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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.”

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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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Seeing the Face of Jesus

27 May

The Rev Canon Frank Logue preached the following sermon at
St. Paul the Apostle Episcopal Church in Savannah, Georgia on May 27, 2017

Seeing the Face of Jesus
An Ordination Sermon for Thomas Barron and Leslie Dellenbarger
II Corinthians 4:1-6

Brown should be the color of a deacon’s robes. Deacons are in the name of Jesus Christ, “to serve all people, particularly the poor, the weak, the sick, and the lonely.” The Bishop will also pray for God to make them, “Modest and humble.” Serving the lost and the left out while remaining modest and humble. Brown should be the color of a deacon’s robes.

Our reading from II Corinthians reminds us, “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.”

Letting the light of the knowledge of the glory of God shine through our hearts, reflecting the light of the face of Jesus to others is the work of all Christians. The order of deacons is a separate and distinct order of ministry alongside bishops, priests, and lay persons. The deacon is “to make Christ and his redemptive love known, by your word and example” especially in serving those most in need. In this work of bringing the needs of the world to the church and taking the church out into the world. In the words of the ordination rite, “At all times, your life and teaching are to show Christ’s people that in serving the helpless they are serving Christ himself.”

Serving others as if serving Christ. The Rule of St. Benedict is the great pattern for monks and nuns in the west. And in this rule, Benedict set out the centrality of hospitality declaring (In Rule 53), “All guests who present themselves are to be welcomed as Christ, for he himself will say: I was a stranger and you welcomed me (Matt. 25:35).”

I don’t know about you. I find it easier to find Christ in other people than I do to find Christ in myself. But Jesus did not say merely, “Love God and love your neighbor.” Jesus said that all the Law and the Prophets, everything he came to teach through his life and ministry were, “Love God and love your neighbor as yourself.” We also have to find a way to see ourselves as loved by God. Not that we deserve, or earn God’s love. That is beyond our abilities. No, we are to see our faults and to know that God loves us as we are and wants something more and better for us. God wants to redeem the tragedies of our lives through the sacrifice of Jesus’ death and resurrection.

Click here to read the rest of the sermon: Seeing the Face of Jesus

 
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Measuring Faithfulness Beyond the ABCs

17 May

The mission of the church is to restore people to unity with God and each other in Christ through prayer, worship, proclaiming the Gospel, and promoting justice, peace, and love (Catechism BCP p. 855). We know that wherever the Gospel is truly preached and the sacraments rightly administered that this bears fruit. The fruit born will vary in differing circumstances.

The ABCs of Measuring Churches
Despite what we may say (or wish), the Church as an institution counts the ABCs-attendance, buildings, and contributions. Where there are more people in worship, a new building is built, or giving is increasing, we say there is health. Where these are stagnant and declining we usually remain silent.

These measures do matter, even if they are not the only ways to look for whether a ministry is bearing fruit. The number of people in church each Sunday is measured as Average Sunday Attendance (ASA). Christ Church Cordele in Crisp County has seen steady population growth in the county and in recent years the congregation’s growth has far outpaced those numbers. Their Worship on the Water liturgy on the dock on Lake Blackshear takes the worship to the people. In addition, the faithful, sustained work of their lay persons working together with their Vicar, the Rev. Larry Williams, has led to growth in attendance from 39 in 2013 to more than 80 on an average Sunday today.

The number of baptisms in general and adult baptisms in particular are also important signs of growth. For example. while Grace Church in Waycross has an ASA of 65, they last year baptized 3 adults and 4 children, more than many larger congregations. You can see these statistics on churches and their communities at the Episcopal Churches webpage on Studying Your Congregation and Community.

Beyond These Numbers
We know that the numbers reflected in the ABCs above misses something vital. Christ Church, Augusta has 30 people in worship on a typical Sunday. The church is not only preaching the Gospel and rightly administering the Sacraments, they also feed more than 100 people a week in their soup kitchen, offer free medical check-ups on a monthly basis, and have a Clothing Ministry. If this congregation were to close, it would leave a hole in the life of its community. While attendance and giving are not increasing, that congregation is clearly bearing much fruit.The Christ Church Augusta Soup Kitchen is shown above.

Your church at its most vital?
One way to look at your church anew is rather than looking to other congregations, seeing what they offer and feeling bad about what we lack (I’m looking at you First Baptist), instead look to the gifts you do have. What makes your congregation a unique place to come worship God now? Churches have very different ways of being the Body of Christ that are life-giving, joy-filled responses to the love of God found in relationship with Jesus Christ. What is your church’s best self? How might you get there? The Rev. Canon Dedra Bell-Wolski baptizes a child at Christ Church St. Marys.

There may be reasons why your attendance and budget are not going up, as these are not the only indicators of faithfulness. But there is no reason why every congregation cannot bear fruit for the kingdom of God. To do so, a vestry needs to routinely ask, “How we are doing?” and then look at ways to go about more fully being the Body of Christ according to the gifts we have within the congregation. Discerning how we are doing and what might need to change in order to be more effective are key to remaining faithful to our mission.

The Rev. Canon Frank Logue
Canon to the Ordinary

 
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Send Me – An Ordination Sermon

13 May

The Rev. Canon Frank Logue gave this sermon at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church
in Augusta, Georgia on May 13, 2017

Send Me
An Ordination Sermon for Terri Degenhardt and Larry Jesion
Isaiah 6:1-8

“In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lofty; and the hem of his robe filled the Temple,” the Prophet Isaiah describes his call to serve as a prophet. Six winged angels, called Seraphs sing “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is filled with his glory.”

Smoke fills the Temple, which shakes to its foundation. Isaiah too is shaken to find himself in the very presence of God and he knows he is not worthy. The prophet cries out, “Woe is me! I am lost, for I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips; yet my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!”

This dramatic recounting of Isaiah’s call comes not at the beginning of the Book of Isaiah, but at the start of the sixth chapter. Isaiah has for five chapters pronounced the Word of the Lord to the people of Jerusalem and all Judea during the reign of King Uzziah. Now the king is dead. Our Old Testament reading then describes a second call coming to Isaiah. The prophet was already serving God and then God says, “But wait, there’s more.”

How appropriate to encounter this passage of a second call as we gather to ordain Deacons Terri Degenhardt and Larry Jesion to the Sacred Order of Priests. Each of them experienced a renewed call. While not so dramatic as Isaiah in the Temple that year that King Uzziah died, they still experienced a powerful call to serve God as a priest.

Years ago, each of our ordinands experienced that typical call of a deacon in being tapped on the shoulder by a priest who asked them to consider serving as a deacon. I say this is typical, as deacons are servant ministers. The work of a deacon is to take the church out to the people and to bring the needs of the people in to the church. What we the church seek are people who are already doing that work. Often the person is already being a deacon and others recognize this before they do.

Terri was already taking the love of Christ into the classroom at Augusta Technical College. Even if she didn’t see it yet, Terri had been ministering for years as she taught students, especially women, who lacked confidence and self esteem to see the potential within themselves. She saw her students as God sees them and reflected back that grace and love. This is good, holy work she was immersed in long before her Rector, Steve Rice, spoke to her about a possible call to serve as a deacon.

Larry too was already drawn to caring for those outside the church. In fact, for Larry that care began before he was back in the church. After his wife, Pam, began working for Hope Hospice, Larry started volunteering. He even spent the first weekend of their married life together as a chaperone at a grief camp for children. So it was only natural after his relationship with Jesus sparked in a new and powerful way that his faith would enliven the work he had already been doing. It was only natural that his pastor, Cindy Taylor, would see this and point out what others could see, that Larry was being the icon of servant ministry. He was already living out the ministry we expect to find in deacons.

Now the church has affirmed a call to the ministry of the priesthood as we have seen priestly gifts operating within them. This is not something different we are asking them to do as if we are adding tasks or changing their job description. Even as they served as vocational or “real deacons,” we began to see that a priest is who they are called to be. We had already seen them being priests and pastors. This is rare. Most deacons will serve many years in ministry continuing to connect the church to the lost and hurting people around us. This is sacred work which the church values and serving as a deacon usually occupies the rest of one’s life.

Click here to continue reading the sermon: Send Me

 
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Bold Liturgies Offer Leaven for Our Communities

03 May

In January, I was glad to be asked to teach at Kanuga’s Church Leadership Conference along with Rachel Held Evans, whose book Searching for Sunday was the Lenten study for the Diocese last year. Rachel advocated for keeping the church weird. As she put it, “You can get a cup of coffee with your friends anywhere, but church is the only place you can get ashes smudged on your forehead as a reminder of your mortality.”

Taking the Passion to the Streets
I think we are better served by doing liturgies that are authentic, but in ways that don’t try to tame the counter-cultural nature of our words and actions. On Good Friday, my wife, Victoria, and I processed around Madison Square in Savannah’s Historic District as a part of the Stations of the Cross (shown at left). Police shut down Abercorn Street as we moved from stations to station, genuflecting in the street. The Rev. Craig O’Brien loudly proclaimed, “We adore thee, O Christ, and we bless thee,” as we perched on one knee, the congregation responded, “Because by thy holy Cross thou hast redeemed the world.” As we made our way through the public devotions, some tourists took pictures, a few joined in and found themselves with us in the church as the liturgy ended. This is the sort of action my friend Scott Gunn encouraged in a blog post Holy Week: Kick it up a notch!

Go Weird or Go Home
As Jonathan Mitchican writes in a post for The Living Church, Evangelism of the Weird, even “something as simple as making the sign of the cross in a public space, offering a blessing over a meal” can stand out. In that article, he concludes, “Go weird or go home.” While we shouldn’t try to be strange for the sake of standing out, we should be bold in keeping to traditions that have long nurtured Christians, even if they might seem out of step with the times.

Praying Beside a Dumpster
In starting King of Peace, Kingsland, I found that teaching spiritual practices and using the fullness of the prayer book was refreshing to young families looking for a place to raise their children in the faith. There is nothing quite so memorable as lighting new fire in the darkness for the Easter Vigil or joyfully proclaiming “Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia” at the graveside of a loved one. One May night, a 13-year old girl’s body was left in a dumpster at an apartment complex in St. Marys. I somewhat hastily organized a vigil two nights later. More than 100 people turned out to sing by candlelight alongside that dumpster (see photo below) as we prayed for the girl, her family, and our community.

Yes, we want to stay true to our Episcopal tradition, but that would not tame the strangeness of our liturgical actions. With Easter behind us, we look toward the fall, Advent, and beyond. How might your congregation create liturgies that are bit bolder? Can your liturgies become leaven for your community?

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

 
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Follow Through with Easter Visitors

19 Apr

Once again, congregations across the Diocese enjoyed welcoming newcomers on Easter. Visitors who sign in the guest book at church will rightly expect to hear from the congregation. They also expect to receive word promptly. Surveys show that electronic communication has upped the expectation with visitors expecting to hear from the church not just within the week, but within a couple of days. Yet the ubiquity of email does leave a hand-written note standing out from other ways of contacting a visitor.

No matter how you go about it, following through on everyone who signs into the book is a priority. This is trickier at Easter, when the priests are relieved to have enjoyed (read survived) another busy Holy Week and Easter. For future years, plan on how you might be able to get lay persons in place to follow up with a hand-written thank you that goes out on Monday in Easter Week. (The photo is from Easter at St. Thomas, Thomasville.)

Share Best Practices
I know that as a parish priest, we would “mug” newcomers with a personal visit on Sunday afternoon to drop off a church mug with the latest newsletter and a church brochure inside. The goal was a quick, personal thank you with a gift. What works well for your church? Contact me at the Diocese of Georgia office and let me know so that I can share your best practices with others.

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

 
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Do As I Have Done For You

13 Apr

The Rev. Canon Frank Logue preached this sermon at St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church
in Savannah, Georgia on April 13, 2017

Do As I Have Done For You
John 13:1-17, 31b-35

Peter got it wrong.

We shouldn’t be surprised in the least. The gospels have taught us to expect Peter to be the eager disciple who energetically jumps to the wrong answer and is ready to act when listening and learning is called for.

Peter sees Jesus get up from the table, take off his outer robe, and tie a towel around himself. Then he watches as Jesus pours water into a basin and begins to wash the disciples’ feet. You can almost hear the wheels turning in Peter’s mind as Jesus wipes the wet feet with the towel that was tied around him. Peter is waiting until it is his turn. He lets the other disciples take part, but he will never let the master be his servant.

Then as it is his turn, Peter asks, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?”

Jesus replied, “You do not know now what I am doing, but later you will understand.”

Impetuous Peter doesn’t want to wait. He understands perfectly well that Jesus is serving his disciples in the humblest of ways and he isn’t going to play along. Disciples wash their teacher’s feet, not the other way around. Peter says flatly, “You will never wash my feet.”

Then in language that has long reminded the church of baptism, Jesus says, “Unless I wash you, you have no share with me.” This changes everything for Peter. If foot washing is a sign of being part of Jesus, then he wants to be drenched – soaked from head to foot.

Picking up on the baptismal line of teaching, Jesus seems to push it further in saying, “One who has bathed does not need to wash, except for the feet, but is entirely clean.” In this same way, one who has been baptized needs only repent of his or her sins to be made clean again. One doesn’t have to be baptized a second time.

But the connection to baptism was not Jesus’ main purpose that evening. It was the night before he was to die. The disciples did not know this yet. But Jesus is using his last evening to get across his most important lessons one more time. In case they missed the significance of his washing their feet, Jesus points out that he has done this to give them an example to follow, saying, “If I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you.”

This is where we expect Peter to strip off his outer robe and start working his way around the gathering washing up the other disciples. But this time, he seems to understand that something more is going on here than a lesson about washing feet. It is an example Jesus is giving. An example of service rather than a command to spend one’s days cleaning road grime off feet.

It might not have been easy to get across, but Jesus clearly connected with this message about servant leadership. Peter and the other disciples might have left the table still wondering about when and where they were to wash each other’s feet. But everything would change in a few hours. The next night they would be gathered in mourning at the death of their rabbi. Much later, sometime after the shock of Good Friday and the joy of Easter, this foot washing lesson sank in. We know the point got through because with the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, the disciples really came to understand their call to ministry and were empowered to act on it.

Later, when remembering that night before he died, Peter and the others would have seen foot washing from the far side of the cross and the empty tomb. Having seen how complete was their teacher’s love and commitment, those words of Jesus, “I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you” must have sounded so different. Then even Peter knew that the life of service to which his Rabbi called him would involve much more than washing the feet of those he might have considered beneath him. After washing their feet, Jesus said, “Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.”

Jesus’ example was much more life changing than the humble act of washing feet. Jesus had been obedient unto death, even death on a cross. He had loved as God loves, and in the process, so upset the status quo that various groups who couldn’t agree about anything agreed that Jesus must die. Jesus was restoring outcasts to community. Jesus was breaking down the dividing walls between those who were “in” and those who were “out.”

Click here to read the rest of this sermon.

 
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Two Videos Share How to Invite and Welcome

12 Apr

Easter offers an opportunity to rejoice in the resurrection of our Lord and our worship on that day is the pinnacle of the church year. Easter is also the day when many people without a church home will look for a place to worship. To assist congregations in making the most of this opening to invite and welcome visitors, I created two one-minute videos which give easy to follow advice on how to invite someone to church and how to welcome people once they arrive.

I based the videos on research from the Christian resource provider Lifeway. Their research shows that the single best way to increase visitors is through personal invitation by a trusted friend. That is the main way people find a church. With Easter fast upon us, there is no time like the present to invite a friend to join you. It is easy with a crowd at Easter to forget the welcome you might typically give. Lifeway’s research shows the three minutes before and the three minutes after church matter most to visitors. In the minutes before worship, they need to be welcomed by greeters. In the minutes after church, they will find your church unfriendly if no one but the minister greets them. The second video shows how a simple, “Hi, I don’t believe we’ve met,” can matter a lot to a newcomer.

Share these videos as a way of teaching invitation and welcome as we look toward a joyous Easter celebration.

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

 
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A FREE Easter Invitation Cartoon

25 Mar


I am glad to have teamed up with others in the Acts 8 Movement to create a video Episcopal churches may use for free to advertise their Easter liturgies. Following the success of my Lenten cartoon, this year’s Easter invitation is made in the same style. You may download the video below to post to your own Facebook page, or just link to one of the YouTube videos found here, or to the Facebook videos posted on the Acts 8 Movement Facebook page.

EasterCartoon-English.mp4
The English language video file

EasterCartoon-Spanish.mp4
The Spanish language video file

Animated GIF files for those who want to experiment
This past Christmas, The Diocese of Central New York used the Acts 8 video to invite their neighbors to worship in the churches of the Diocese. You can read about their test and what they learned: How we invited 5,000 Central New Yorkers to Join Us for Christmas. In response to their idea to use a catchy graphic in a side by side test, we are offering a short, animated GIF file, which Facebook permits in its advertising. DO NOT upload the GIF file to Facebook as the image will default to a still frame. Instead, place the file online and point to that file when creating the Facebook ad. This option only works for those advertising on Facebook. Click here for more information: How to Post an Animated GIF on Facebook

EasterCartoon-English.gif
The English language animated GIF file

EasterCartoon-Spanish.gif
The Spanish language animated GIF file

Another Video Option in Nine Different Languages
Acts 8 still offers the 2016 Easter video which I made. That video includes the voice of the Presiding Bishop Michael Curry in the opening line and is available in nine of the languages in which our church worships: Your FREE Easter Invitation Video.

Peace,
Frank

The Rev. Canon Frank Logue

A Note About Permissions
I created the animations using the website Animaker in keeping with their business license agreement so that there is no cost to any church. Earnest Graham drew the SuperHero Jesus character especially for this video. Adam Trambley wrote the script with his daughter, Julia, providing the English language voiceover. Sandra Montes recorded the Spanish language voiceover using her brother, Alex Montes-Vela’s Spanish language translation of the text. All of this is our gift to you.

 
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Live as children of light

19 Mar

The Rev. Canon Frank Logue preached this sermon at St. John’s Episcopal Church
in Savannah, Georgia on March 19, 2017

Live as children of light
Ephesians 5:1-14 and Luke 11:14-28

In our journey through Lent, our readings move from last week considering Jesus’ power to cast out demons to land this week considering what comes next. And what must follow is that we amend our lives. For in repenting, turning toward God, and amending our lives, we close the door behind the exiting demon. Jesus said, “the last state of that man is worse than the first” when speaking of someone who once he has been delivered from a demon, finds the demon returned later with seven more and in greater strength.

While we can try to be too enlightened to talk of demons, the observable fact is plain that everywhere you go, people all around you are fighting battles you know nothing about. We are surrounded every day by people anesthetizing themselves. The anesthetic has many names—binge drinking, overeating, excessive exercise, illegal drug use, prescription drug abuse, hoarding, unhealthy relationships, workaholism, compulsive spending, gambling, the list goes on, but the dynamic is the same. It doesn’t matter if the crutch is good scotch or bad coffee, self-medication can only mask the pain. Behind the façade, the deep hurt remains.

Most people sometime between the age of 5 and 25 pick up emotional wounds that will remain festering and seeping poison into their psyches unless they can find healing. Whether the source was absent parents, physical abuse, rape, bullying, or just never matching the image in the magazines, never earning the favor of those who mattered most to you, betrayal by friends, a learning disability that caused you to always fear you couldn’t measure up. The sources are legion and layered. Without bringing true healing to the deep hurts, much pain will follow and will spread out to those we love.

Perhaps the greatest human fear is that we will get what we deserve. Everyone else is okay, but I know that I do the right things for the wrong reasons. I know the secret sins, the hidden shame, the parts no one can ever see the reason for the false front that masks the need for self-medication. The Gospel does not teach that I’m okay and you’re okay. The Good News is that even though I am far from okay and so are you, that God loves us anyway and offers us a way to turn our lives around.

Click here to read the rest of the sermon

 
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Your Holy Week and Easter Welcome Checklist

08 Mar
With Lent underway, now is the time to look ahead to Holy Week and Easter. As you know, Easter is the best time to invite newcomers to church as many spiritual seekers are most receptive to an invitation at this time of year. Many persons with a past connection to a liturgical church also are receptive to a Holy Week invitation to a Maundy Thursday or Good Friday liturgy.
Here are seven ways you can prepare to welcome more people this Easter and then to follow up with them after the Holy Day:
  • Put your Holy Week and Easter schedule at your website and on your answering machine message now.
  • Create business cards or flyers with the schedule and encourage the congregation to share them with friends, family and co-workers. This can also be a PDF file emailed to the congregation, which they can forward to others adding a personal note.
  • Consider a joint ad in the local newspaper with other Episcopal Churches (if there are any in your area). Combined ads with several churches announcing their schedules together makes a powerful statement of unity which has the practical aspect of making a larger ad less expensive for each congregation.
  • It’s not too late to order a custom banner giving worship times. This is a low cost way to attract the attention of those who drive by your church.
  • Encourage the members of the church who are healthy and can easily walk to take the furthest possible spaces from the church on Easter to make room for newcomers. This should happen every week, but is especially important at Easter.
  • Have the latest newsletter, a church brochure, or some other easy to take away item for newcomers on Easter. Get the ushers to place this in the hands of visitors so that they will know of upcoming opportunities for Christian Education as well as your regular service schedules.
  • Plan now how you will follow up in the week after Easter with all persons newly signed in the visitor’s book with at least a letter. A quick visit from two members of the welcome committee offering a church mug, or fresh-baked bread is also offered by some of our congregations.
Looking for more ways to prepare for newcomers? Now is also a great time to work through the Welcome Checklist from Invite-Welcome-Connect.
Frank+
The Rev. Canon Frank Logue, Canon to the Ordinary
 
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Helping Neighbors Find Their Place in the Church

22 Feb

How are you helping people find their way into your church? This key question gave focus to the Church Leadership Conference hosted this past weekend by the Episcopal Church Foundation and Kanuga Conferences. Speaking from her experience finding her way out of an evangelical upbringing and into the Episcopal Church, author Rachel Held Evans warned the gathering on Friday evening, “If you’ve found your place, don’t get too comfortable. God has this annoying habit of taking you to new places.” She read from her book Searching for Sunday and then pushed forward movingly with the sacraments of Communion and Baptism and how they speak to helping people find their place in the church. The many workshops offered tools for encouraging this work of the Holy Spirit in changing lives.

Leadership that can change a church
How can leaders effect change in their church? I was asked to give the Saturday morning keynote and I challenged the gathered leaders to, “Be the church you want to see.” Then I gave some examples: Want a welcoming church, then let others see you spending time in welcoming others, showing newcomers the ropes with prayer book worship and introducing them to others. Want to raise up new leaders, then ask someone new to run for election, offer to mentor them and let others know you will not stand for election as it is time for new voices. In this way elected leaders on the vestry and others who are leaders within a congregation can move a church by changing their own behavior. This is real leadership which can turn your church into a place of pilgrimage in which newcomers likewise find themselves challenged to grow.

Our diocese was well-represented at the conference: leaders from Holy Comforter, Martinez; Holy Nativity, St. Simons Island; St. Mark’s Brunswick; and St. Thomas, Savannah, took part in the three-day meeting. Kanuga will offer the Church Leadership Conference next year March 2-4.

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

 
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Checklist and Resources for Invite-Welcome-Connect

15 Feb

The tools of Invite-Welcome-Connect exist to assist congregations in more faithfully responding to Jesus’ call to reach our neighbors with the Gospel. If you are wondering how your congregation might answer this call to make a gracious invitation, to welcome others as welcoming Christ, and to assist long term parishioners and newcomers alike in more fully connecting to Christ’s Body, the Church, there is a single resource that captures the wisdom and challenge of this approach. Use the 20-page Invite-Welcome-Connect Booklet to launch your journey of discovery.

The basic concept is simple: all three of these areas are essential for successful newcomer ministry in any church. Do one or two of these well, but miss others, and you will still fall short of your expectations. But work on all three essentials together and you will find more people coming to worship, discovering an engaging welcome, and being offered the means to fully connect to the ministry. Because these are the essentials of newcomer ministry, you must address all three areas. In smaller congregations, one team can work on all three areas. Churches with more than 50 people in attendance on Sunday will benefit from having one small team (1-4 people) working on each of three essentials.

The best way to begin is getting a group together to watch Mary Parmer’s introductory videos found at invitewelcomeconnect.com. Give one, hour-long meeting a week for each essential. After watching the video, work through the checklist and resources for that area of the materials in the booklet linked above. Following those three weeks, the group can divide into smaller teams to begin working on the initial plans made as a group.

I spoke today with the Rev. Galen Mirate who is taking the steps outlined above at St. Patrick’s, Albany, and with the Rev. David Rose at St. Luke’s, Rincon, who has a group working on Connect and is working to get groups working with the Invite and Welcome essentials. As you begin this work, stay in touch with us so that we can share how this work is going with others around the Diocese.

Peace,
Frank

The Rev. Canon Frank Logue
Canon to the Ordinary

 
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