Tragedy at St. Peter’s Church, Ellicott City, Maryland

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

Tragedy at St. Peter’s Church, Ellicott City

May 4, 2012

Baltimore — The Episcopal Diocese of Maryland is saddened beyond words by the shootings May 3 at St. Peter’s Church in Ellicott City, Maryland. The Rt. Rev. Eugene Taylor Sutton, bishop of Maryland, immediately offered prayers for the victims in the chapel of the Cathedral of the Incarnation, Baltimore, when he learned the news later that evening. Clergy of the diocesan staff have been present with the parish and members of the St. Peter’s staff, and have said prayers over the victims. The diocese holds the victims, their families, and the people and staff of St. Peter’s Church and pre-school in its continued prayers. A nearby Episcopal church, St. John’s Parish in Ellicott City, opened their doors late Thursday evening to offer a place of support and prayer.

Howard County police are investigating the shooting. According to them, two women, Brenda Brewington, administrative assistant, and the Rev. Mary-Marguerite Kohn, co-rector of the parish were found shot inside the church office yesterday just after 5 pm. A custodian called 911.

Brewington was pronounced dead at the scene. Kohn was transported to Shock Trauma in critical condition.

Advertisements

God, Beer and Big Questions for 35’s and under at Service 731

Now here is an example of church collaboration to satisfy your thirst for new ways to do church!

The Episcopal Church of the Resurrection in Pleasant Hill, Our Savior Lutheran Church and the Diocese of California announced they will launch an alternative, monthly evening service at Pyramid Alehouse in Walnut Creek.  The service will be called 731 because it will begin promptly at 7:31 pm each time.

December 18th and January 29th @ 7:31pm, Pyramid Alehouse Downtown Walnut Creek

The new service uses provocative questions, popular music guest speakers, video and beer & food to help people 35 and younger combine the Christian tradition with their own individual experiences of God and the world.  Designed not to be the “churchy stuff you grew up with” this alternative service seeks to be relevant in the lives of this age group and build community in new ways.

Growing the Church means Seeing Christ in Each Person

by Gary Hunt

It has been a week since our Church Growth Workshop at St. Alban’s Brentwood with its focus on the opportunities and challenges of East Contra Costa County.  We had a turnout of about a dozen, but the power of these workshops has never been in the numbers but in the testimony we’ve heard at each.  I needed a few days of ‘soak time’ to reflect on that testimony before I could put into words what I heard and experienced.

We set for ourselves two issues for discussion.

What are the needs of the people in East Contra Costa County and what are the opportunities for the Episcopal Church to be the Body of Christ in that portion of the Diocese?

We know the challenges.  While we look to the existing Episcopal congregations serving Clayton, Concord, Antioch and Brentwood to help us define the needs we recognize these congregations are too small to meet the needs on their own.  Another ring of Episcopal churches serve the next ring out with Grace Church Martinez, Resurrection Pleasant Hill, St. Paul’s Walnut Creek, and St. Timothy’s Danville further removed geographically but still in the Deanery circle of the diocese. We wondered out loud what could be done by collaboration across the Deanery to leverage the community strengths of the Church to meet the needs of the church.

The discussion in our workshop helped shine light on two fears that have been anxious undercurrent:

  1. The fear that the Diocese will give up on the congregations in East Contra Costa because they are too small, too insular and detached, too limited in their capacity to meet the broader needs of the church in the area.  This fear lives into the tradition of the church in which each congregation goes it alone for better or worse.  In East Contra Costa County where the road to St. Alban’s requires driving by mega-churches the feeling of being ‘alone in the wilderness’ is understandable.
  2. The fear the cost of being the Body of Christ in East CoCo is beyond the reach of the Church.  This fear lives into the traditional church planting model of ‘build a church and they will come’ mentality.  The self imposed impediments of size and resources have frozen us in the headlights of our conventional wisdom unable to see the vision God is calling us to live into to actually be the Body of Christ.

And then something happened in our conversation.  Something we had not expected but something quite remarkable. Our conversation in the circle shifted from traditions and limits to hopes and possibilities.

In the opening of the discussion to the concept of collaboration across congregations a need was expressed as an example.   What made it so powerful was the honest, healthy need from a parent searching for support for a child who had recently ‘come out’ and felt isolated in the small community.

As an aside I would tell you that one of my joys in these workshops has been the sense of honesty, safety and candor with which we have talked about both our fears and hopes.  This was one of those healthy, holy moments.  But what made it special was the testimony that came next from another parent in the circle who told the mother that he too had faced the same issue she described and that he was part of a parent support group and she was welcome to not only be part of their support group but the group would come visit with her and others to tell their stories and offer their prayers, experience and resources.

There is no way to tell this story without a sense of wonder and amazement at the power of having Christ in our midst when we needed Him most.  I believe Christ was with us that day. We learned that we are not alone. We learned we can be in community supported, loved and accepted as we are. We learned that working together made all things possible. And we learned that loving each other—seeing Christ the King in each person—did not cost a king’s ransom but was a pure and perfect gift of Grace from the One who died to save us.

I am writing this message on the last Sunday in Pentecost—Christ the King Sunday.  This is the last day in the church year, and as we wind down the 120 days action planning phase in the church growth program we are already shifting our focus forward.

2012: A Year Working in the Vineyard

For 2012 the work on church vitality and renewed growth shifts to working one-on-one with congregations that want help putting together an action plan of their own as Bishop Marc has asked.

To date 31 congregations have signed up for the Bishop’s webinar series and will be actively engaged in taking actions in their congregations.

The church growth program team members will be working in that vineyard two or three at  a time with individual congregations to help them as we are able to define an action plan that meets their commitments to the Bishop and serves the Body of Christ as they discern it.

  • November 29th St. Luke’s San Francisco, 6:30pm —Revenue Growth Strategies The Rev Dana Corsello is leading a reception and dinner event for expert fundraisers to gather insight and ideas on how the church can raise capital and contributions to create a more sustainable foundation for church growth. Contact Dana directly if this calls to you.
  • December 10th 9am to Noon, Holy Innocents, San Francisco —CHURCH2GO. The last workshop of the action planning phase is also the first workshop in the ‘working in the vineyard’ phase of the church growth program.  Our workshop focus is on technology and how the church can use social media, mobile apps, customer relationship services like Salesforce.com to support stewardship and other technology tools.  We hope you will bring us your ideas by comments on this church growth website or by coming to the workshop December 10th.
  • March 10th, 2012, All Saints San Leandro, Church Renewal. The Rev Rob Droste is leading a workshop on Church Renewal and Engaging the Creative.  Stay tuned for more information as this takes shape.

Do You Want your Congregation to Be Part of the Work in the Vineyard?  We are responding to requests from congregations for help in working on Bishop Marc’s action planning in 2012.  The Church Growth Program will be working in two or three person teams directly with congregations to support that effort. If you want help contact the DioHouse Staff or any member of the Church Growth Program team.

We still need volunteers.  Do you feel called to help with:

  • Lay leadership training programs
  • Mission effectiveness visit support for the Diocesan Staff
  • Technology, apps and other solutions for our Church2Go strategies
  • Building a social network platform for the Diocesan Community
  • Collaboration facilitators for church vitality projects

Women Speak Out on Optimism and Opportunity

Nielsen has a very interesting new study of the attitudes of women.  What makes this study useful for our work in the Church Growth Program is the breakdown of the data from the survey results across ethnic and other demographic lines that make it a good resource for planning mission and ministry programs.

SOURCE: Nielsen

We’re learning from the 2010 Census data about the profound changes in demographics reshaping our country.  Those changes are not just ethnic they are also being reshaped by the changing role of women in the workplace and in our society.  Hispanics are the fastest growing ethnic group and their attitudes about optimism and opportunity will have major impacts on media, retail and manufacturers now and in the years ahead—and provide lessons about of message of hope and opportunity for an optimistic role for woman in the Episcopal Church.

The Nielsen study offers good news for our mission and ministry work in the vineyard over the next year working congregation by congregation to help each devise a church vitality and growth strategy that works for them.  Its focus on attitudes about optimism and opportunity are very important benchmarks for our church vitality and growth work ahead.

SOURCE: Nielsen

Headlines from this Nielsen study?

  1. Optimism was highest among African American and Hispanic women, especially when it came to how they viewed the opportunities they have had compared with those of their mothers.
  2. Women of today are not only optimistic for themselves, they expect their daughters to have more opportunity than they do.
  3. American women are heavy users of technology – even if they aren’t early adopters. Women of all ethnicities use media in similar ways, with one key exception: smartphones. Just 33 percent of Caucasian women have a smartphone in their household, compared to penetration rates in the 60s for women of other ethnicities.
SOURCE: Nielsen

I recommend this Nielsen Report to you:  Women of Tomorrow: U.S. Multicultural Insights.

Nielsen Study of Optimism and Opportunity for Women

I have not written much about our 20/20 Vision process lately.

It has been dormant while St. Timothy’s searches for a new rector believing that whoever God calls to be the shepherd of our flock should be an active participant in framing our parish vision for the future.

But that should not stop us from research and examination of useful information when that 20/20 Vision process picks up again hopefully next year.

So here is a good news story to keep your attention focused on our 20/20 prize.

Nielsen is out with a very interesting new study of the attitudes of women.  What makes this study useful for our work in the Church Growth Program is the breakdown of the data from the survey results across ethnic and other demographic lines that make it a good resource for planning mission and ministry programs.

We’re learning from the 2010 Census data about the profound changes in demographics reshaping our country.  Those changes are not just ethnic they are also being reshaped by the changing role of women in the workplace and in our society.  Hispanics are the fastest growing ethnic group and their attitudes about optimism and opportunity will have major impacts on media, retail and manufacturers now and in the years ahead—and provide lessons about of message of hope and opportunity for an optimistic role for woman in the Episcopal Church.

The Nielsen study offers good news for our mission and ministry work in the vineyard over the next year working congregation by congregation to help each devise a church vitality and growth strategy that works for them.  Its focus on attitudes about optimism and opportunity are very important benchmarks for our church vitality and growth work ahead.

So what are the headlines from this Nielsen study?

  • Optimism was highest among African American and Hispanic women, especially how they viewed the opportunities they have had compared with those of their mothers.
  • Women of today are not only optimistic for themselves, they expect their daughters to have more opportunity than they do.
  • American women are heavy users of technology – even if they aren’t early adopters. Women of all ethnicities use media in similar ways, with one key exception: smartphones. Just 33 percent of Caucasian women have a smartphone in their household, compared to penetration rates in the 60s for women of other ethnicities.

I recommend this Nielsen Report to you:  Women of Tomorrow: U.S. Multicultural Insights.

Calling All Church Geeks

For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.”   Matthew 18:20

In August 2011, Bishop Marc Andrus came to the Executive Council and asked the lay leaders of the Episcopal Diocese of California to take up the challenge of church vitality and find ways to get the church growing again.  For the past four months the Executive Council’s lay-driven Church Growth Program has shined bright light on the issues and implications of the long slow decline in church membership, average Sunday attendance and pledging.

In plain blunt terms, at the current average rate of decline of -3.3% per year, the Episcopal Diocese of California is one-half the size it was in 2000.  Project that same average decline rate forward ten years to 2022 and the Diocese of California would be half the size it is in 2011 with fewer than 5,000 pledge units.

How can we get the church growing?

Embrace the diversity of our Diocese and welcome all who love God and seek Christ in their lives as part of our faith community through prayer, worship and service to others.

Give the people what they want from the church?  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:

  1. Help me discover Jesus in my life and support me on my personal faith journey.
  2. Help me give my kids a good faith foundation that will guide their lives.
  3. Help me be in community with other faithful who welcome me as I am.
  4. Give me options to pray, worship and serve others to be the Body of Christ.
  5. Be there for me in my times of pain, hurt and need to comfort me, love me, stand up for me and stand by me when I need it most.

Connect and empower the people to be the Body of Christ across the Diocese by making use of social media and technology to make it easy for us to be in community, to collaborate and share, to work together on mission and ministry programs, to find new ways to serve and where the church is our gate opener not our gate keeper.

Love us and support us on our faith journey. The church is more than its ritual; it is our pathway to find Jesus in our lives. What people are saying they want the church to do is offer a menu of the bread of life and cup of salvation in scores of ways, in hundreds of places, with thousands of others who also need Jesus in their lives. To get the church growing again we can’t rely on a one-size-fits-all approach to prayer, worship or service and still be present in people’s lives when they need Jesus most.

The lesson from the church growth program is that the path to growth is connecting with people one-on-one, inviting them to the table and offering bread and wine that satisfies the soul in ways that fit their lives, their labors, their needs.

Finding new ways to do church does not mean abandoning our faith values it means finding new ways to share them in the language of the people.  What we’re learning is there is a hunger for traditional values of prayer, worship, service and community but we want it available in new ways.

Speaking the language of the people also means using the technologies of the people to help us satisfy our hunger to be in community and have Jesus in our midst by connecting and empowering the people to be the Body of Christ that still celebrates traditional values but in new ways.

CHURCH2GO: Calling the Church Geek Faithful to Service

On December 10th 9am to noon at Holy Innocents San Francisco, the Church Growth Program membership growth team will hold a workshop called CHURCH2GO exploring how the church can make better use of technology to help us be in community, empower us to collaborate and share our talents and time productively, and discover new ways to serve others.  We welcome your ideas and participation.

No registration is needed!  Come as you are.

We especially are eager to have people knowledgeable in easy to use, hosted online

  • social networking and social media software to build community,
  • collaboration software for use in area ministry programs
  • database tools to search ministry best practices unstructured data
  • talent software tools to match skills with service needs
  • crm software like Salesforce.com for stewardship
  • online learning software for use in lay leadership training
  • crowd-funding, crowd-sourcing tools for outreach and service projects
  • smart phone apps applicable to church work.

Anglican Covenant Rejected at DioCal Convention

Seal of the Diocese of California
Image via Wikipedia

The 162nd Convention of the Episcopal Diocese of California rejected the Anglican Covenant by a wide margin October 23rd.  This was not a surprise since sentiment against the Covenant has run strong and deep since it was first unveiled.  But there was a holy and healthy peace about the decision and a sense of sadness that the debate had produced such acrimony across the Communion.

The Anglican Communion was formed as a freewill association of independent churches sharing the common faith foundation from the mother Anglican Church of England.  But America fought a revolution for its independence from England and has thrived for the past two centuries quite well on its own.  America democratized the church with the invention of the Standing Committee.

While the Episcopal Church of the US clearly wants to remain in communion with the other Anglican Communion members, we are not prepared to sacrifice our independence or subordinate ourselves to a Standing Committee other than our own.  Such a price is too high to pay—-and worse such a price is too high to even have the audacity to ask for.  So the logical answer is no thank you.

In a world full of intolerance, the message from the Diocese of California is clear and unmistakable: 

EVERYONE who loves God and seeks Christ is welcome at our table where we come together to find renewal, hope and unconditional love.