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.
The Rev. Canon Frank Logue, Canon to the Ordinary
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.”
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.
The Rev. Canon Frank Logue, Canon to the Ordinary
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The Rev. Canon Frank Logue, Canon to the Ordinary
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.
I talked to the Rev. Johnny Tuttle soon after the tornado roared through Radium Springs on Sunday afternoon and I wondered aloud about the Stewarts. The Rev. Bill Stewart preceded Tuttle as rector of St. John and St. Mark’s and is now retired. He and his wife Sharon live nearby in the same neighborhood.
Johnny told me that whatever had happened when the tornado hit, Bill was probably more worried about his quail than his house at that moment. Bill had been raising 17 quail who lived in a two-foot high pen that sat on a three and a half-foot stand designed so that Bill could tend them from his wheelchair.
Later when I caught up with Bill, I passed on what Johnny had said about the quail. At that exact moment, Bill allowed, he was probably worried about his house which was enjoying more pine-scented freshness than usual with the trees that had been sheared about 15 feet off the ground and landed in his living room. But he added that within about ten minutes, he was worrying about his quail.
The only thing clear after the storm was that the whole pen and stand were buried under the debris of three oak trees. Either the storm lifted the pen and dropped it, or had just simply crushed it. By Monday, Bill’s son, Ryan, and a friend decided that if a bird was hurt, but not dead, they needed to know and take care of it. The two decided to do what they could to find out.
When they returned, Ryan’s friend said, “Bill I’ve got something for you.” He dropped a cold, wet quail egg in his hand and as Bill stared in wonder at the egg, Ryan told him that all 17 quail had survived the storm. Bill told me, “That egg looked like a rainbow.” The birds were in mud, with no food or water and looked quite provoked by the whole ordeal. Yet every bird survived. They have been steadily producing eggs since then, every egg a new rainbow in the wake of a tragic storm.
The Rev. Frank Logue, Canon to the Ordinary
We do have a serious problem with violence in this country, but the source is not the highly vetted refugees entering this country seeking a new life. The 18-36 month process that selects refugees who will come to the United States is by far more rigorous than any other process by which someone enters any country. I know because I have seen the process in detail. In 2015, my wife, Victoria, and I were able to see the refugee crisis first hand when we worked our way upstream through the system to a camp in Rwanda where a group caught in Africa’s world war in the Congo can never return home nor can they stay where the are.
Along the way, we observed the many steps in the vetting process that starts with the United Nations High Commission on Refugees interviewing the refugees. I spoke at length with a translator who heard their stories and told me how the UNHCR carefully works to corroborate stories. Multiple interviews uncover exactly what caused someone to leave their home to flee to another country. They get down to the micro level of what happened at what time of night in which village and then corroborate the stories with the accounts of others. In the process, they detail unspeakable tragedies of rape and torture, putting down with precision the inhumanity which causes humans to leave the only life they have known with the few possessions they can carry.
Again and again, we met people whose greatest desire was to return home. Pictured above is Kaltun, a 24 year old Somali woman She settled in Kenya where she shoulders an important work load as one of three Community Health Volunteers who go door to door where western aid workers rightfully fear to tread. Her work takes her into the homes of the urban refugees in the dangerous Easterly neighborhood. I share her picture in a post on refugees coming to America to show how many refugees return home or stay closer to home. In fact, the UNHCR is charged with finding a “durable solution” for those like her who flee their country to avoid persecution with three options on the table:
Resettle in their home country.
Resettle in the second country where they currently have asylum (like Kaltun shown above).
Resettle in a third country. Option 3 is the durable solution for just 1 in 100 refugees.
For those in this group who the United States is considering, our State Department takes over. Intense screenings follow with the Department of Homeland Security, the FBI, the Department of Defense weighing in. This lengthy process follows the initial screening by the UNHCR. Additional security checks continue once refugees move to the States. The State Department then tried to place refugees in an area where they have friends and relatives, or at least in a city with an established community sharing the language and culture. (At right, though dressed in clericals, I play soccer with refugees in Gihembe Camp, Rwanda, while other look on and laugh).
News stories about persons committing crimes in this country, such as the shooting in San Bernadino, blur the lines to suggest that refugees attacked people in their new country. These attacks have been by lawful, permanent residents born in this country. We can, and should, talk about the problems we have in this country, but we need to do so knowing that refugees are not the ones committing acts of violence.
“You shall not oppress a resident alien;
you know the heart of an alien, for you were aliens
in the land of Egypt.” -Exodus 23:9
Essential to Our Faith Jesus would come to distill the essence of his teaching to Love God and Love your neighbor as yourself. He would then define neighbor in such as way as to make it clear that the term is inclusive of all persons, with an emphasis on the poor and needy. Christians then do not have the luxury of deciding whether we would like to care for refugees so much as deciding whether we want to follow Jesus. For those who seek to follow him, caring for widows, orphans, and those in need, is all part of the journey that is essential to our faith rather than a possible extra curricular add on.
What the Episcopal Church is Doing
There is no denying that issues of migration are politically thorny. Working with refugees identified by the United Nations and U.S. State Department is more straightforward, but also involves a tangle of issues. Yet for those of us of faith, we can not simply consider these political realities with no reference to our theology which reminds us of our common identity binding us to all other humans.
Nine agencies resettle refugees in this country, including one run by the Episcopal Church. Through thirty affiliates across the country, Episcopal Migration Ministries makes the love of God real each year for more than 5,000 persons resettling in the United States. This is, of course, purely to serve others and without proselytizing or other motives other than assisting people in need, especially in there first months in this country. Through this ministry, the Episcopal Church practices what we preach about seeking and serving Christ in all persons and respecting the dignity of all. On average, our churchwide efforts help 100 persons a week begin a new life. While not every Episcopalian need support this great work of our church personally, we can still appreciate this ministry as an important part of what we do together that none of us could accomplish on our own.
The Rev. Canon Frank Logue, Canon to the Ordinary
To get a better feel for the work EMM does, you will also find extremely helpful, the series of short videos they created. I have embedded one below, the others are found online here: EMM Media Page
“The commandment we have from him is this:
those who love God must love their brothers and sisters also.”
-I John 4:21
If we only go about being the church for the sake of more people and more money, then God should not bless that effort, and I don’t believe that God will bless it. I write that as bluntly as possible so that you understand how strongly I feel that churches do not and should not simply grow in terms of more people sitting in pews on a Sunday or giving more money in offerings.
What God actually calls us to is to faithfully follow Jesus. While we know that faithfulness bears fruit, the fruit of our faithfulness varies. Sure, this may mean growth of the kind that can be charted with statistics. Yet, any spiritual growth always starts with the work of the Holy Spirit in human hearts and this slips through the cracks when we get solely data driven.
The Inward Journey
In her now out of print book Journey Inward, Journey Outward (Harper and Row, 1968), Elizabeth O’Conner shared the way The Church of Our Savior in Washington, DC went about being church. She noted that churches had become so concerned about numbers that concern for each individual soul with whom the church came in contact was being lost. She made the case that the renewal of of the church “cannot come to the church unless its people are on an inward journey” while holding “with equal emphasis that renewal cannot come to the church unless its people are on an outward journey.”
The Outward Journey
To simplify her text, on the journey inward, one comes to see onesself, God and others. This self-knowledge seen through relationship with God and lived into in community with others builds up a person into a disciple of Jesus Christ. In this engagement one’s God-given gifts are called forward. The disciple then continues on an outward journey in which one is truly present to others.
There is not an either/or with discipleship and mission or ministry. Without gaining a deeper connection to God as revealed in Jesus Christ, we cannot know ourselves and so can not really see others and be present to them. The inward journey is required. Yet, if we only take the journey inward, we can become like the Dead Sea (pictured here), which is continually nourished, but has no outlet and so is rich in minerals and devoid of life.
This simple concept of churches helping nourish and sustain people on their journeys inward and outward adds to the missional emphasis I often place in this Loose Canon column and most notable in my opening address for our diocesan convention a few years ago which captured much of the outward work of our congregations. A missional outlook is essential for the church as God did not come among us as Jesus to teach, heal, deliver, and then suffer, die and physically rise never to die again in order to start and institution. God came in Jesus to bring us into relationship, a life giving and life changing relationship. And this relationship needs both the journey inward and the journey outward to grow and flourish.
Balancing Inward and Outward Journeys
How do you see that balance in your church’s schedule of events? Is the inward journey of discipleship being supported with appropriate offerings to nourish the life of faith and to thereby challenge parishioners in helpful ways? Is the journey of service to God through ministry to others just as evident? How is your congregation doing at this balance of the journey inward, journey outward?
As we look to Invite, Welcome, and Connect others to our congregation, we are inviting them to these inward and outward paths of discipleship. Should you add more ways to engage in mission or discipleship? To grow disciples, you need to foster both journeys.
-The Rev. Canon Frank Logue, Canon to the Ordinary
Most churches open their buildings for use by groups made up of people who are not members of the congregation. These include Scout troops, Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), and other groups. A few churches also have a preschool, Mother’s Morning Out, or other group regularly bringing families into your space who do not attend the church. Beyond this, you may have other activities, such as a yard sale, which bring people onto the church grounds. As we look to Invite-Welcome-Connect with our neighbors, extend the invitation with people already coming to your church grounds. If you do not specifically invite these persons to worship with you, they are likely to feel, well, not invited, or even not welcome.
Make an in-person invitation
Creating a pathway into the congregation is not difficult, but it does take intentionality and persistence. The most straightforward way to make an invitation is for the priest or one of the church wardens to attend a meeting, if possible, to thank the group for meeting at the church and let everyone there know that if they do not have a church home, you would encourage them to come worship with you on a Sunday. Best practice will be to have something in print to hand out to interested persons whether a welcome card or the latest newsletter. This method would not work for AA, as attending the meeting would not keep the group’s anonymity. You could ask that a print invitation be put out for those who attend AA or other 12-step groups to let attendees know they are welcome.
Host an Event Together
Consider hosting an event with groups who use your church building. The best way is to ask the group’s leaders if they have any ideas for an event the congregation can host together with the group. This worked well, for example, for our All Saints Eve’ Trunk or Treat when I served as a parish priest. If you start not with your own idea of what you would like the group to do, but begin by asking where they have interest, you are more likely to find an event that works for all.
Without a specific invitation repeated from time to time, you are unlikely to get many, if any, church visitors from the ranks of people already coming to your building. Taking the steps to welcome people who are part of groups meeting in your church is well worth your time and energy as a way to expand your welcome.
The Rev. Canon Frank Logue, Canon to the Ordinary
Finding quality materials for engaging adults in a meaningful way about their faith in Jesus is never an easy task. Thanks to an Episcopal Church grant which underwrote the production of the course, Transforming Questions is an excellent course to encourage exploring faithful questioning in a small group setting, is available at no charge to your congregation. As we work on Invite-Welcome-Connect, this course fits well in connecting established members and newcomers around table fellowship and meaningful conversations.
Course creators, the Revs. Melody Shobe and Scott Gunn, provide everything you need for the 10-week course available as a free download from Forward Movement, the Episcopal Church agency that produces Forward Day by Day. Participants share a meal, listen to some solid teaching, and then discuss important questions including: Who is Jesus? Does God answer prayer? Why do bad things happen?
This is both a helpful introduction to faith in Jesus for people new to the church, or who have yet to attend worship. This is a great side-door for someone who is interested in Jesus, but not sure about a church yet. Transforming questions is equally worthwhile for those of us who are long term Christians. Having created and taught a similar course 16 years ago as a parish priest, I know that perhaps most important is the community built around table fellowship and honest talk about personal concerns.
Please note that this is not a drop-in course. Ask participants to commit to the whole 10 weeks as the work builds over time, especially with the meals and an ongoing small group. Don’t be afraid to ask for and expect a commitment. The format for an evening is five minutes for the opening collect and welcome, 25 minutes to share a meal, an hour split evenly between the presentation and a small-group discussion, and then five minutes for the closing collect and dismissal. The presenter shapes the course material with personal stories, but the good work of developing a solid course is done.
Interested? Download the file from Forward Movement, which includes both the facilitator’s and participant’s materials. While this material is also available for purchase in book form from Forward Movement, you do not need to purchase anything to have the full course. Click here to download the Transforming Questions materials.
The Rev. Canon Frank Logue, Canon to the Ordinary
Prepare the way of the Lord by taking steps now to make sure your congregation is ready to welcome visitors this Christmas. A little attention to these Invite-Welcome-Connect concerns will have you ready to greet newcomers:
Website and Facebook
List any special Advent and Christmas liturgies on your website. Also add this schedule to your Facebook page and then “pin the post” so that that schedule information stays at the top of your Facebook feed. Do this by first creating and posting the information, then click on the downward V in the top right hand corner of the post and select “Pin to Top of Page.” That will keep the information at the top even when you add new Facebook posts. After Christmas, click on the same V and select to unpin the post. To make the Facebook information more eye-catching, you can use the free video I created with Acts 8: Your free parish Christmas invitation video is ready
Answering Machine and Phone
Add the Christmas liturgies to your answering machine message now through Christmas Day. Then on Christmas Eve, best practice is to have someone answering the phone from a couple of hours before the service until the liturgy begins in case someone calls at the last minute looking for directions or to confirm the time.
Clean up any bulletin boards and tables with information. Make sure that everything is current and that the latest printed information is available, in case a visitor wants to pick up a newsletter or other information.
Newsletter and Announcement Reminder
In the remaining Sundays prior to Christmas, list in the newsletter or bulletin a reminder to ask parishioners to recall that we greet guests as if greeting Christ. If people you don’t recognize are nearby, after the liturgy, all they have to say is, “Hi, My name is _____. I don’t believe we have met.” Then just welcome them and if a newcomer, ask them to come back. At Christmas, we can all get so focused on the occasion and family gathered round, that it is easier to think we are being friendly, while failing to welcome the guest.
I worked with the Acts 8 Movement to once again create a free video for Episcopal Churches to use on social media or their websites. The English language version is above, the Spanish language video is below. Videos in other languages in which the Episcopal Church worships are in the works. You can find out more and download a copy for your congregation’s use here: www.acts8movement.org/your-free-parish-christmas-invitation-video-is-ready
The Evangelism Matters Conference brought together 425 people from across the Episcopal Church from Hawaii to the Dominican Republic and Seattle to, well, Georgia. As one of six members of the Planning Team, I was pleased not so much by the turn out as the energy around sharing our faith in Jesus Christ. I was especially grateful for the excellent workshops that came together. While the event has come and gone, videos of many of the presentations remain. The Evangelism Matters YouTube Channel offers 16 videos from the conference including our Presiding Bishop Michael Curry’s inspiring preaching and the full content of seven workshops. I recommend two videos in particular:
This video demonstrates a project any congregation can do (it was piloted by a church with about 20 people on an average Sunday). My colleague Stephanie Spellers walks the conference participants through an exercise you could do in your church on a Sunday between services or after the main liturgy. I will let her describe it for your, but I want to share how this exercise got me and a complete stranger first, discover how God had been in our lives anew and then, got us each talking about significant issues with each other in a very meaningful way.
The Episcopal Church’s highly skilled video team then cut a video showing the results. That is online here at Cardboard Testimonies
From Visitor to Member in 12 Months
When Mary Foster Parmer presented on Invite-Welcome-Connect to our recent diocesan convention, I really came to understand how the connect piece is the one I probably needed help with the most as a parish priest. Chris Girata and Elizabeth Carrière Peeples brought a workshop to the Evangelism Matters Conference on moving a person from a visitor to a member in 12 months.
While the 1 hour 20 minute video length will seem daunting, this is an excellent workshop ready to give you tools to connect with newcomers in a meaningful way. If you long for your congregation to help visitors become a vital part of your congregation, is there a better use of and hour and a half than learning proven ways to make this happen?
The Rev. Canon Frank Logue, Canon to the Ordinary
The Rev. Canon Frank Logue preached this sermon at The Church of the Transfiguration in Dallas, Texas on November 20, 2016
Seeing Rightly Luke 23:33-43
Our Gospel reading brings us to the foot of the cross to see Jesus’ with his arms of love nailed to the hard wood of the cross that everyone might come within the reach of his saving embrace. Even as Jesus proclaimed forgiveness to those who are in the act of killing him, he is challenged to prove that he is Messiah and King by saving himself. We who follow Jesus two millennia later get the dramatic irony that it is only in not saving himself that Jesus will save us.
Those present at Jesus’ crucifixion who knew the scripture best failed to see what God is doing through Jesus. Rather than standing over creation in judgment, God came in the Second Person of the Trinity entering the creation in weakness. He who the universe could not contain was born to a poor girl in Galilee. Soon after he was born, his family were on the road as refugees. God took on human form in the person of Jesus. As the great champion of the faith Athanasius would put it, “He became like we are that we might become like he is.”
Jesus loved us so much that even when the cost of that love was suffering and death, he would not give up on that love. Through his death on the cross, Jesus broke the power of sin and death that we might have forgiveness and life eternal. And yet, the only one who sees rightly that salvation that can come through Jesus is the thief dying on the cross next to him. He knows that Jesus is sinless and yet is condemned to death.
Dying on a cross alongside Jesus, the thief has just heard words not of judgment or condemnation, but of forgiveness. Jesus said, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” The man who remains nameless to us was known to God. The thief wanted the forgiveness and reconciliation with God that could come through Jesus and he says, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”
Such unlikely words of faith. The thief knows that though Jesus is dying, the Reign of Christ is about to begin. How is this perception possible when everyone else is missing it? How does the thief on the cross see the truth that the sinless one alongside him proclaiming forgiveness is even then able to welcome him into paradise? This takes seeing with the heart.
As I prayed through this passage preparing for this Sunday, I recalled a favorite book, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s classic, The Little Prince. I already knew by heart my favorite line from this gem of a book, “It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.”
I decided to look the quote up and see the larger context for those words. I was amazed by what I found. I want to share that journey with you as we consider the story of The Little Prince alongside our Gospel reading. For “It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.”
I gave the Closing Plenary Talk for the Episcopal Church’s Evangelism Matters conference with Alex Montes-Vela. I summarized the conference and then Alex brought it all home with a challenge and a blessing. Here is my summary of the conference:
Alex and I were talking on the way to our hotel last night and he told me about meeting someone here he only knew through Instagram and the person told him how great it is to be in a place where you don’t have to explain yourself. That really resonates with me. We have spent this day and a half immersed in the love of God together with Episcopalians who want to share the joy of Jesus with others in a way that is both winsome and humble.
In recent years, we have heard “The church isn’t dying. We are killing it.” And yet in this time and in this place we have heard that Anglicans are not allergic to Evangelism and we need not take Excedrin before saying the word. This is a call to go back to who we really are. Instead of saying “The ‘E’ word”, we can claim Episcopal Evangelism not as an oxymoron. Evangelism is not about growing the church, but sharing the love we have experienced with a hurting world.
And as we prepare to go back out into the world renewed by the power of the Spirit, Alex and I want to first remind you of some of what we have heard in our plenary sessions and then to challenge you to consider how you will take this conference home with you.
Our Canon for Evangelism and Reconciliation, Stephanie Spellers, let us all know as we began yesterday saying we are The Jesus Movement: We are following Jesus and growing loving, liberating and life giving relationships with God, with each other, and with creation, alleluia! This is not a program, she reminded us, but a way of life.
Beginning a theme that has threaded through our time together, Bishop George Sumner, reminded us that sharing the Good News is not about church growth. He said we might well in our Evangelism welcome people into our church, but what we are really about is getting people to join King Jesus on his way to Jerusalem. Ride on King Jesus.
In our opening Panel Discussion Mary Parmer began a second thread woven through this conference saying Evangelism is helping people fall in love with Jesus. Carrie Headington said Evangelism is an invitation to a feast that is out of this world. Marcus Halley told us that the picture of evangelism is the cross, the nexus of God and man where we see those things that were cast down are being raised up.
Alberto Cutie said many in society have given up on Jesus without having even been introduced because the people they do hear talking about Jesus are scary freaks. So, our biggest challenge as church is what will we offer to help people want to connect with this Jesus we know and love?
Marcus Halley told us that in a society filled with fear and divisiveness, we need to trust in abundance; we have enough to do what God is asking us to do. We need to overflow into our world letting people know that you are always welcome at this table, because there is always enough.
Mary Parmer quoted no less an authority than Wikipedia in a way I found moving as the entry on Evangelism says, “The New Testament urges believers to speak the Gospel clearly, fearlessly, graciously, and respectfully whenever an opportunity presents itself.”
Then when the panel discussion opened up to the nave, we were given eyes to see the larger vision with a perspective from the Dominican Republic about how this a moment for the whole world and how much this work matters. Evangelism is work for the whole church toward the whole world. A participant from Mexico said that evangelism is walking with sisters and brothers and finding out that God has arrived first and then just being present.
We started to trend on Twitter with #evangelism16 as the panel continued. Carrie said, “We need people gossiping the Gospel.” Alberto said, “Sheep make sheep. Shepherd do not make sheep. This is a biological fact.” He was reminding us that work of making sheep is not for the clergy alone or even primarily. Marcus Halley said we need a church where everyone is safe, but no one is comfortable.
Then as we told in tweet length answers of the hope that is in us, from the nave we heard, “My hope is that the world becomes on fire for Jesus. I would not have a life if not for Jesus and so many other people are broken and need Jesus in order to have life.”
After lunch Bishop Curry did not preach a sermon. No he was clear it wasn’t a sermon right before he launched into a great sermon. He said that we may be taking part in a re- evangelization of the western world. Taking his text for what was definitely not a sermon, he chose II Corinthians 5 beginning at the 14th verse: saying that the “Love of Christ Urges is on”… “So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation.”
Bishop Curry said, “Evangelism is about going home and helping each other find our way home.” We got the people and the brain power, he said, and we are working on the heart power. Then he opened up a real challenge.
What if we became Episcopalians without borders? My mind was blown. We could use the money from closing churches to start new ones as we steward the money entrusted to us even across diocesan boundaries. What if every person being preparing for ordained ministry learned Evangelism as we have learned Clinical Pastoral Education? We would change the culture of the church and would change the world.
Bishop Curry added, “I have no illusion of vast numbers of Episcopalians going out two by two with Forward Day by Day and The Living Church under their arms. But we have Episcopalians on Facebook. I know, I have seen your cats and your dogs!” To this I say, I have seen your cats and your dogs, but have your friends seen Jesus through your posts. Bishop Curry said, “This may be the new Roman highway. Facebook may be the way to help our brothers and sisters to find their way home to God and to each other.”
Then our Presiding Bishop talked movingly about helping someone find his way home. He met with a drug dealer who he came to know through his parish in Baltimore engaged in its community. Over time they shared stories and it became clear that this man who wanted out really wanted to know more than just to know about Jesus intellectually. He wanted to know Jesus. Eventually, the man wanted to be baptized. A small community gathered. Bishop Curry said that he never heard the service of baptism in that way. “When that man renounced Satan and the powers that rebel against God, he took his life in his hands.” You are sealed by the Holy Spirit in baptism and marked as Christ’s own forever. “He was out. He was free. Jesus set him free. That is the movement we are a part of and that is what is what evangelism is about, a love so profound it can call us home and set us free.”
Archbishop Josiah Idowu-Fearon spoke of the two legs of evangelism as proclamation and mission. Mission flows from first coming to experience the power of what Jesus did for us on the cross. Then the Archbishop took up the title of our Presiding Bishop as Chief Evangelism Officer and said that if we really want to have a movement, we need to add to this by getting each bishop to be the Chief evangelism officer of his or her diocese, and then each priest to be the chief evangelism officer of his or her parish, and then by getting each individual Christian to be the chief evangelism officer of his or her family. Then we would have a movement.
During the Eucharist, Bishop Curry took the Great Commission to go to all the world and make disciples and connected this to the Great Commandment “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all mind and love your neighbor as yourself.”
He gave us a song to sing “Sometimes I feel discouraged, and think my work’s in vain, but then the Holy Spirit revives my soul again.” And I don’t know about you, but I have felt my heart revived in our time together. Bishop Curry then gave us a way of Episcopal Evangelism from the old spiritual, “If you cannot preach like Peter, if you cannot pray like Paul, you can tell the love of Jesus and say, ‘He died for all.’”
Baptism is about being immersed in the life of the Trinity, which is a life of love. In sharing this love we see that the Jesus Movement is not about bigger churches; it’s about a better world. This connection to telling the love of Jesus means, “Evangelism isn’t about Christian imperialism. It’s about saturating the world in God’s love.”
This morning after Morning Prayer, we gathered in Plenary once more and Canon Stephanie Spellers asked “Why do we need a conference to proclaim that Evangelism Matters?” Proclaiming evangelism is counter-cultural to the Episcopal Church. She then noted how Episcopalians have shied away from this work and asked us to consider why. And shouting out the answers, participants said that we have a fear of rejection, a fear of looking tacky. Hurtful things have been done in the name of evangelism and people think this is for the clergy or that you have to be especially gifted in Evangelism.
Stephanie said that what we need to get out there and tell a different kind of story. We can begin this by noticing what God has done in our lives, seeing what God is doing in the lives of others and then letting people know how we see Christ in them.
Then she led us through cardboard testimonials. I don’t know about you, but I saw how readily we could identify the pain, the hurt, the loss in our lives. My partner in the exercise and I quickly got real about some deep hurts and then the great joy we found in Jesus. I heard the level of energy go up in the room as we all shared our cardboard testimonials. It turns out evangelism wasn’t as difficult as we thought. When you see the pain and the joy on inverse sides of those signs, you see that we are less interested in evangelism because it will get people to heaven one day as wonderful as that is. We share the joy of Jesus to get people out of the hell they are living in right now.
This work of evangelism is embedded within the baptismal covenant where the baptismal candidate, or his or her parents and godparents on behalf of a child, are asked, “Will you proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ?” The answer is, “I will with God’s help.”
We know that this work is not about growing our churches. Evangelism is about falling in love with Jesus and then sharing that love as naturally as we recommend a restaurant, book, or movie. Then when we really listen to others and when nudged by the Holy Spirit humbly and gently proclaim the difference knowing our triune God has made in your life.
What I have heard is that this evangelism is a work of the Holy Spirit in which we get to participate. I have no fear that Episcopalians will hear this message and go out handing out Forward Movement pamphlets in front of the 7-11 or that you will get so inspired by the Good News of God in Christ that you will beat people up with Bible passages to prod them toward heaven. That is not going to happen. Fear not.
My hope is that we will really hear the word from our brother in Christ, Archbishop Josiah who said that if we really want this to be a movement, we have to move beyond our Presiding Bishop as the Chief Evangelism Officer. As much as I love and admire Bishop Curry, he is not Jesus and we need to not leave him alone to the work of lighting a fire across our church and then the world.
What excites me most about this day and a half is the passion I have heard, the joy in this gathering, and the hope of lives transformed by the loving, liberating, and life-giving power of Jesus Christ and him crucified and risen. The bishops among us need to go proclaim they are now chief evangelism officer of their diocese. The Rectors and Vicars need to proclaim that you are now chief evangelism officers in their parish. And all the baptized need to become chief evangelism officers in their families. That, my friends, is a movement.
In nearly two hours of training across the two days of diocesan convention, Mary Parmer brought the basics of Invite-Welcome-Connect to the Diocese of Georgia. Her work has been to gather the proven resources which are rooted in the Gospel of Jesus Christ and designed to shape an authentic culture of effective newcomer ministry. This is designed for congregations of any size. Whether you were at the convention or not, the tools to begin this work are readily available. I want to lay out a plan to implement this in your congregation.
Gather a Team
While larger congregations might end up with three teams, the work begins with a group meeting at the church in three sessions. In each hour-long meeting, watch one of the half-hour videos Mary offers at www.invitewelcomeconnect.com. You will find one video for each of the three essentials. In advance of the first meeting, download the 20-page booklet found on the Resources Page of our diocesan convention website: Convention Resources Page. This provides an overview together with checklists for each of the three areas.
Map out a Plan of Action
During the three sessions, begin to pick some of the strategies that will fit your congregation well. Mary calls the three areas essentials as churches that do one or more of these well, but fail in others will not succeed as well in attracting newcomers and integrating them into the life of your congregation. The plans will vary for each congregation as this is not a cookie cutter program, because one size never fits all very well. Instead, Mary highlights concerns and offers tools. Our largest congregations will want separate teams working on Invite, Welcome, and Connect, while most of our churches will benefit from one group working together to set out a plan and then begin working through the action items.
The One Step I Recommend for Every Congregation
Any size congregation in this diocese will benefit from a Sharing Faith Dinner, and those with fewer than 50 (or fewer than 20) in worship on Sunday may even find it more transformative than larger churches. This might sound scary, but this is the easiest option for Episcopalians. One person needs to download the full information at sharingfaithdinners.com Gather 8-12 people for a meal. Then follow the plan in which you pick a card with a question and in answering that question, those sharing a meal with you will learn more about you and how your faith in Jesus has shaped your life in some way. I guarantee that this will be eye opening even when everyone present has known each other for years (which is why smaller congregations will really enjoy this).
There are no silver bullets and no one idea will transform the world. But you will learn more about yourself and those with whom you worship in one evening than would seem possible. Discovering how faith matters also builds up deeper roots. Growth is not only about moving out, but also about deepening our connection to God and those we already know. While that is not the one solution that unlocks all the spiritual growth we need, Sharing Faith Dinners is an important tool readily available thanks to the Diocese of Texas.
As you begin this work, let me know how it goes. Nothing will help us as a diocese set about this work more than sharing stories of how it is working in our congregations. We will want to share your stories here.
The Rev. Canon Frank Logue, Canon to the Ordinary
Staff and volunteers move the Christus Rex that hangs over the altar at Honey Creek to provide safekeeping in anticipation of Hurricane Matthew’s arrival this coming weekend.
Having a video record of church belongings is great. Securing church property and removing any items which need to leave with those evacuating is even better. But the church is the people and in any disaster, preparing to stay in touch with parishioners is paramount.
Stay in Touch
Having up to date contact lists available is critical. Following any disaster, the first impulse is to make sure that everyone is okay. To do this, you need a system. Know who will call whom and how you will share the news if assistance is needed. If a few people have hard copy and electronic copies of your contact list, you will be able to reach any potentially vulnerable persons quickly. Having cell numbers and email addresses of members will be critical if this is to work as you will otherwise not be able to reach persons who evacuated. As a disaster unfolds, no member of the church should seek to assist another directly. Venturing into a flooded area to help may double the job of first responders. If you know someone is in need, alert emergency personnel to the issue and offer to meet up with him or her at a safe location.
Decide how existing communications channels will benefit the church in a time of disaster. If you have an active email newsletter and Facebook page, these will be more valuable than your website in getting the word out to parishioners. Let folks know in advance that an email and Facebook post will alert them if Sunday services are cancelled or moved to an alternate location. This information should also be added to the website. Before leaving the church ahead of a storm or other disaster that comes with some advanced notice, change the answering machine to let callers know where they can get the latest information on your church.
Staying in touch in the immediate aftermath and using existing communications channels well will greatly assist in caring for the people of your congregation.
The Rev. Canon Frank Logue,Canon to the Ordinary
The Rev. Canon Frank Logue preached this sermon for the Diocese of Georgia’s Fall 2016 Clergy Conference meeting at Honey Creek Retreat Center on September 26, 2016
Water in a Barren Land Psalm 63
O God, you are my God; eagerly I seek you;
my soul thirsts for you, my flesh faints for you,
as in a barren and dry land where there is no water.
The Psalmist cries out to God, seeking the presence of the living God. My soul thirsts for you. My flesh faints for you. Water is a precious everywhere on the planet, but living in the land of Israel makes that reality all the more clear. That’s why water and salvation are so intimately connected throughout scripture. In the first Psalm, a person who meditates on Torah day and night is like a tree planted by streams of water. In Jeremiah, the Lord is a fountain of living water. Jesus uses this metaphoric use of water when he talks to the Samaritan woman at the well. Jesus said, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.”
These verses concerning springs of salvation and living water carry forward into our own day, filled with meaning for those of us who work in what should be a spiritual oasis. We are saturated by the goodness of the Lord. In fact, we can get so soggy from sloshing around in the springs of salvation that we can forget that we actually live in a desert country.
Yet even here on the buckle of the Bible Belt we are surrounded by people living in a spiritual wasteland. The people we stand in line with at the grocery store, the clerk at the local WalMart, the bank President, the cook at the Waffle House, and on and on and on. They are thirsty for the life giving Gospel of Jesus Christ and fill that void in all sorts of unhealthy ways.
But to get real, those of us in ordained ministry are not immune to spiritual thirst. And the more we serve others, the more we can grow parched. We all know of and have known people called by God, given gifts for ministry, serving in the church in a ministry bearing good fruit who end up in alcohol addiction, prescription drug addiction, porn addiction or who have ended up in adulterous relationships, taking money, or abusing their power and ending up out of ministry.
Spiritual thirst is not something to which we are immune. When we try to quench our longings in other ways, we can falter and fall like anyone else.
While we may not be immune to the problems, we can make an effort to build up our defenses. Denise Vaughn, the Rector of the Church of the Annunciation in Vidalia invited me to lead a mini retreat for the Toombs Area Ministerial Alliance which is her local ministers’ group. When we met last month, pastors from nine denominations came together and I was astounded by how the group trusted one another as I broke open this topic. I challenged the pastors to break into smaller groups to discuss the spiritual practices, which nurture their faith. The Roman Catholic priest detailed his Rule of Life while a Church of God pastor told how he finds it helpful to spend time talking with recent converts to hear the freshness of their discovering their faith in Jesus Christ. Daily prayer and scripture reading were common.
Sunday, September 25th has been designated Social Media Sunday–the day when Christians everywhere are encouraged to share the good news via social media. Started at Trinity Episcopal Church in Tariffville, Connecticut in 2013, Social Media Sunday has grown in the three years since to include people of faith everywhere.
Suggestions include using the hashtag #SMS16 with posts on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Go even further and add the hashtags #Episcopal and #DioceseofGeorgia. Instagram a selfie with the choir or congregation; tweet the sermon; update your status on Facebook to show that you’re at church; share a photo of your beautiful building and your beautiful friends.
And then, at the end of the day when you check those sites do a search for the hashtags and see how social media connects us and helps us share the good news!
To print out some bulletin inserts created by Acts 8, go here.
The Rev. Canon Frank Logue, Canon to the Ordinary
The most effective means of attracting newcomers to any church is a personal invitation from a parishioner. If this makes you nervous about being turned down, know that survey after survey shows that three-quarters of people say they would go to a church if a friend, neighbor, or co-worker invites them. The question is, “Do you have a church home?” And if the answer is no, just say, “St. Swithen’s means so much to me and my family, I would love it if you would visit us sometime.” It is that simple.
In order to make the invitation even easier, Mary Parmer of Invite-Welcome-Connect recommends printing low-cost cards that church members can share with those you want to invite to worship with you. She prefers cards from moo.com as that company permit orders with up to fifty different photos on the set of cards. This means the prospective newcomer will see your church through photos of the building, or even better of worship or another parish event. Mary offers that the many images give a chance for you to fan out several cards with photos and let the person pick the image that appeals to him or her most.
On the backside of the card, offer information about the church including at least the physical location, phone number, web address, and Sunday service times. You may also want to add the web address for your congregation’s Facebook page, if that page is active.
Bless the cards during a Eucharist and invite members to pray about who to invite and then take cards with them. When I served as a parish priest, I had a map with directions and service times on the back of a business card. That one small item often converted a conversation in the community to someone showing up for worship.
We readily share restaurants, movies, and books with friends and co-workers. Why not also share your church with those you love. It is easier than you think.
The Rev. Canon Frank Logue, Canon to the Ordinary
Want to get closer to Jesus? Attending church helps, but the proven ways to really connect are in your daily life rather than in weekly worship in church. I know you are busy, but the busier you are, the more you need to carve out time each day to be with God. The proven method is simply this: Read the Bible and Pray every day. That’s it.
How not to use the Bible
The reason is that when life gets tough and we need answers, the Bible is a poor guide. The text wasn’t designed to work that way. There is no chapter or book on raising children or on dealing with problems in your marriage. The Bible is not a troubleshooting guide for life. The Bible is God’s living word created to speak to your heart each day. This is the story of God’s love for us and the story is meant to be read again and again so that we see the pattern in scripture of God’s unfailing love and then see it in our lives. The people I see who weather the storms of life well are those who have been marinating their hearts in the Bible for years. Folk like that don’t need a chapter or verse to know God will be faithful when times are tough. They know that truth in their bones. The way to get there, is to begin with baby steps.
Start small and reward yourself
Building new habits takes time. Make this one easy on yourself. If you are not used to reading the Bible, try reading your way through the Gospel of Luke. Read just one chapter each day for 24 days and you can build a new habit. Build in a reward. Read the chapter for the day and then treat yourself in some small way, such as with a piece of chocolate. After 24 days, move on to another Gospel. Once you are through all four, you will have spent months following Jesus.
Central to our identity as Episcopalians are Morning and Evening Prayer, which are known as the Daily Offices. These short prayer services have a pattern of scripture reading that will have you reading most of the Bible in two years. After months with the Gospels, you will be ready for Morning or Evening Prayer.
Praying these Daily Offices and reading the Bible with the lectionary that goes with them is to be practiced by all clergy and remains the norm for laity. Typically our churches have copies of Forward Day by Day, which offers reflections for each day to fit the same readings as found in the office. You can also find Morning and Evening Prayer online with the readings in place here:
The Church’s Role – Teach and Model
As congregations, if we are not teaching those who attend worship some practical ways to make our Triune God part of their daily lives, then we are teaching by omission that attending church is all there is to the life of faith. This is not only untrue, it is not fair as that sort of faith will not meet the demands of the real world. We know that daily scripture reading and prayer draw us each closer to God. Let’s be honest and both teach and model that these spiritual disciplines are important to our life of faith and will add immensely to the benefits of weekly worship.
-The Rev. Canon Frank Logue, Canon to the Ordinary
A Canon is an assistant to a Bishop. This "Loose Canon", as Bishop Benhase refers to me, is a Canon turned loose to do what he knows how to do to form persons for ministry, discern the right fit between clergy and congregations and to assist in the growth (discipleship as well as numeric growth) of the Diocese.
This blog collects various work created by the Rev. Canon Frank Logue, Canon to the Ordinary of the Episcopal Diocese of Georgia. In this case, "Ordinary" refers to the Bishop, and title means I am his assistant or, the bishop's deputy.
The web journal contains:
Flotsam-things found floating around the Internet, in books and elsehwere, Jetsam-things I jettison out onto the Internet, and
Sermons, which are routinely added to the list further down this column, but do not appear in the feed to the left.
Videos, which are all linked at the My Videos tab above.