Introducing ‘see::community – be::community’ is the name for the new website location for the church vitality webinar series hosted by Bishop Marc to support our church vitality initiative. Mary Vargas wrote the following article which appeared recently in DioBytes, the Diocesan newsletter:
by Mary Vargas. Diocesan Standing Committee Member
is a process designed to engage our people at a new level in exploring which ministries connect them to their neighborhoods (or any place outside church walls), which ministries serve the church, and which ideas are coming to life as emerging ministries — all serving the mission of “transforming souls.” We believe it is through ministry that we are the most effective “evangelists,” creating a direct connection between community, vitality, and growth.
Technology is changing the way we do God’s work by making it faster, easier and more fulfilling to be in community with others who are seeking many of the same things we are. But our experience with technology also is raising our expectations that the church will grow with us as we learn to put new technologies to work to make our lives better, our work easier, and our community more transparent, inclusive, and welcoming.
Technology can Help Us Do Church in new Ways
We want to see the church as our family of faith not a place we go just on Sunday, a safe place where we are loved for who we are and fed spiritual food to sustain us:
Help me discover Jesus in my life and support me on my spiritual journey.
Help me give my kids a good faith foundation that will guide their lives.
Help me be in community with other faithful who welcome me as I am.
Give me options to pray, worship and serve others to be the Body of Christ.
Be there for me in my times of need to pray with me, comfort me, love me, stand up for me and stand by me when I need it most.
Teach us the lessons of the Gospels and connect and empower the people to be the Body of Christ. We want to hold up our faith traditions and rituals but we also want the church to do more. By teaching us to pray, helping us learn the lessons of the Gospels and sending us out to do the work God has given us to do we realize that the church must make use of social media and technology to make it easier for us to be in community, to collaborate and share, to work together on mission and ministry programs, to find new ways to serve. The job of the church is to be our gate opener not our gate keeper.
The People of the Church are going Social—shouldn’t the Church join them? Almost every church has a website but few are places we really want to hangout. Like a billboard that rarely changes we just don’t go there. The reasons are most first generation web technology was not designed for two way collaboration and sharing. So while we consume a lot of information from the web, it is only recently that new web collaboration and social networking tools, mobile phone apps and other use of technology is changing the way we do church.
Apples iOS now has scores of Apps useful to Christians. Here are a few suggested by Craig Sturm in his blog Swimming Upstream along with his comments about each. Unless otherwise noted, all of these apps are free.
Accordance – You can get several of the most essential reference tools here for free: Easton’s Bible Dictionary, Nave’s Topical Bible, some Greek and Hebrew helps, and Matthew Henry’s complete commentary.
Free Bible Study Tools – The BibleStudyTools.com app has an impressive array of resources, including dictionaries, commentaries, and encyclopedias, and the longest list of available Bible translations I’ve seen.
Husting Pocket Hymnal (formerly Popular Christian Classic Hymns) – This is a decent little app, for all its simplicity. Maybe a little niche, but if it’s a free Christian hymnal you want, this is the best I have for you.
Logos Bible Software – It tends to be slow, quirky, and unstable, but it syncs with the desktop software—which can also be slow, quirky, and unstable at times! If you just want to read books in your Libronix library, I recommend Vyrso (below) instead, which is basically the same thing without the Bible reader and study tools.
Olive Tree BibleReader – You can read the Bible on this app, but I use it for the many good free books you can download through it, from such authors as Spurgeon, E. M. Bounds, and John Piper.
OnePlace.com – A podcast buffet, serving some delicacies and some garbage. (At least they don’t host Joel Osteen anymore!)
PocketSword – I’m impressed with this little gem! The interface isn’t pretty, but it gives simple access to lots of great free resources—most of all commentaries!
Lori Robinson, St. Timothy’s Associate for Family Ministry, has a gift for organization and an attention to the detail so important in assuring a good experience for all who participate in VBS that she is herself a pure and perfect gift to the St. Timothy’s congregation from God’s abundant life gift to all.
This year $5.00 of every camper’s registration fee which totaled about $800 was put into an abundant life for all investment fund to be given by VBS to Episcopal Relief and Development. Counselors and adult volunteers donated an additional $200 and the St. Timothy’s congregation members doubled it with an additional $1,175 bringing the total donation to ER&D to $2,125 for the kids to work with.
Each morning of VBS the kids studied bible lessons about God’s abundant gifts with a focus around clean water, soil, food, animals and the power of helping others to also enjoy those gifts. In the afternoon those lessons were applied using “stories from the Field” taken from the real experiences of Episcopal Relief and Development and the power of partnerships to help realize the Millennium Development Goals to help heal a hurting world.
After a week’s worth of study and reflection the VBS campers were asked to vote for one project from a list which reflected the MDG goals as the focus for the $1000 contribution that will be made to Episcopal Relief and Development. They chose clean water. Maybe that was influenced by the water and games section of the VBS program every afternoon. Maybe it was the stories from the field lesson of the clean water project in Nicaragua and how transforming it was for the lives it affected.
“Jesus said, “Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. Whoever welcomes a prophet in the name of a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward; and whoever welcomes a righteous person will receive the reward of the righteous; and whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones in the name of a disciple—truly I tell you, none of these will lose their reward.”
VBS Sunday is always a time of inspiration and renewal because we see Jesus in the eyes of our children and our hearts are filled with hope and joy for the abundant life God has given us.
Everyone can give abundant life to all with a gift to Episcopal Relief and Development knowing that it changes lives, raises hope, and follows the lesson Jesus taught us through every microloan to help a family buy chickens, every clean water project, every donation of seeds to plant a new harvest.