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Archive for the ‘Jetsam’ Category

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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A Sign of Grace Amidst the Tornado’s Debris

01 Feb


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.

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

 
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The Most Vetted Americans

29 Jan

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:

  1. Resettle in their home country.
  2. Resettle in the second country where they currently have asylum (like Kaltun shown above).
  3. 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.

peace,
Frank

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

Boise, ID — Refugee Community Allies from Episcopal Migration Ministries on Vimeo.

 

 
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Fostering Inward Spiritual Growth

17 Jan

“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.

Both/And
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

 
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Build Pathways Into Your Church

04 Jan

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.

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

 
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A Free Course to Foster Faithful Questioning

21 Dec

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.

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

 
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Your Christmas Checklist

14 Dec

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.

Narthex
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.

Looking for more than the basics, see the Welcome Ideas and Resources Page at invitewlecomeconnect.com

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

 
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A Free Christmas Invitation Video

04 Dec

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

 
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