Introducing ‘see::community – be::community’

Episcopal Diocese of California
Episcopal Diocese of California (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

An important next step in our church vitality journey is beginning at the Diocese of California with the launch of be::community the online site housing the growing collection of church vitality webinars.  Mary Vargas, a member of the Diocesan Standing Committee, introduced the new offering in a recent  posting on the Diocesan newsletter DioBytes:

Realigning Mission through Ministry in Community: Creating the Ministry Map on Vitality
see::community – be::community

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.

read more here

click here to read about the upcoming facilitator training

Check it out for yourself.

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Be::Community

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

 

Realigning Mission through Ministry in Community: Creating the Ministry Map on Vitality
see::community – be::community

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.

read more here

click here to read about the upcoming facilitator training

 

Dean of Washington National Cathedral Talks about Church Decline

Washington National Cathedral dean: Talking about the Episcopalian identity crisis

By Rev. Gary Hall, Wednesday, August 1, 9:09AM published in the Washington Post

Followers of recent developments in the Episcopal Church have felt called to opine about the state, health and future of the church. As the person selected to be the next dean of Washington National Cathedral, it’s fitting that I weigh in.

The Episcopal Church just completed its 77th General Convention in mid-July. The biggest news to come from Indianapolis: After years of study, the church approved a rite for the blessing of same-gender relationships that will be available across the denomination next January.

So much for the big news from Indianapolis. Other important things happened there as well, however. Most significantly from my perspective, the church actually began talking about the institutional and cultural factors impacting church membership and attendance. The facts are striking. All mainline (so-called liberal and conservative) denominations are experiencing sharp declines in every marker of institutional vitality: not only membership and attendance, but giving and new church start-ups as well.

Everyone with an agenda wants to spin these numbers in the service of an ideology. Those who call themselves “traditionalists” claim that church attendance will rise once we return to the high Christendom establishment ways of doing theology and worship. The more progressive types claim that we are facing a crisis of relevance and that only a bolder social profile will draw the unchurched to us in droves.

While I tend toward the progressive side in this controversy, I am not persuaded by either analysis. My own sense is that we face a crisis of credibility. For those especially under 40, the Episcopal Church (and its companion churches and faith traditions) no longer seems a credible place in which to engage God, learn to pray or to give ourselves in ministry. We seem, to those outside us, exclusive and opaque.

Those of us who love the traditions (and habits) of institutional Christianity might feel somewhat wounded by the seeming disinterest in the practices we have come to live by. But if the Episcopal Church is to thrive in the 21st century, it must do three things. It must develop a clear, missional identity. It must project that identity outward and invite people into it. And it must take seriously the needs and concerns of those who come toward us and adapt to the new life and energy they bring.

Does that mean that we will no longer continue to worship in our stately Anglican ways? Of course not. But it does mean that we will need to find new modes of liturgical, musical, and theological expression to complement the great traditional strengths we already have. And this is not new behavior for Anglicans. Queen Elizabeth I forged a pragmatic consensus between Catholics and Protestants in 1559. Bishop William White of Pennsylvania led the first General Convention of the Episcopal Church to a uniquely American way of governance in 1789. The church opened itself up to the sacramental ministries of women bishops, priests and deacons in 1976. We have always been a pragmatic, evolving tradition.

Washington National Cathedral has been thinking about and studying a creative and faithful response to current realities for several years, and its leadership has developed a four-point strategic plan to help it face into the 21st century with vibrancy and hope. The cathedral will continue to be the nation’s church, a place where Americans come together to celebrate and to mourn. It will continue to be a sacred space characterized by beautiful music and liturgy and the continued preservation of an architectural gem. It will increasingly serve as the cathedral for the Diocese and city of Washington, working with congregations and community leaders to reflect the breadth of the area’s diversity. And it will expand its role as a convener of conversations and developer of projects concerning our national and interfaith life.

The leaders of Washington National Cathedral, in concert with Bishop Mariann Edgar Budde, have worked hard to envision a new way forward in worship, ministry and program for this unique faith community. I am honored and excited to join them in work that will help get us closer in solving the church’s identity crisis and strengthen the Cathedral’s national mission.

The Rev. Canon Gary R. Hall is rector of Christ Church Cranbrook in Bloomfield Hills, Mich., and has been selected as the 10th dean of Washington National Cathedral.

New Pew Forum Report on Asian American Faith Experiences

Asian Americans are contributing to the rich diversity of America’s changing religious experience. In 1965 Asian Americans comprised less than 1% of the total U.S. population.  Today they have grown to 5.8% or 18.2 million according to the U.S. Census).  While growth has taken place in non-Abrahamic faith traditions especially Buddhism and Hinduism most Asian Americans are either Christians (42%) or say they have no particular religious affiliation (26%).

The Pew Report says Asian Americans offer a ‘mosaic of many faiths’ with the six major subgroups reflecting different choices of faith tradition.  A majority of Filipino Americans are Catholic, a majority of Korean Americans are Protestant. While about half of Indian Americans are Hindu, half of Chinese Americans are unaffiliated.  A sizable number of Vietnamese Americans are Buddhist, and Japanese Americans are a mix of Christians, Buddhists and the unaffiliated.

In the work of the Church Growth Program analysis of census data will found this diversity offered plenty of opportunity among the ‘unchurched’.

Check out this new Pew Report on Asian American faith experiences.

Will the Church Also Face It’s Kodak Moment?

You have probably read of the dire financial straits of Kodak, one of the proud iconic brands during our lifetime.  It bet the farm on film and invented digital photography but back then film made more money so it let others do digital.  Today it tries to survive by suing other companies for patent infringement since it holds so many of them someone must be violating one of them in smart phone camera and other ubiquitous parts of our lives.

But The Reverend Dr. Frederick W. Schmidt, Jr. , Director of Spiritual Formation and Associate Professor of Christian Spirituality at Southern Methodist University, Perkins School of Theology in Dallas, Texas has another perspective on Kodak, you might find interesting. In a recent blog post on Pateos he asks

‘What Kodak Can Teach the Church?”


Vestry Retreat Guide to Church Vitality

‘Tis the season’-–not just THAT season but the season for new Vestry members to go off on retreat to commune together as a leadership team about their hopes and fears, goals and challenges, short-term and long term plans.

We hope every Vestry will put church vitality and growth on their Vestry Retreat agenda. 

Why?

Church decline is a chronic, debilitating disease sapping the strength of the Body of Christ in our midst.  It is curable, but it requires vision, persistence and endurance.

To help frame the Vestry Retreat discussion, what follows are some ideas to guide your discussion:

2012 is a year for working in the vineyard doing God’s work to get the church growing again.  So far 30 congregations have responded to Bishop Marc’s call to action.  Is your’s one of them?

Notes from Church2Go December 10th Workshop

MEMBERSHIP GROWTH PLANNING WORKSHOP # 4:  CHURCH-2-GO

Using Technology to further Congregational Growth

December 10, 2011  Holy Innocents Episcopal church, San Francisco

Question:  What technologies can help further Congregational Growth?

Colloquy followed concerning use of salesforce.com’s customer management software (CMS) to facilitate regular contact with different constituencies.  This is a parish-based need that the diocese could facilitate through training and through negotiations with vendors for free or reduced-fee licenses.

Razors-edge.biz which is specifically designed for non-profit management and fundraising software and icontact and Constant Contact, another customer management software systems. Some are migrating to emma because it interfaces with salesforce.com.

The downside to these systems:  it silos the information which protects the data from poaching but also doesn’t enable the diocese to directly reach congregants.  You can see an overview of and compare fundraising software at capterra.com.

Our goals are not industrial.  We want to keep in touch in ways that provide spiritual sustenance.  Each congregation has its own quirks, needs: what are the sensitivities we need to keep in mind?

Someone volunteered: let’s not make “good” the enemy of “perfect” in looking for solutions. We eventually need scalability but perhaps a small, beta test with a few congregations might work best.   We need standards for posting, security, suggestions to improve collaboration.  We need to host a tech seminar about salesforce after the new year.

In the meantime, if your congregation has questions about salesforce.com, contact:

Marisa B. Jennings, Marisab2003@yahoo.com.

Other technology examples discussed include:

  • Youversion.com manages small group bible studies throughout the world.  This technology allows you to do church at your own convenience and on your own time;
  • ericwhitacre.com is a virtual choir;
  • Grace Cathedral’s Forums are available on demand to listen to;
  • kickstart.com provides outreach funding opportunities in Africa.

Christopher Martin mentioned a meditation app he uses to measure the quiet time he needs for prayer.  He finds silence before a meeting changes its tone, gets people fully present for whatever work they are gathered to do.

Question: Does the Diocese of California need a social network to foster collaboration? If yes, what would that network look like?

Our dreams include creating a flash mob bible study, creating “Episcopal 101” as an on-line formation tool.  While technology is good, Christopher Martin senses an urgent need by many to be in the same room together.

In terms of attracting users, all concurred the content needs to be in the email itself because an attachment creates another time commitment and step and is a cumbersome hurdle for many. We need to extend hospitality and marketing by grabbing the audience in the preview panel of the email.  As Sue Thompson pleaded, “please don’t make any more work; I can do Facebook and email, but that’s about all I have capacity for.”

Stories generation is hyperlocal.  Buzz begins where the stories are and it is difficult to create excitement. Blogs are hyperlocal and are easy to interface with, a crucial feature.

Discussion ensued of responsive grid technology and html5 which are content management features we need to be aware of (technology to manage what content goes to desktops, what and where content goes to ipads, smartphones). Sean McConnell working on aggregating blogs of the Bishop and other clergy.  pacificchurchnews.org is html5.

How does tech drive church growth?  Use technology to see how people are organizing themselves.  A major issue is reimaging how to fund the churches’ work; our current funding model is congregation-based and that won’t work in many circumstances going forward.

Instant messaging, tweeting and texting are the means of communications for those 14 to 25.  Hashtags allow you to see the talking trends ( A hashtag – # – followed by a word or phrase lets users find content and conversations they are interested in).  For church, which hashtags can we capture?  Trend analysis of hashtags is used in business for marketing strategy.  Maybe we would benefit by asking the campus chaplains to host a tech forum with their students to see what the students think the rest of the church should be doing with technology.

Google +1 is open source forum which tried to avoid facebook’s mistakes.  Gary Hunt prefers managed source forums with affinities such as kickstart.org which fosters outreach giving in Africa.

CMS would make it easy to do a skills inventory which would help connect folks with talents to a worthwhile project.  It would also help create the feeling of being in a community.

“We are technology pioneers,” one said, “I just hope we’re not the Donnor Party.” We all laughed.

To close, Gary Hunt invited everyone to post comments and ask questions at churchgrowthprogram.com.

Save March 10th at All Saints, San Leandro, for Rob Droste’s hosting of conversation on attracting the creative-types and evangelism.

Roulhac Austin

scrivner