Boy Scouts or other groups made up of many people who do not attend your church? People who come into your church for another meeting will still want an invitation to attend. Worse still, if not asked, they may feel unwanted or uninvited.

This is easily remedied. A parishioner who is part of the scout troop or other group, a member of the vestry, or even the priest, can request a few minutes at a meeting to make a personal invitation. Let everyone know how glad your congregation is to host the group. Then encourage those who do not have a church home to come for a visit.

Nothing is more effective than a personal invitation. This is why it is best for someone from the congregation already connected with the group to make the ask if possible. In any case, don’t miss the chance to encourage them to join you for worship as it is the most important part of the ongoing life of the congregation.

Use this free invitation video on social media

The 1-minute video I worked with others in the Acts 8 Movement to create last fall remains available for free online. To make the most of the opportunity, we also encourage you to review the Hospitality Checklist offered by Invite-Welcome-Connect to get ready for those newcomers.

Find out more and download the video in English and Spanish here: Your Church’s Free Welcome Video for Fall

Pax et Bonum (Peace and All Good),
Frank

The Rev. Canon Frank Logue, Canon to the Ordinary

 
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Thank you all does not begin to cover it

02 Aug

Most of you know that in recent months, I have been a nominee for 5th Bishop of the Diocese of East Tennessee. On Friday that diocese elected the Rev. Brian Cole to that position. While I did send out my heartfelt congratulations to Brian, I would be remiss if I did not take the time to say thank you to the Diocese of Georgia.

First and foremost, Bishop Scott Benhase has been characteristically thoughtful in working with me through this possibility as I discerned it with him prior to applying. He supported me at every turn even through some very funny texts as I was taking part in the Walkabouts. I am grateful to work with a bishop willing to so detach his own best interest from discernment about what God may be doing. The diocesan staff–Katie, Anna, Gayle, Vicki, Joshua, and Dade–likewise has been nothing but supportive and kind as I looked at possibly leaving a team with whom I love to work. They do think they pray harder than folks in Tennessee, but I would like to think all our prayers were answered for God’s will in this election.

And then to the many lay leaders and clergy who contacted me during this election process and since the vote, you too have been most gracious to a Canon considering moving away from a position where we have enjoyed great ministry together. This process has given me the gift of seeing anew the great character of this diocese. The Diocese of Georgia has supported me, bringing out the best in me for two decades (and putting up with the rest of me).

I felt called to the election and others affirmed and supported that call to discern with East Tennessee, so I don’t regret being faithful to that process. I do, of course, feel disappointment as one does. But I also feel deep gratitude about what I have here and look forward to continuing to serve on a great team with all y’all.

Pax et Bonum (Peace and All Good),

Frank
The Rev. Canon Frank Logue, Canon to the Ordinary

 
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No-Fail, Time-Tested Methods

19 Jul


While there are many ways to grow a church numerically, there are no silver bullet approaches that will work everywhere. The same can not be said of decline. There are some no-fail, time-tested methods to make sure your church does not grow. Want to keep your church at its current size or wear it down a bit? Here are my top five ways to chase new folks away as quick as they show up at your doors:

1) Share Parish News
First, be unhappy with you church and then make sure everyone knows it. Pull the excited newcomer aside and fill them in on the backbiting and infighting. Spreading rumors is another tool in the discontented church toolkit. Newcomers are looking for love, joy and hope. They will leave and tell their friends (and even the check out person at the grocery store) to never darken your door if your church tends out to be a hotbed of petty power struggles and pointless infighting. Churches grow by multiplication, not division.

2) Think of the Children
You want to have children’s programs. You just don’t have enough children for Sunday School or teens for a youth group. If enough children show up, you might try something again, but the new family with three kids needs to understand there are just not enough kids for you to bother with yet. If that doesn’t chase them off fast enough, you could give them meaningful stares when the kids make noise in church, while offering neither nursery nor children’s church as options.

3) Stay Friendly
Your church is a friendly place. You have people you know at church and you always enjoy spending the little time you have over coffee after the service with these folks. Part of why you love your church is that you are so friendly. Stay that way, talking one another. Enjoy the coffee and the donuts. It won’t take but two minutes tops before the newcomers wander on.

4) Keep Members Active
All the longtime members have things they like to do, so don’t shake up anything from the Altar Guild and Choir to the core of servers. Don’t make room for new people to serve as readers, Lay Eucharistic Ministers, or vestry members. Take a pass on the ideas new people bring. Keep doing things as you have always done them with the folks who have always taken charge. New folks will take the hint and wander on in hopes of finding a church that welcomes the gifts they bring.

5) Stay Focused
Concentrate on anything but the Gospel. You want folks to catch a the weakest possible strain of the Christian virus to inoculate them against something life-threatening, so don’t challenge them in any way to be transformed. Avoid offering ways someone can deepen and live into their faith. Teaching people to read their Bibles and take on other spiritual disciplines is right out. Folks who get grounded in the Gospel through a local church community will never leave, so don’t let those roots take hold or these new people who have found meaning and purpose through faith in Jesus Christ will invite their friends who aren’t church-broke yet either. This sounds harsh, but if you want to keep you church’s small, family atmosphere, you better stick with religion, or better yet “being Episcopal”. Talk about the church, and steer clear of anything that smacks of being the church.

I might not know any silver-bullet, one-sized fits all approach to growing your church, but I sure know how to help you whittle away at folks until its a size you can control.

peace,
Frank

The Rev. Canon Frank Logue, Canon to the Ordinary

 
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Rediscover the Celtic Way of Evangelism

28 Jun


As people increasingly describe themselves as spiritual, but not religious, the church needs to learn anew from an approach that worked in this same context. Celtic Christianity thrived in a time when many people in the surrounding community were decidedly spiritual, but definitely not Christian. The way those 5th-10th century Christians found to share their faith is vital for the church to rediscover at this point in our history. And as I am on a pilgrimage this week walking the 63-mile St. Cuthbert’s Way from Melrose, Scotland to the Holy Isle of Lindisfarne off the east coast of England (I wrote this Loose Canon before departing), it seemed a time to revisit the Celtic Way.(Photo of Melrose Abbey)

In his book, The Celtic Way of Evangelism (Abingdon Press, 2000), George G. Hunter III makes a compelling case for how this different approach would be helpful today. I enjoyed the book when it was first published, but even more so when I recently re read it. For Hunter describes way of evangelism which fits well with our Anglican ethos. In brief, the approach is to emphasize belonging before believing.

Hunter notes that the Roman way of evangelism gives pride of place to doctrine–believing the right things before becoming part of a community. So we teach someone what he or she should believe and when they do come to share that same faith, the person is baptized, and welcomed into the church. Faced with a pagan population in Ireland, St. Patrick and those who followed him took a different path.

Patrick started by knowing the people, their language, and customs. Hunter writes, “There is no short cut to understanding the people. When you understand the people, you will often know what to say and do, and how. When the people know that the Christians understand them, they infer that maybe the high God understands them too.”

Then the Celtic Christians built their monasteries near towns and trade routes. These communities of largely lay people included people of a variety of trades which existed to be places where a different way of living could be experienced in community. Those in the community got to know the people in the villages and along the trade routes. And as the Celtic Christians followed a different pattern of life, the people they interacted with could see that difference in a group of people they came to know and trust. This reflects the saying that Christianity is, “More caught than taught.” (picture at left is of my wife, Victoria, and me in Edinburgh, Scotland).

Hunter does a better job of describing both how this worked for Celtic communities and its implications for Christians today than I can in this space. But a short way to convey the essence is captured in Jesus telling how his followers are to be salt and light. When someone gets to know Christians who they see genuinely living out their faith, it makes him or her curious to know more about this Jesus. For while we can tell someone what to believe, it is much more winsome to have someone notice that your faith in Jesus makes a real difference in your life.

peace,
Frank
The Rev. Canon Frank Logue, Canon to the Ordinary

 
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How Your Congregation Can Satisfy Spiritual Hunger

14 Jun


Longing for a meaningful relationship with God, many Christians are not sure how to take steps to more faithfully follow Jesus. Unless congregations get intentional about satisfying that deep desire, the hunger will remain. If this need remains unmet, one might be tempted in time to decide there is nothing more to a spiritual life. Complacency often follows. In fact, one in four Episcopal Churches have no sense that a spiritual transformation is possible according to work by Renewal Works, a ministry of the Episcopal Church agency Forward Movement.

Diagnosing where you are
The four stages of spiritual growth rank across a continuum:

  •  those who are exploring the faith, 
  •  those who are growing in faith, 
  •  those who are going deeper in faith, and 
  •  those who hold faith at the center of their lives.

Nearly three quarters of Episcopalians (73%) identify in the first two stages when parishioners are “especially reliant on the church and its leadership to guide them into deeper spiritual life.” Yet, a longing for more remains with more than half of Episcopal congregations identified as hungry for more. What is needed is to give people the tools to make their faith real through daily practices of faith. In this, we all need a guide or mentor to get started.

Leading the change
“Leaders of vital congregations share these characteristics,” says the Rev. Jay Sidebotham who leads RenewalWorks, “they are humble, transparent and vulnerable as they lead others in the spiritual journey.”

You can read Jay’s reflections on Discipleship in the Episcopal Church Today and discover more at the RenewalWorks website. The main takeaway is that church leaders, including clergy and lay persons, will see more lives changed by the power of the Gospel when we both regularly teach and consistently model spiritual disciplines. Attending church is essential, but making faith real through daily, intentional practices is how real and lasting life change occurs. If the surveys are accurate, most Episcopalians have gone years since they talked to anyone about their beliefs and the practices of their faith, much less considered what practices might deepen that belief.

Beginning the shift
As you look to the fall, how might your congregation make a shift? Would you like to try Sharing Faith Dinners, a ready-made plan from the Diocese of Texas for talking about your faith in a way that works well for Episcopalians? Or perhaps you want to start a group meeting each week to pray Morning or Evening Prayer together as a way to support one another in praying these Daily Offices every day individually. Or might you start a new weekly Bible Study and dive together into the Gospels (if you wonder how to lead a group, try the Serendipity Study Bible with a Bible study in a side column for all 66 books of the Bible).

While the approach each congregation will take depends on the local context, every church can find ways to move from complacency to challenge when it comes to putting our faith into practice. Let me know how you are responding to this spiritual hunger so that I can share what’s working in your congregation with others.

Peace,
Frank
The Rev. Canon Frank Logue, Canon to the Ordinary

Note: RenewalWorks is building on the work of the Willow Creek Association and its REVEAL Spiritual Life Survey to compare Episcopalians to other denominations. Those who want to dig deeper may want to read The Role of Church, Pastor and Individual in Spiritual Growth and the REVEAL survey’s technical report as well as the book RISE by Cally Parkinson (NavPress, 2015).

 
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Prepare to Welcome Summer Visitors

31 May


This past Sunday, I had a rare day to worship sitting in the pews with my wife, Victoria. We greeted a woman visiting the church in the parish hall before the liturgy began. She grew up in the Episcopal Church and recently moved to town. As often happens when talking with a visitor, I couldn’t help but see the church with new eyes, the eyes of a first impression. I know this congregation well and so I know they usually have a choir, who is not present in the summer. I also knew that attendance was low for Memorial Day weekend. I wanted to talk with her after the Eucharist to slip in casually the lack of choir and otherwise to suggest that this was not a view of this congregation on a typical weekend. She left after the sermon. I can’t know what happened and guessing doesn’t help. There are many explanations that could have her back on a subsequent week. Yet, I wonder how we could have gotten it better.

No church is fully itself on any given Sunday. Those who know a church know its ebbs and flows. Visitors only get a first impression. And many people will visit our churches between now and Labor Day as they use the summer to see if they can find a new church home. A few steps will improve your chances to see first time visitors return:

Never Waver in Welcoming
First time visitors often arrive in the summer, so we need to keep our A Game up in welcoming. Greeters need to be attuned to the different types of visitors, those who arrive early and look around clearly want to engage with someone about the congregation. Those who slip in just in time or after the start and look to bolt when the liturgy concludes, need only a warm smile as they are sending signs that they just want a place to worship.

Have Information at Hand
If you have ongoing activities in the summer, make sure that information on this is in the bulletin and on the website. People looking for a church home are often longing for community and this means activities beyond worship. Let them know what you offer. And if there is nothing or nothing much going on in the summer, consider adding at least one gathering each week through the year, such as a mid-week Bible Study.

Follow Up
Also keep a year round solid follow up with first time visitors whose names and contacts you do learn. If someone leaves an email address in the visitor book, contacting him or her before the day is out should be the norm. A phone call or letter by Tuesday should be the norm for those who leave their phone number or physical address. Visitors who supply their contact information do want to hear from you promptly.

To be clear, the congregation we worshipped with on Sunday got all of the above right with top-notch greeters and good information in the bulletin. The priest was in touch with the woman we greeted later the same day. The first time visitor has prior plans to take two children to a movie matinee and she stayed as long as she could. It does point up the need for follow up. But it also got me thinking and I wanted to share the experience with you as we all need to be aware of how we greet, especially when we might be tempted to slack off in the summer.

Not every church will be for every visitor, but we are still called to be faithful. We do this not to grow a church, but because Jesus taught us that hospitality is part of following him. We are to welcome everyone who comes to church as is welcoming Christ himself, for he will say, “I was a stranger and you welcomed me.”

Frank
The Rev. Canon Frank Logue, Canon to the Ordinary

 
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