A free smart phone game has hundreds of thousands of gamers standing around in front of churches. The new geolocation game Pokemon Go is a real sensation bypassing Twitter and catching up to Facebook in time spent engaging online. The free app created by the Google spin-off company, Niantic, uses the players’ GPS in the phone to locate where the gamers is and then makes Pokemon appear on the phone screen in real-life locations giving players a chance to “catch” all 151 virtual creatures on the streets of their town. Many Episcopal Churches (including Christ Church Savannah shown at right in a games screen) have learned that they are “PokeStops” and “Gyms” where players can gather in the real world to capture and battle their virtual Pokemon. The only way to find out if you church is in the game is for someone to download the app and to visit your church.
Turning your church into a “charging station” for players is one way to engage with gamers. As it is hot across south Georgia, offering cold water or a chance to come in air conditioning during church hours can be a way to show off your church to folks who may not otherwise find you. While this fad will fade and likely the vast majority of those playing the game will only find themselves standing near a church in their game play, not entering one, the Holy Spirit uses all kind of ways to get folks attention. Doing what you can reasonably to welcome those God brings your way is always a good idea.
The Rev. Canon Frank Logue, Canon to the Ordinary
I worked with others in the Acts 8 Movement to create a 1-minute video any Episcopal Church may use for free to encourage their neighbors to visit this fall. 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.
The Rev. Canon Frank Logue gave this sermon at St. Paul the Apostle Episcopal Church in Savannah, Georgia on May 14, 2016 for the ordination of Donald Holland, Ian Lasch, Tommy Townsend, and Ray Whiting to the Sacred Order of Deacons.
Send a tornado into their hearts – An Ordination Sermon Acts 2:1-21
“What does this mean?” Bewildered, amazed, astonished, and perplexed is how our reading from the Acts of the Apostles describes the crowd gathering that Pentecost following Jesus’ resurrection and ascension. Devout Jews from every nation under heaven are living in Jerusalem. Each person hears someone talking in their mother tongue, the language of home. The Good News of Jesus flows fluently from somewhere. As they gather, those seeking the source of the commotion discover a gaggle of Galileans full of the Holy Ghost.
The crowd levels at the disciples a version of the same complaint made against Jesus: “Can anything good come out of Nazareth”. How can these hicks just in from the sticks be speaking clearly in the language of Parthians, Medes, Egyptians, and so on. In the midst of their bewildered amazement, one solution presents itself: These men must be drunk. The part left unsaid is, “Hello. Galileans.”
God is doing a new thing and the crowd gathering on that day when the Holy Spirit first came in power has only their old categories. Based on the existing prejudices about a group of Galileans, the way to make sense of this Pentecost event is to dismiss the clear proclamation of the Gospel as mere nonsense, because the messengers are fishermen, a tax collector, a zealot, and so on—far from the spiritual elite. The devout Jews from all over the world want to know can we possibly hear God speak through such clearly imperfect vessels as these men?
The question is probably more relevant than you would like me to admit. We are here this morning to take part in the ordination of Donald, Ian, Ray, and Tommy to the Sacred Order of Deacons. So I will repeat the question, “How can we possibly hear God speak through such clearly imperfect vessels as these men?”
Don’t hear me wrong. I think the world of all four ordinands, but to prepare for this sermon I read back through the spiritual autobiographies of all four men and read their extensive psychological reports and more in the five inch stack of paperwork collected by the Diocese of Georgia in the past four or more years. Certainly, those psychological reports did not reveal these men to be any crazier than the rest of us, but spending time with their life stories does show that the path to this day has not been a straight line for any of them. While no individual among the four shares all of these characteristics, as a group they have experienced severe health issues, alcoholism, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, periods of doubt and unforgiveness or of notable pride and arrogance, broken marriages, and other twists and turns to their lives so that each of them has friends who will hear of today and think, “Really. What is the church thinking?”
This is where the deacons, priest, and bishop can say, “Welcome to the club.” We too gave some people who heard of our ordinations pause to wonder if the church might be scraping the bottom of the barrel. This has been the reaction to those God calls to serve him since before Mary spoke to an angel and learned, among other things, her next conversation with Joseph would be a doozy or even before Miriam learned that God called her stuttering brother Moses when he was on the run for murder.
The Rev. Canon Frank Logue gave this sermon at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina on May 8, 2016
That They May Become Completely One John 17:20-26
Let me tell you about my friend Jesus.
Jesus was and is God.
In seeing Jesus, we come to know our Triune God more fully.
In Jesus life and ministry, we see God.
So let me tell you about my friend Jesus.
Jesus was born to a poor mama and poor step daddy. Jesus was a great kid, who grew up to be the man everyone wanted to hear speak. But Jesus was also born into the Roman Empire, so Jesus, the King of all creation, knew disrespect. Jesus grew up in a world that disrespected him at any good opportunity.
A good kid from a good family. A man who would change the world. But if Jesus ducked into a store catering to Romans to buy something for his Mama, he might have to wait a while. Standing there waiting for the others to be served first. Truth be told, the shopkeeper might act like he didn’t even see him until all the right people had been served first. They would not have seen the content of his character. One look at Jesus and they knew his kind could wait. That’s the world my friend Jesus knew.
And if anyone wanted to change the way the world worked, the Empire lined the roads with crosses. Get too far out of line, you would get hung on a cross as an example to the rest.
So what did my friend Jesus do?
He turned that world upside down every chance he got.
Oh the world fought back. The creation that had already turned its back on God always fights back against the way the world should be. But that kid from Nazareth conquered the Roman Empire and he has been conquering principalities and powers ever since. My friend Jesus sees the crosses, the beatings, the lynching trees, the electric chairs, the prisons full of lives of promise cut short. Jesus sees all the ways we put people down and it breaks his heart. Jesus sees the heart of every man and woman. He knows us, the good and the very bad, and he loves us anyway, completely, unreservedly.
As our friend Jesus tells us in our reading this morning from John’s Gospel, he and God the Father are one. He tells us that he is in the Father and the Father is in him and he wants us to be in them too. Our friend Jesus talks like that sometimes. Especially the way his Beloved Disciple John tells about Jesus.
Jesus wants us to know that before the very foundation of the world, God was in relationship. No I can’t describe it fully. The Trinity is a divine mystery. But Jesus wants us to understand something about the nature of God. Jesus tells us that he and the Father and the Holy Spirit were in relationship before the creation.
Somehow in God’s own being there was and is love. And when this Triune God did create, God created out of that love for love. Yes, it’s a mystery. No, we can’t fully comprehend it, but there is something to this Trinity of persons that is written in to the very fabric of creation. Everything is interconnected. All creation is meant to be in one harmonious relationship.
God did not create one kind of person just so another kind of person could put them down. God did not create some kid just to stand aside in a store unseen until all the right people bought what they came to buy. Sin created that mess.
God created a world out of love for love. God imprints on each human the very image and likeness of God. God sees us and calls us good. It’s sin that leads to world with roads lined with crosses and lynching trees.
In our reading from John’s Gospel, it is the night before Jesus is to die. He knows the Empire has a cross with his name on it. Jesus did not have to go looking for his cross. Jesus loved like there is no “us” and “them.” Jesus showed compassion to the lost and the left out. Jesus loved as God loved breaking down divisions among people. The cross found Jesus.
The Rev. Canon Frank Logue gave this sermon
at Christ Church Frederica on Palm Sunday 2016
Remember Me Luke 22:14-23:56
On the night before he died, Jesus took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” So begins the long reading of the Passion from Luke’s Gospel.
We begin with Passover. Later, Peter will forget Jesus prediction and will deny three times that he even knows Jesus.
Then much later as Jesus after he has been crucified and looked out on those killing him, Jesus said, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” A criminal dying alongside the innocent Jesus wants this mercy too. The thief says, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”
Our reading begins with an act of remembering, then out of fear Peter feigns amnesia trying to forget his connection to Jesus, and finally a criminal next to Jesus asks that the Lord remember him. I want to pick up this thread of remembering, forgetting, and remembering as a lens through which to look not just at Jesus’ passion, but also at our lives.
Remembering is essential to any understanding of Judaism and so the roots of our own faith. The most basic statement of the Judaism, to be remembered by all, is the Shema, a simple prayer taken directly from the Torah which Jews are to pray twice daily and are, if possible, to be reciting as they die. The words are:
Hear, O Israel: The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might.
These are the words written inside the phylacteries, the two small square leather boxes traditionally worn on the forehead and the left arm during morning prayer by Torah observant Jewish. These words also go into a Mezuzah, the decorative case that goes alongside the doorways of observant Jews. The central proclamation is to be recited to your children and talked about when you are at home and when you are away when you lie down and when you rise.
One story points to how powerful this act of remembering can be. Immediately on peace coming at the end of the Second World War, Rabbi Eliezer Silver went to Europe to find Jewish children hidden among non-Jewish families to escape the Holocaust. To find the children, he would later recount how he went to gatherings of children and call out:
Rabbi Eliezer would then scan the crowd and could see the children remember who they were as those words spoken by their Jewish parents spoke deeply to kids scarred by war. Just as they were trained to do from bedtime onward, the words Hear O Israel spoken in Hebrew broke the spell, cured the amnesia, and let the children remember who they were, and restored them to community.
The Torah instructs the faithful to tell of God’s great deeds to their children and their children’s children. This daily act of praying the Shema is coupled with the central act of remembrance, the Passover. At each Passover Seder, Jews recall that if God had not brought the children of Israel out of Egypt with a mighty arm, they would still be slaves.
An important part of every Passover Seder comes when a child asks the central question of Passover, “Why is this night different from all other nights?” The traditional response is, “On this night we remember we were slaves in Egypt…”
That key question traditionally comes after the second toast of wine. And Luke records in his Gospel the two toasts as well as Jesus’ words. After the second toast, Jesus, as the head of the Passover celebration, would be expected to tell the Exodus story.
Jesus should have said, “On this night we remember we were slaves in Egypt…” But that’s not what he said. What Jesus did say was, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.” And Jesus also said, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”
Our word “remember” as we use it today is a weak compared to what is meant here. The Greek word is Anamnesis, which does mean remember, but it means this in a very real sense. If my arm or my leg is cut off, I am dismembered. Anamnesis is the opposite of dismembering. We re-member when our members are once more attached. We are made whole. We are fully ourselves once more.
Jesus said that when you do this, I will be re-membered. The Body of Christ will once more be whole. It is not that we will recall who Jesus was, but we will know fully who we are as he is present to us and we are part of his mystical body.
Among the areas proven to be critical to growing any size church, the most important are welcoming and following up with newcomers to get them connected to the congregation.
To assist congregations in the Diocese of Georgia with a hospitality tune up, I created a 3-page checklist, which is online here: Hospitality Checklist. The checklist takes a visitor’s encounter with your church from before they arrive until after they are home. Included at the bottom of the checklist are two other ways to put your hospitality to the test:
Have members of your vestry or greeting teams visit other Episcopal Churches and churches in your area of other denominations. Then have these teams return to brainstorm what was learned, seeing your own church with new eyes and incorporating good ideas from other churches.
Another helpful resource is Mary Parmer’s Invite-Welcome-Connect website created by the Diocese of Texas. That diocese created intentional structures of invitation, welcome, and connection which were researched, designed, and implemented in test congregations with reporting back on data to see the impact. The result is this well thought out and field-tested material. We know that cultivating new practices of invitation, welcome, and connection that are rooted and grounded in the Gospel of Jesus Christ will gradually change our congregations and help shape an authentic culture of effective newcomer ministry. The free resources at that website show how to improve your congregation’s welcome.
Survey after survey shows that people most often connect to a new church after a personal invitation from a family member, friend, or co-worker invited him or her to church. There is no better time to invite someone to church than Easter. Pray who God would have you invite. Then when you feel that nudge of the Holy Spirit, don’t hold back. Just ask.
The Easter Sunday liturgies not only represent the pinnacle of our faith in Jesus Christ, that Sunday is also the best opportunity of the year for inviting your community to worship with you. We know that many people only want to be asked and they will say yes to coming to your church. The best way to ask is for parishioners to personally invite their friends, co-workers, and family members. You can prepare the way for this by advertising on Facebook where many of these connections already are linked.
I partnered with friends around the church (including our Presiding Bishop who added his voice to kick off the English language video) to create videos in English, Spanish, and many of the other languages in which Episcopalians worship. The video is free for you to share as your congregation’s own in order to advertise your Easter liturgies. The video is online here: Your Free Easter Invitation Video. You can also see our still rather anecdotal evidence suggesting increased attendance at churches that used the Ash Wednesday Ad: 7 Lessons from the Ash Wednesday Facebook Video Experiment.
Creating an Inexpensive Ad on Facebook
To support parishioners in asking their friends, try a Facebook ad starting either March 13 or Palm Sunday, March 20. We have found targeting Friends of those who like your congregation’s Facebook page who also live within the area of your church is a very effective group. The following tutorial is provided to walk you through the process of downloading the video from this post, uploading it to Facebook, and creating a Facebook ad:
Then after Easter, share your experiences (good or bad) with trying this means of advertising.
Churches in general, and the Episcopal Church in specific, are no better, and often worse, than society at large in paying female clergy less than their male counterparts. This fact is supported by good data from across the Episcopal Church collected by the Church Pension Group and reported in their 2014 Church Compensation Report and echoed in a recent editorial in the Christian Century: The Pay Gap at Church. We do not need more data. We need to address the problem.
In the Episcopal Diocese of Georgia, we have addressed this problem directly in the past six years and have achieved equal pay for equal positions, but still have work remaining. We followed a common sense approach which will close the gap in any diocese. I want to briefly outline the actions we took and challenge other dioceses to take up this important work.
1. Name the problem and decide to address it
While not every diocese has a starting point this far off the mark, we found that the few female clergy in the Diocese in 2010 were paid much less than their male counterparts whether an assistant or in charge of a congregation. Some male clergy were also outliers whose compensation also needed to be addressed to begin to approach equity. I think the most important step came when Bishop Benhase named this inequity as a problem and Diocesan Council, the bishop, and bishop’s staff agreed this needed to be addressed.
2. Set appropriate minimum compensation
The first step was to update the minimum compensation for all full-time priests from the then minimum of $39,000 for salary/housing/SECA which had not changed since 2003. I proposed a new system, approved by the Bishop and Council, which replaced the one-size minimum with a chart that increased the minimum by size of congregation and tenure as a priest. That chart is shown at left.
Assisting priests compensation is set as a minimum equal to the under 75 in Average Sunday Attendance column on the chart. Two years later, we added a chart making clear how this minimum applied to part time clergy with an example of quarter-time, half-time, and three-quarters time compensation. While still low compared to other parts of the country, this chart put us closer to our neighboring dioceses of Alabama and Upper South Carolina whose minimum compensation had not lagged as ours had.
Also important is that starting in 2010, the Bishop and staff moved to the High Deductible Plan for insurance with the employer also contributing the Health Savings Account. We encouraged clergy to move to this plan and later set it as our standard. In the process, we lowered insurance costs initially by 11% and have kept increases lower. This assisted our congregations with lowered benefit costs as we sought to increase priests’ pay. 3. Publish an annual compensation survey
Beginning in 2011, we started publishing an annual survey of the compensation for full-time priests. This survey went into our weekly email newsletter for the diocese and is published on the diocesan website. In 2015, we added a separate full chart for assisting priests. All of these surveys remain posted at the Reference Library of the diocesan website. One will note that the priest’s name is not listed. This was for clarity rather than anonymity. Listing a priest’s name is less important for understanding the data than knowing the budget of the congregation, its average Sunday attendance, and the number of years the person has served as a priest. The chart then gives this data for easy comparison. Anyone curious can work out who is who with little effort. This survey has also been very helpful in working with search committees to set the compensation for new calls in the diocese. (click the infographic at right to see a full sized version.)
4. Directly address outliers with vestries on behalf of the priest
This step proved vital. In 2010, we looked at the data and knew we had a problem. In consultation with the bishop, I determined the half dozen priests, both male and female, who were paid much less than their peers in a church of comparable budget and attendance. I then called the priest to let her or him know I would be addressing this. Then I called the Senior Warden, gave them the data and said we either needed a plan to work the priest toward appropriate pay or we would need to assist the priest in getting a call to a congregation where proper compensation could be offered. We would then need to assist the church in calling a priest at proper compensation. This was always done with reference to their budget and with an eye toward moving in steps.
Outcomes in Georgia
Within four years, the median pay for male priests raised 8% while the median pay for female priests raised 20%. These percentages are based on pay adjusted for inflation to reflect constant dollars so the increase is beyond inflation. Women in comparable positions receive comparable pay. But we all know the inconvenient fact hidden in that statement. Female priests are in charge only of congregations in our diocese with an attendance of 140 on Sunday or less. To address this last problem, I have worked with the bishop to make sure all searches have good, qualified female candidates to consider. We ask that even if they are unsure about calling a female priest, congregations include qualified female priests in their face to face interviews. In 2015, three female priests became rectors of congregations previously served only by male rectors. We believe that as our larger congregations interview the top notch female priests interested in a call to their church that we will make progress with this more persistent issue.
Do not hear anything written above as stating that we have solved the problem of pay inequities. We have acknowledged this and taken steps to address it, but serious problems remain and I don’t have an answer to all of them. For example, we have good priests doing great work in places where the town has been stagnant or in decline in population. The budget of the church is not going up and the benefit costs are rising. We simply cannot advocate for higher pay, even though it would be right for the priest, as the church cannot pay it. The only way to get proper pay is to move and priests can decide not to leave for another call for a variety of good reasons. So we still have many priests, both male and female, making less than is fitting for their length of service to the church and faithfulness in serving. Similarly, we have some priests making well more than others and we will not advocate for less pay. Short of a national standard adjusted for cost of living, these inequities will remain.
A Challenge to the Church
We can use the excuses of not enough data, or try to explain away the problem. But we know enough to state clearly that women are paid less than their male counterparts to serve as priest of a congregation. This is not just. We can not give away what we do not have, so we have no place to stand in a advocating for justice while our house is in such disarray. I am open to other paths to closing the gap, but feel sure that the four steps named above will result in greater equity for all priests. Given the demanding work to which we are called, the church should expect nothing less.
The Rev. Can Frank Logue
Canon to the Ordinary, Diocese of Georgia
The ambitious goal of GrowChristians.org is to “create an online community of discipleship focused on the practical details of life at home.” To accomplished this, they have brought together reflections, stories, images, and recipes from a diverse group of Episcopalians around the church. The group blog is a pilot project intended to inspire “generations to come together as they celebrate the presence of God through the Christian year.”
I know Nurya Love Parish, the Episcopal priest behind the Diocese Western Michigan’s Plainsong Farm and Scott Gunn, Executive Director of Forward Movement and I am grateful to these two leaders for creating thoughtful ways families can engage with their faith meaningfully this Lent. I encourage you to sign up for the email updates.
Harness the power of a friend of a friend to invite neighbors to your congregation this Easter using Facebook. With 1.4 billion users active each month, Facebook users in America alone log a collective 335,000 years per month on the site. Your community has thousands of typical Facebooker users, who each average 20 minutes per day at the site. Even with very little time and a tiny budget, you can make an impact using a Facebook ad.
One church in the Diocese of Georgia with experience in social media advertising is Christ Church Frederica, where Facebook is the foundation of all of their advertising. The Rev. Tom Purdy, Rector of Christ Church, says, “We like to use Facebook because we can target a specific demographic of person, based on age, gender, place of residence, etc. it will even let us enter keywords that a person may have used in a comment or share from another post. So that people reading our posts have already displayed some affinity for our event or our parish.”
The church uses Facebook to advertise special events, concerts, and worship services. One recent example is that Christ Church paid $75 to run their Christmas ad for four days preceding Christmas eve. The ad reached 9,201 people. The video was viewed 4,775 times, with at least half of the video watched 522 times. The video also garnered 140 likes, comments, and shares on Facebook.
Purdy notes, “We did not have a way to measure the impact on attendance as a direct result of the ad, however, we did see an increase of about 100 persons in terms of Christmas Eve and Christmas Day attendance, or about 15% over last year.”
Even $20 could get your Easter services in front of many neighbors who might not otherwise consider joining you for worship this year. Here are the three steps toward starting your congregation’s marketing campaign on Facebook:
1. Update your church’s Website and Facebook Page
Before inviting neighbors to take a look, make sure your online presence is up to date. You don’t want to encourage internet savvy folks in your community to check your church out, only to have them find the 2013 acolyte schedule posted at your website. Make sure that both the Facebook page and website have current information with good directions, current service times, and accurate contact information. Having fewer pages is fine. Just make sure what is present at your website is accurate. If you are not currently doing so, start posting 3-5 new items each week through Lent in order to keep your Facebook page active.
2. Create concise and compelling content to promote
Make your invitation brief and crystal clear. Use an appropriate image with the text to invite your community to worship with you this Easter. In order to assist Episcopal Churches in offering eye-catching content, www.acts8movement.org offers an Ash Wednesday video you can customize and use for free now, and an Easter video will be online February 24. When posting this video on your Facebook page, be very concise:
Celebrate the love of God this Easter at Christ Church.
Join us at 10 am and stay for the Easter egg hunt following our worship. or
Join us for a joyful celebration of the Good News
of Jesus’s Resurrection this Easter at 8 and 10 a.m.
Then link this brief text and a photo to a webpage that gives Easter service times and directions, availability of a nursery and other information of interest to a first-time visitor.
3. Boost your post using Facebook’s ad manager
With a Facebook post now online, you can capture more attention with a $20-$50 ad. The advertising part of this is essential. Facebook bases a users feed on the people and sites he or she interacts with most often. Post on your churches Facebook page will only be seen by about 16 percent of the people who like and follow your church page. Advertising allows you to target the People who like your Page, the People who like your Page and their friends, or People you choose through targeting. Targeting is based on location, interests, age and gender. Not sure which to choose? Try a test with a $20 ad to People who like your page and their friends and a second $20 ad targeting people who live near your church.
Make sure to use Facebook’s Ad Manager to boost your post rather than clicking the “Boost Post” link on the post itself. The Ad Manager will give you additional targeting, better statistics, and the ability to make changes to how your ad is targeted while the campaign is underway.
Anyone with some facility with computer programs can make a customized video for your congregation to invite folks in your community to worship on Ash Wednesday. I partnered with friends around the church to create videos in English and Spanish for Ash Wednesday. Here is the English language version:
To download a high resolution copy of the video, go to Acts8Movement.org and follow the directions. You will also find linked at that page information on how to add your congregation’s name and service times, as well as how a low-cost ad on Facebook can get more attention for your congregation, including directions at Nurya Love Parish’s ChurchWork blog.
Many congregations across our church customized a video we offered at Christmas and found that ads of $20-$50 targeting either users in your area or friends of those who like your congregation’s Facebook page seemed to prove successful. While we can’t prove that the higher attendance at those churches was caused by the ads, we can show many churches with increased attendance at Christmas following creating an ad. An Easter ad is in the works and will be offered in about a month.
Special thanks goes to the Revs. Sierra Wilkinson Reyes, William Willoughby, Charles Todd, and Deacon Sue Gahagan who imposed ashes and to the 19 people who I filmed at St. Matthew’s and St. Paul the Apostle churches in Savannah for this project.
I worked with colleagues at the Acts 8 Movement to offer the Episcopal Church a customizable video for congregations to promote their Christmas Eve and Christmas Day worship. The video above is our gift to you. You may post it as is, or with some basic video editing skills, you can download a high resolution video for your use.
Those files are online for you to use, and are linked below. Simply Right Click the links to save the files.
A Note About Permissions
I created this video mostly from video clips purchased from videoblock.com with background audio purchased from audioblocks.com and this use is royalty free within those agreements. We selected art work in the public domain. The video of Episcopalians singing is from the Diocese of Georgia’s float in the MLK Parade in Savannah. Persons on the float were notified they were filmed for video use. The father and son prominent in the video are an Episcopal priest and his son and they have seen and approve of this usage. The voices in this ad are persons from the Acts 8 Movement and permission is given hereby to use this video in promoting your congregation’s Christmas services. You may add your church name and service times without concern for copyright infringement or incurring any fees for this usage.
This Opening Presentation on evangelism was given by Canon Frank Logue to the 194th Convention of the Episcopal Diocese of Georgia
In the brief time I have this morning to open up how we might spread the Good News of Jesus in a way that fits our Episcopal way of being, I must begin by acknowledging that as your Canon to the Ordinary, or assistant to the Bishop, my life might be atypical. After all, I work in an office where everyone on the staff is an evangelist. Let me show you what I mean:
Wait! That is not what I mean. Ignore that mean man. Strike that video from the record! No, here are the evangelists I mean:
Every one on your diocesan staff has good news to share about food, a music festival, a smart phone, a book, and even a pet. Maybe you have friends and co-workers like this too—people who recommend a new restaurant, book, movie, a type of wine, diet, social cause, presidential candidate, song, coffee shop, recipe, yoga studio, art class, form of exercise, and the list goes on. These folks share their discoveries all the time. Evangelism is all around us as we share all the many experiences we enjoy.
But when we go from sharing the joy of life to sharing the joy of Jesus, it can seem like we have gone from just talking, to preaching, or worse. This is because not all of our associations with evangelism are positive. In fact, Evangelism just doesn’t seem, very, well Episcopal:
Yet, there is a way to get evangelism right. We can talk about Jesus without sounding like a televangelist. What I am advocating is a way of talking about your faith that is just as natural and no more burdensome than sharing a new favorite book or restaurant. Speaking of your faith is not something you have to get perfect. You only need be yourself. Listen as a few Episcopalians from around the Diocese of Georgia talk about evangelism. What I notice most as how each person sounds uniquely like themselves:
We can frame this lots of ways, but the end goal is the same—that you feel comfortable talking about how your faith has made a difference in your life. And for this to work, the first person to evangelize is yourself. Begin by considering, “How has my faith in Jesus made a difference in my life?”
Notice I am not talking about church. Please know that none of this convention’s emphasis on Spreading the Good News of Jesus has anything to do with church growth. We can just set that aside. Because if you share your faith with grandkids in another state or a co-worker who gets inspired to go back to their Baptist church, that is fine and Jim Dandy. We are not talking about the church, is wonderful as church can be. We are talking about Jesus, and no matter how good church is, Jesus is better.
So the first step is considering how faith in Jesus has made a difference in your life. The second step is to see the need for sharing faith.
Everywhere you go, everyone you see is fighting a battle you know nothing about. Whenever someone else falls, remember that you don’t know what they were facing, how hard they fought it, or what you would have done under the same circumstances. Each of us is 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.
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.
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.
True healing takes forgiveness and when possible reconciliation and my friends, while there are many sources of the shame and emotional pain that plague us, there is only one Balm in Gilead, one source of healing. We have all manner of ways of being destructive, but peace, health, wholeness, the abiding Shalom of God, only comes from Jesus.
For when our rebellion took us far from the God who made us and loves us, God did not stand back as a righteous judge, a big meanie hell bent on our destruction. God entered creation. In Jesus of Nazareth, the second person of the Holy Trinity came and dwelt among us. The Incarnation means that God knows, truly knows, and understands being human. Jesus came into this world with all of our mess, all of our pain, all the ways we let one another down, hurt each other and disappoint ourselves.
God entered into that complicated and conflicted creation to bring Agape love, love more concerned about the other person than oneself. We see that love God has for us no where more clearly than when Jesus spread out his arms of love on the hard wood of the cross, took in those who were killing him and said, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.” But sin is every present and so is redemption.
Paul tells us in his letter to the Romans what we know instinctively, “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). But falling short is not the Gospel. The Good News of Jesus is that we can find forgiveness. Paul also writes that “since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1-2).
Or as Jesus put it, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him” (John 3:16-17).
We know Jesus and so we know the source of healing, the means of forgiveness, the possibility of being truly known and truly loved. We know how to repent and turn to the Lord. We know not just the distant hope of a better life after this one, but the way to find true redemption now, wholeness now, love now. And when we understand how people we work with, know, love, might be hiding their shame behind a mask and seeking healing for their hurts in self medication that can never be the cure, we can find the courage to share our faith.
The first step is considering how faith in Jesus has made a difference in your life. The second step is to see the need for sharing faith. The third step is to be prayerful about sharing your faith and, when you feel a nudge from the Holy Spirit, don’t hold back. That’s it. Consider how faith in Jesus has made a difference in your life; see the need for sharing your faith; and don’t hold back when the opportunity arises.
And the beauty of this is that mostly you won’t even need to speak. Evangelism is far more about caring and listening than about speaking. Spreading the Good News of Jesus does not mean street corner preaching or handing out religious tracts or go up to strangers and telling them about Jesus. The best way to share the Good News of Jesus is to just realize what God has done for you and to see how others you care about might never have found that same love and healing. Then when the Holy Spirit nudges you, listen differently, speak gently.
Consider how faith in Jesus has made a difference in your life; see the need for sharing your faith; and don’t hold back when the opportunity arises.
You know you don’t have it all figured out, that you don’t have all the answers. That’s just fine. You don’t need to be a theologian. You just need to care and to listen and to love. These are not strangers we are talking about here. These are folks you already know well, and at the right time, God may just use you to share the love of God with your children, grandchildren, brothers and sisters, friends and co-workers. You are already willing to tell them about a book, recipe, movie, or restaurant. Be open to telling them how God’s love has helped you.
I want to close with a brief example of how one person’s willingness to listen and be curious changed a life:
A sermon for the feast of Deaconess Alexander 2 Timothy 3:14-4:5
Teaching was a subversive act. Teaching changes attitudes and opinions. Not everyone wanted change. So the State of Georgia punished teaching enslaved Africans to read with heavy fines and imprisonment.
“Merely teaching them to read, ‘impairs their value as slaves, for it instantly destroys their contentedness.” Fanny Kemble wrote this to a friend in an 1839 letter from Butler Plantation near Darien. She was quoting her husband Pierce Butler. She went on with his words, “A slave is ignorant; he eats, drinks, sleeps, labours, and is happy. He learns to read; he feels, thinks, reflects, and becomes miserable.”
Frances Anne Kemble had been a stage actress that could be rightly acclaimed an international star. Fanny retired from the theatre on marrying Pierce Butler in 1834. Some years later, she visited Butler Plantation and St. Simons Island in a visit her slave-owning husband hoped would rid her of her abolitionist bent. She describes less a Plantation ideal and more accurately a forced-labor camp.
In an 1839 letter during the same visit, Fanny wrote in a letter, “I have been delighted, surprised, and the very least perplexed, by the sudden petition on the part of our young waiter [and slave] Aleck, that I will teach him to read. He is a very intelligent lad of about sixteen, and preferred his request with an urgent humility that was very touching…. I will do it; and yet, it is simply breaking the laws of the government under which I am living. Unrighteous laws are made to be broken – perhaps.”
She later wrote that Aleck “takes an extreme interest in his newly acquired alphabetical lore. He is a very quick and attentive scholar, and I should think a very short time would suffice to teach him to read; but, alas! I have not even that short time.” Aleck was smart and determined. Unknown to Fanny, who would never return to Georgia, the young man did continue to teach himself to read. In a few years he became indispensable and moved from household staff to becoming his owner’s personal aid. He traveled with Mr. Butler and was not disputed in hotels in Savannah or Charleston. Just two years after Fanny’s visit, Aleck married Daphne, an enslaved house servant who was herself the product of the overseer’s rape of a woman named Minda, from the island of Madagascar.
Daphne and Aleck had 11 children who came to share their parents’ passion for education. The youngest they named Anna Ellison Butler Alexander is the woman whose feast we celebrate today.
Mark Miller asked if I might enjoy creating a video for music he wrote for Dona Nobis Pacem sung by the Tennessee Chamber Chorus. Here is our resulting collaboration. Last year, we worked together on this video, a lament for Advent, How Long?
What measures should guide the management of a church? This is the central question in an article published last week at the Harvard Business Review website. The answer given is not the usual numbers of attendance, membership or giving. Instead, All Saints Episcopal Church in Pasadena, California’s use of data is given as an alternative.
The article author, Zachary First, reports that All Saints has 8,000 members on its rolls, but that they did not just want more numbers. The church’s Rector, the Rev. Ed Bacon (from Jesup, Georgia) told him, “Sure, we love to see big numbers, but what really makes our hearts beat fast is transformed people transforming the world. Membership isn’t our business. Turning the human race into the human family is.”
Guided by this approach, All Saints replaced the question: How do we grow our membership? with a question more focused on the outcome the leadership desired: How do we more deeply engage the people we serve? The size of All Saints made gathering data a little trickier than at a church where the priest and vestry members know all the other members. They began with software to track engagement and weighted some engagement more significant than others.
All Saints’ approach certainly isn’t the only option, but I do like the way they turned typical stats around by asking a different question. Rather than asking how many people are a part of the church, they asked how engaged those attending were and so rather than wondering how to get more bodies, they worked on more fully connecting with the folks already present. The full article is online here: What to measure if you’re mission driven.
What do you think of the approach? How might you adapt it to your congregation? Asked differently, if we are in the business of changing lives by the power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, then how is business?
The Rev. Canon Frank Logue, Canon to the Ordinary
Celebrant: In the midst of the storm, Jesus cried out, “Peace! Be Still! As we are tossed about in the storms of life, we pray to the Lord of Life to give us this peace beyond understanding, saying “Lord have mercy.”
Reader: We pray for Mother Emanuel Church in Charleston as its members gather today in grief. We pray for all the congregations of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, giving thanks for their witness and faithfulness. We pray for your whole church, that we may speak against the sin of racism even as we follow the faithful example of the families of those killed this week as they offered forgiveness in the face of hate. We pray to the Lord, People: Lord have mercy.
Reader: We pray for this nation and its leaders that we may confront our history of oppression and our ongoing injustice. Give us the courage to break down the walls which divide us and bring your perfect justice to all people. We pray to the Lord, People: Lord have mercy.
Reader: We pray for the peoples of the world divided by misunderstanding, fear, and hate, that every system of oppression may be brought down, the lowly lifted up and the hungry filled with good things. We pray to the Lord, People: Lord have mercy.
Reader: We pray for this community (town, county, etc.) and all who live in it, that we may love one another as you love us and make that love known, standing together against evil in our midst, and speaking your love to hate, knowing that love always wins. We pray to the Lord, People: Lord have mercy.
Reader: We pray for those who have murdered others out of fear and hatred that they may find repentance and forgiveness that comes from your alone. We remember the dying, the sick, the prisoners, the hungry, the homeless, and all in need or trouble, praying that you will visit them with your healing presence. We pray to the Lord, People: Lord have mercy.
Reader: We pray for the Rev. Clementa Pinckney, Tywanza Sanders, Cynthia Hurd, the Rev. Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, Myra Thompson, Ethel Lance, the Rev. Daniel Simmons, the Rev. DePayne Middleton-Doctor, and Susie Jackson, and all who mourn for them. We remember also all the victims of hate crimes, injustice, and oppression; and for all the departed. We pray to the Lord, People: Lord have mercy.
Celebrant: Just and merciful God, who stilled the wind with a word and silenced the sea with a rebuke; speak your peace that surpasses understanding into the storms of hatred and violence that swirl throughout our land that your love and justice may be known and that all your children may all be one; through him who is one with you and the Holy Spirit, now and forever. Amen.
Smartphones have flipped the script for advertisers. 82% of smartphone users have counted on the device to guide a purchasing decision at the point of sale according to research by Google. I am not surprised, because I am one of the 82%. I have found myself checking Rotten Tomato scores when selecting a movie, consumer reviews when buying a television, and more. And this “I want to buy moment” is just one of what Google names micro-moments. The search giant’s studies also find micro-moments for:
I want to know
I want to go
I want to do
Like supplicants seeking direction from the Oracle at Delphi, we go to the internet intent on finding an answer. We pick up or tablet or phone or open up a browser on our computer and we ask a search engine to guide us as that key decision points occurs. And beyond product reviews, restaurant recommendations, and the rest of the micro-moment decisions, people around the world ask:
Does God love me?
Who is Jesus?
Will I go to heaven?
Being there in those micro-moments also flips the script on Evangelism. Instead of being a nuisance, the digital evangelist answers the actual questions a person has in the moment when she or he really wants guidance.
This is the rationale behind a resolution I am proposing to the 78th General Convention of the Episcopal Church. Together with Steve Pankey of the Diocese of the Central Gulf Coast and Brendan O’Sullivan-Hale of the Diocese of Indianapolis, we call on our church to target existing communication budget dollars to create significant pieces of infrastructure that will allow an existing proof-of-concept experiment to move from beta test to full-scale launch with relative ease. Find out all about it here: Conducting an Online Digital Evangelism Test, but a few key points are that for this to work, the Episcopal Church must:
Develop quality editorial content to answer real life questions in the moment.
Fund advertising to attract and build an online audience.
Build capacity to connect people asking questions online to local ministries.
Fortunately, for our church, the Rev. Jake Dell, Manager, Digital Marketing and Advertising Sales for the Episcopal Church is already well down the road on what we need. He has proven the concept works and has a handle on next steps. This resolution is designed to build on the previous work by taking the program to the next level. And best of all, no new budget dollars are needed.
Yet that is not what excites me. Let me be clear. The Incarnation is not virtual reality. The goal here is far from virtual. This program will move from real life problems, through guidance proven through centuries of Christian history, to connecting people people seeking answers to communities where questions are valued. The end goal is not building up the Episcopal Church, but connecting a lost and hurting world to the love of God as found in Jesus. Not being out there on the digital frontier is irresponsible. I am pleased to offer this resolution to support the good work already underway at the churchwide level.
As an Episcopal Church planter who founded King of Peace Episcopal Church in Kingsland, Georgia from 2000-2010, I remain very interested in the work of starting new congregations. Some friends and I drafted a resolution for the General Convention challenging the church to expand our church’s capacity to plant new churches. You should check it out.
Here I want to dispel some common myths that I have run across in 18 years of working with church planting in the Episcopal Church. In place of these, I want to offer the truth I have observed, even if some of the truth is more than a bit inconvenient. I am pictured here baptizing a new member of the Body of Christ while at King of Peace.
An interesting issue though is that I have seen some push back around the church on the work funded through Mission Enterprise Zone and Church Planting grants from the 2012 General Convention that seems to have forgotten recent history. I was in the hearings that led to those resolutions and the whole goal (and the reason for excitement) was that Deputies and Bishops wanted to grant greater freedom in order to foster creativity. The idea was to fund some projects that point to new possibilities. So, yes, we are seeing some innovative projects like The Abbey in Birmingham, Alabama, which is a coffee shop with a church. That is perfect. The 2012 General Convention said clearly that we need to experiment boldly for the sake of the church. Those experiments have been taking place and we can see the fruit that new work is already bearing. (Pictured here is one of six baptisms on Pentecost at Grace Episcopal Church in Yukon, Oklahoma.)
Just don’t buy the myth that new church starts don’t look and feel Episcopal. This not only misses the work we did in Kingsland, but also the church plants started by colleagues like Susan Brown Snook at Nativity in Scottsdale, Arizona and Alex Montes-Vela at St. Mary Magdalene in Manor, Texas. I am just equally excited about the work done by my friend Jimmy Bartz at Thad’s in Santa Monica, California. Thad’s is a mission station doing work I am proud to find in the Episcopal Church. We need all of these ways of being church and more and one can easily show how they are all true to the best of our Anglican tradition.
MYTH 2 – Church Planting Harms Existing Churches
This seems like common sense, that a new Episcopal church would sap strength from any nearby Episcopal church. But as by design new church starts reach out specifically to those with no church home—usually in different age, ethnic, or socio-economic groups from those already reached—little crossover exists. This is not to say that no parishioner from an existing church ever wanders to the new church, but that this small amount of movement has no large impact. And at the same time, the missional focus of the new ministry is not without its effect on neighboring parishes. I know that prior to our starting King of Peace, Christ Church in St. Marys was 10 miles away and our nearest Episcopal neighbor. The congregation had discussed for years whether to build a new church building as the existing space was lovely, but tight on Sundays. After we got well underway, they started building and the county had two new Episcopal church buildings within a year of each other (Christ Church’s new building, with the historic one in the background is pictured here). The spirit of taking a risk for the Kingdom of God is sometimes caught by other congregations.
MYTH 3 – Church Plants Are Too Expensive
With our preference for full-time seminary-trained priests, Episcopal churches carry significant start up costs. Yet, money invested on a church start quickly leverages other money. The vision and passion in a new church often attracts sacrificial giving rather than simply dues paying members. From a strictly monetary viewpoint (which I do not hold), we have found in the Diocese of Georgia that as new churches buy land and build buildings with money raised from the congregation, they come to enjoy assets well beyond the value put in by the broader church. This is not to say that starting churches is cheap, but that it is fiscally responsible to invest the money given to the glory of God to expand the work of Christ’s Body, the church.
MYTH 4 – Church Plants Are Not Sustainable
Moving to self-sustainability is the goal held out for every new ministry. We will get you going, the denomination or diocese says, but you need to stand on your own feet as quickly as possible. Some new church starts will never reach this goal. This is just true. In every venture begun without assurance of success, the possibility of failing to meet the mark is ever present. Let us first acknowledge that there are two types of new ventures. Each can and should become self supporting, but there is more than one way to achieve that goal.
Traditional church starts can attract enough people to the new ministry to support that work within a projected period of time, whether the advanced planning sets that target at 3 or 5 years. After which the new congregation will begin to give back to the diocese.
But then there are new starts like Kairos West, a Community Center which is a cathedral ministry in Asheville, North Carolina, that offers a mid-week worship service in their store front. As long as a new ministry like this can generate the interest and excitement of others to support this work, even though they never attend, the ministry is self-sustaining. This model has worked for decades with campus ministries, for example, where no one expects the college students to give enough in offerings to pay the full costs of the ministry. So, let us broaden our definition of self-sustaining before holding out the goal for all new ministries equally. (Pictured is the Rev. Alex Montes-Vela with one of this year’s Easter baptisms at St. Mary Magdalene in Manor, Texas).
MYTH 5 – Episcopalians Don’t Know How to Start Churches
Across this church, I know gifted priests with proven skills in starting new congregations. At one point I spent 18 months assisting the Rev. Tom Brackett, the Episcopal Church’s Missioner for New Church Starts & Missional Initiatives, in hosting online meetings for those interested in and already working in founding new congregations. Month after month, I met an ever broadening circle of practitioners who know this work well and carry out this evangelistic work in their day to day ministries. Tom continues that work. My friend Susan Brown Snook has also just written the book on Episcopal Church Planting, God Gave the Growth. Buy this book even if you never intend to plant a church. The strategies, approaches, and problem-solving
techniques she offers are good for the whole church.
TRUTH 1 – Church Plants Form Outside In
I started by knocking on 100 doors and asking my new neighbors what an Episcopal church could do for Kingsland, Georgia. Then the new church set about to make ministry to the community its first priority. This is a common approach. In all cases, I find that new churches start by considering the context in which the new worshiping community will form and then matching the ministry to that context. Being context sensitive is not just a clever use of buzzwords, but a way of engaging the corner of the vineyard in which you plant. I find this common to the DNA of church planting work. This outward focus is Gospel driven and a compelling example to other churches.
TRUTH 2 – Church Plants Are Demonstration Gardens
Because of that outward focus, church plants try new things. Sometimes new ministries try and fail, sometimes they try and succeed wildly. The failures as well as the successes lead to important lessons. This work then germinates new ideas for others to try. One example is the Lutheran congregation St. Lydia’s whose dinner party style of worship has led to other congregations in different denominations to try dinner church.
TRUTH 3 – Church Plants Reach New People
Reaching new people is no accident. The work of church planting is not stealing sheep from other stalls, but leaving the sheep fold and going after the lost sheep. People with the passion to go into this risky enterprise do so out of a desire to reach more people with the love of God as found in Jesus Christ. As church plants focus on the demographics we are not reaching in an area, they come in contact with folks who would not otherwise enter the red doors of an Episcopal Church. This is good news.
TRUTH 4 – Church Plants Challenge Complacency
Every time I look at the statistics and feel some despair for the future of the church, I look to church plants taking root and regain hope. How can I read about the Rev. Toua Vang in planting Hmong Churches and not get pumped up? Or when I am challenged by a new idea like the Lutheran-Episcopal campus ministry that led to a farm church at The Abundant Table., how can I do other than rejoice. I find this work inspiring and I am not alone. We are seeing community gardens like Food for a Thousand at St. Patrick’s Episcopal Church in Albany, Georgia inspired by the ministry they saw elsewhere across the church. The garden in Albany then further inspires others.
TRUTH 5 – Church Plants Are Risky
As long as I am telling the truth, I need to name that starting new churches is risky. Not all will survive. In Evangelical church circles, I read that 4 in 5 new churches won’t survive the first few years. Here in Georgia, we have started five new congregations since 1999 and two of those have closed since their founding. This is painful and true. Yet, we learned from those experiences. And as we have learned a lot as a denomination, our success rate improves. Those new churches that follow best practices like those Susan Brown Snook describes in her book, and those practices shared in Episcopal conferences like Plant My Church, will have increased chances of success. We will never reach 100%, with every new start founded still around in 20 or more years. But if we had not attempted new work out of fear of failure, the Diocese of Georgia would have three fewer congregations and hundreds fewer Jesus’ followers gathering to worship each week. More importantly, the many lives changed by our savior would have been left untouched, at least by us, had we not decided to take the risk and start new churches.
“We can no longer wait inside our sanctuaries to welcome those
who want to become Episcopalian….We can continue to watch our church dwindle
until it someday becomes an endowed museum to the faith of our forebears….
Or we can lose our life for Jesus’ sake so that we might save it.”
The text above is from a document I am proud to have been on the team to create: A Memorial to the Church. The text is meant to give focus to the work of the General Convention of the Episcopal Church which meets next month in Salt Lake City. My friends and I created nothing new. Not only did will build on the good work done by the Task Force for Reimagining the Episcopal Church, but the decline of mainline Christian churches is no secret and so many of us across a number of denominations are all looking how how best to be faithful in these changing circumstances. Life-giving transformation must come. Fortunately, the Holy Spirit is quite capable of making all things new.
What is a Memorial?
A Memorial is an odd term used by the Episcopal Church for a written statement urging action by the General Convention. Memorials written by Chicago, Montana, New Jersey, and South Florida in 1964 led to a name change dropping “Protestant” from the “Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States.” More notably William Augustus Muhlenberg and others presented a Memorial to the House of Bishops in 1853 which touched off increased ecumenical work by our church.
Not a New “Decade of Evangelism”
Following the lead of the 1988, meeting of all the bishops of the Anglican Church, called the Lambeth Conference, the General Convention of the Episcopal Church named the 1990s as the Decade of Evangelism. Let’s forget for the moment that a church declaring a Decade of Evangelism is like an airline declaring a Decade of Flight. The 1990s saw steeper church decline than in previous decades. This doesn’t mean evangelism is a bad idea. The decline just means we, as a denomination, didn’t share the Gospel the way we hoped. But we never really thought we could grow the Body of Christ by passing resolutions in meetings did we?
This is why the present Memorial to the Church acknowledges clearly that none of what we might hope will occur other than on a foundation of reading scripture, praying individually and corporately, and serving God through serving others. In that sense, we don’t need the General Convention to bring about the transformation for which we yearn. That just comes through faithfully following Jesus and sharing the love of God with others.
Specific Action to Make this Real
The Memorial gains meaning when it is made real with actions of the General Convention which live into the change for which it calls. So, those of us who wrote the Memorial also crafted nine resolutions that give substance to the initiative. I will write about these resolutions in the coming days, but they are all gathered with the Memorial at EpiscopalResurrection.org
Please note that you will see people have joined us in signing the Memorial, but doing so is not endorsement for this group of resolutions. Each Deputy and Bishop will prayerfully decide their own way to support the goals of the Memorial through the votes they cast in Convention. But the key is that each of us who sign the Memorial agree that this is the vision toward which we are working. We hold in common a desire to remove obstacles embedded in current structures and to refocus “our energies from building up a large, centralized, expensive, hierarchical church-wide structure, to networking and supporting mission at the local level, where we all may learn how to follow Jesus into all of our neighborhoods.”
I believe if we take concrete action in support of this while building up the Body of Christ through the practices of the faith we uphold, then whether the specific resolutions found at that website pass or not, the General Convention will begin to turn our beloved church toward the right goal.
As Anglicans, we stongly believe in the power of scripture and the importance of reading scripture in our worship. Our worship has a dual emphasis of both Word and Sacrament and a significant amount of sacred scripture is read each time we gather to worship. Having the scripture read so that all hear and understand is then very important to liturgy done well. (Mimi Jones is pictured reading the Epistle at Christ Church Episcopal, Savannah)
I remember being struck by how well the readings in worship were done when I first visited Virginia Theological Seminary. There was a reading from a complicated argument being put forward by St. Paul in his letter to the Romans which I heard so clearly that it was compelling in a way I had not previously encountered. I was struck then by the power of scripture itself to strike a chord before anyone comments on it. The sermon that day was not on the reading from Romans, yet I left the chapel still ruminating on the reading as well as on the Gospel on which the sermon did focus.
Oscar winner Olivia de Havilland (pictured here and below) has been for many years a lay reader at our Cathedral of Holy Trinity in Paris. The Rt. Rev. Pierre Whelon, Bishop in Charge of the Convocation of Episcopal Churches in Europe, wrote an essay on his interview with her on how she prepares to read in church. She says in part that “reading the Scriptures in church has to be an authentic proclamation of the reader’s faith. Preparation is essential – there are far too many last-minute readings in our churches.”
She points out what a difference it makes for the reader to pray through the text and wrestle with its meaning before proclaiming the text in worship. The full article is well worth reading. It is online here Reading the Bible as a Statement of Faith. The award winning actress does not recommend a dramatic reading, but reading must flow out of the faith of the reader. Yet she does come around to an actor’s understanding. She told Bishop Whelon “I once asked Jimmy Cagney, ‘just what is acting?’ He said at first, ‘I dunno…’ But then he said, ‘All I know is that you have to mean what you say.'”
In Romans 10:14 Paul writes, “How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?” But lay readers should also know that in their public proclamation of God’s Word that a congregation can also hear and so come to believe.
I know that nothing is more formational than encountering the Word of God and so nothing can be more foundational to our liturgies than scripture read well. I commend this essay to all who read scripture in our congregations.
The Rev. Canon Frank Logue
Canon to the Ordinary
I often hear from congregations that they want to grow their attendance. While growth for growth’s sake does not sound like the Gospel to me, I do share the interest in expanding the Kingdom of God. Here are a few thoughts on some actions most every church can undertake.
Some who attends your church now making a personal invitation to friends, family, or co-workers is the best way for you to connect with new people. This is true for everyone, but even moreso for those who are new to your church. Newcomers know a whole new group of people to invite who may not yet have heard of your church. Teach newcomer classes on the importance of invitation and talking through ways to do this. Then combine this together with teaching the five-minute rule (that those who attend the church should give the first five minutes after church to meeting new people, before turning to talk to those they already know). Doing this raises the awareness with those new to your congregation and in so doing extends the reach of your church. In support of this, creating an attractive brochure to share.
Sending out invitations to those with changes of address is a great way to reach those most likely to be looking for a new church. There are mailing services found online that will sell changes of address information. Real Estate agents should have access to this information for free. Sending out a card with an invitation to join you for worship is a way to make a direct connection with those who may be shopping for a church. Hanging doorhangers with an invitation to worship in homes close to your church is another way to sow these seeds.
Hospitality and Incorporation
No matter what you do to invite people to your church, it is hospitality and newcomer incorporation which connect people to your congregation. Get the invitation right and this wrong and your church will not grow. Skip all of the above and get this right and you can still grow. Put it all together and you set the stage for numeric growth in attendance. I have found that when we do all we can to prepare to welcome new people, the Holy Spirit speaks to hearts and minds and new people start showing up. For in the end, all we are discussing is not about the church alone, but about the church as a means of connecting people more closely to God through the local church, and this is not something we do alone, but an activity in which we join with what God is already doing in the lives of the people we want to reach.
Celebrate the Gift of Hospitality-This means that we will need to identify people with a real gift for hospitality. These naturally welcoming folk need to be encouraged. The work they do in looking out for and speaking to visitors needs to be elevated and set as a model to others. Call people out in the bulletin or newsletter giving them credit for their gift of hospitality. This will not be a gift shared by all in your church, so make sure those who are good at greeting know their abilities are valued and encourage them in this vocation.
Incorporating Visitors-Once newcomers have arrived, have those who greet them encourage signing in the guestbook. This will get a physical address and an email address and phone number. It is a best practice for each visitor to get a letter from the Vicar or Rector within a few days of the visit. One other contact is also a best practice. For some congregations, this means “mugging” the newcomer by having a couple of people on a hospitality committee drop by with a coffee mug in a bag with a brochure and the most recent newsletter. Other congregations take fresh baked bread. Still others rely on a phone call. Whatever you choose to do, make sure it is a low impact contact. Whether dropping something by or making a call, it should only be a brief visit in which it is clear that something is being dropped off with no expectation. We want to balance being in contact, with seeming to attack.
Newcomers who come back a couple of times should be encouraged toward a newcomers’ class or meeting. Whatever your church uses to do this, it should be made clear how someone can get more involved in your church in a way meaningful to them. (The photos above are from the Facebook albums of St. Paul’s, Augusta, St. Patrick’s, Albany, and Christ Church, Savannah.)
The Rev. Canon Frank Logue, Canon to the Ordinary
How we respond to people who are most in need demonstrates our beliefs more than any statement of faith. On this week when we enter anew into the passion, death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus, I can’t help but reflect on these sacred mysteries in the light of having sojourned this Lent with refugees and those working with them. The Episcopal Migration Ministries Pilgrimage to Kenya and Rwanda brought our group face to face with some of the worst of man’s inhumanity to man. We met those who suffered in the Congolese War, spent time learning about the Rwandan Genocide, and encountered the victims of gender-based violence finding anew their dignity with the help of others.
Moving past identity as refugees
First, I want to acknowledge briefly the very problem of discussing “refugees” as the term, while helpful, creates an unecessary distance. The term “refugee” is an important political word which seeks to assist persons who “owing to wellfounded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion….” Refugee is a useful political term, but not a theological one. For Christians working in migration ministries, we must push past this identifier to something more essential.
The Image of God
From the first chapter of the first book of Hebrew scripture, we learn that all humans are made in the image and likeness of God (Genesis 1:26–27). The Image of God is a central concept referred to in theology by its Latin name, Imago Dei. This theological truth for Jews and Christians alike grounds any understanding of work with persons displaced by persecution in their essential worth as people made in God’s image and likeness.
For Christians, Imago Dei is further understood in terms of the deep relationships among the persons of the Trinity which means to be made in God’s image is relational and not primarily individual. Jesus taught that all of the Law and the Prophets depend on loving God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength and loving your neighbor as yourself. Jesus would define neighbor as broadly as possible with his Parable of the Good Samaritan in which the Samaritan, an often hated and mistrusted “other” for Jews living in Israel, was the neighbor to a person in need. For those who seek to follow Jesus, caring for widows, orphans, and yes refugees, is essential to our faith rather than something optional.
The Heart of an Alien
This is certainly seen in the Hebrew scriptures as applying specifically to those forced out of their homeland. “You shall not wrong or oppress a resident alien, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt,” (Exodus 22.21) and “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) are but two of many examples.
The second chapter of Matthew’s Gospel tells of the Flight into Egypt in which Jesus’ earthly parents fled persecution by King Herod. Jesus earliest memories would have been of living as a refugee and in a synagogue in Egypt where he would have heard the words of the Torah concerning treatments of aliens.
Seeking and Serving Christ
For Episcopalians, this is also found in the 1979 Book of Common Prayer in the Baptismal Covenant. In particular, the two questions, “Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself?” and “Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being?” The answer to both being, “I will with God’s help.”
These questions in the Baptismal Covenant flow from our understanding of the Christian virtue of Charity, or caritas, found in the self-giving agape love of Jesus. That agape love is most fully embodied in the Great Triduum, which is as one prayer celebrated in the three days from Maundy Thursday evening to Easter. As we see most fully how far the love of God extends to all humanity, we are challenged to make that love real in our own lives. While there are many ways this can be lived out, assisting refugees will remain a vital one in a world where roughly 15 million people have fled their homeland to escape persecution and many millions more are internally displaced in their own country due to the same pressures.
What We Accomplish Together
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.
This Holy Week, the agape love we encounter in the story of Christ’s passion, death, and resurrection also points to the need to show that same love to persons suffering persecution. 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
All photos above are from our visit to Gihembe Refugee Camp in Rwanda and are by Wendy Karr Johnson.
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.