New Ways to Do Church

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The ravages of the recession and its lingering effects on virtually every aspect of our lives is also changing the way we think about church not because we want to do so, but because the drop in pledge income and the growth in need for mission and ministry presents the church with the necessity to change.

Some of the changes are as old as the church itself in doing more with less.  Other changes are made possible by the information age we live in and its capacity to enable us to do more and our willingness to see change as opening opportunities not just limiting options.

We need not venture far from home to see this transformation process at work.  Here in the Diocese of California we are part of a growing experiment in ‘new ways to do church’ which you may hear in Dio-speak terms that leaving you wandering what it means.  Here are a few examples:

  • Area Ministry is a new way of encouraging congregations to work together on shared mission and ministry needs.  Area ministry is a contemporary mission strategy that envisions an area as a consortium of congregations, institutions, people and the earth itself according to Canon Michael Barlowe.  It recognizes that not all congregations have the financial capacity and staff to do all the mission and ministry work they need or want.  So by encouraging congregations to work together the social networking, shared vision, and many more hands gets the job done.
  • Episcopal Charities Action Networks take the area ministry approach one step further by linking the areas ministry needs across the Diocese with the work of the church in furthering the Millennium Development Goals to encourage congregations to leverage their own local resources with “action grants” from Episcopal Charities in areas of education, health care and environment to expand the work of the church in the critical areas of mission and ministry.
  • Partnership for Ministry is being born out of the hopes of the faithful, the hurts of the recession and its impact on the work of the church.  Falling pledge income from the recession combined with changing demographics confirmed by the census 2010 results are changing in profound ways how we think about doing the work of the church.  Out of these discussions is emerging a consensus around partnership for ministry as a collaborative effort between the Diocese of California and a group of Contra Costa and Southern Alameda deanery congregations sharing a common desire to work together—to partner—to respond to new socio-economic realities.

God Opens Our Eyes to New Possibilities

For more than twenty years, St. Timothy’s Episcopal Church in Danville has been committed to youth ministry.  But we are not immune to changing demographics so we find our parish today struggling to keep a critical mass of youth at any age cohort to sustain a viable program on our own.  Our outreach ministry efforts have long supported social ministry needs in a largely Hispanic Monument corridor in Concord, California.  Yet through our participation in Episcopal charities Action Networks we found that four other Episcopal congregations in Contra Costa Deanery also support the same three or four causes.  How could we not know that!  Because we are so focused on doing god’s work on our parish campus or on our own that we have not seen until now the possibilities that collaboration, partnership and thinking about new ways to do church might actually help our congregation and all the mission and ministry causes we support.

So look beyond your congregation campus to see the world with fresh eyes.  Look at the Census 2010 reports and see the world and our changing communities the way they are not the way we remember them. God has given us everything and He expects us to use those gifts to do the mission and ministry work of the church.

Our changing economic circumstances are forcing us out of our complacency and with eyes wide open we now see new needs, new opportunities and new ways to ‘do church’ that are exciting and, with God’s help, even more effective and satisfying for all we seek to serve.

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