The Acts 8 Steering Committee gathered for its second in-person meeting at Bexley Hall Seminary in Columbus, Ohio from May 5-7. Our agenda was to learn new things from those doing work in all areas of the church, to review what’s worked and what hasn’t over the last year, and to determine ways forward. On this last point, we focused on what Acts 8 is uniquely able to do to proclaim resurrection in the Episcopal Church that does not simply duplicate the efforts of other organizations. We also looked for ways to involve others.
We are grateful to guests who shared their expertise with us about what is going on in the corners of the church and mission field they focus on. Jim Naughton of the Episcopal Cafe and Canticle Communications spoke with us about how the church is getting its message out. Missioners for Fresh Expressions and in the Diocese of Southern Ohio, The Rev. Jane Gerdsen and the Rev. Kyle Stevens explained how Fresh Expressions can invigorate the church in interacting with the greater culture, but noted that it is a complement to, not a substitute for, the parish model. And the Rev. Tom Ferguson (a.k.a. Crusty Old Dean) gave a wide-ranging presentation on the history of missionary societies in the Episcopal Church. While it is in some ways barely conceivable that at one time the Episcopal Church carried out much of its work through geographically dispersed self-funding voluntary affinity groups, through most of the 18th and 19th century that is exactly what happened – sometimes with good results, sometimes not.
Looking back over the things that have worked over the last year, it seems that the Acts 8 Moment’s strong suit is in facilitating conversations about faith and hope among those doing Christ’s work in the Episcopal Church. We have had two notable successes: The Acts 8 BLOGFORCE and our new podcast, The Collect Call.
The Acts 8 BLOGFORCE, led by fearless Wing Commander David Simmons, which puts out questions to the whole church, seeking a response. These have included the Top 10 Signs of Resurrection in the Episcopal Church and an Elevator Pitch for the Episcopal Church. We see this as an opportunity not only to generate and share ideas, but also as a way to encourage the habits of talking about our faith in new ways. Perhaps most importantly, participation in the BLOGFORCE is open to literally anyone with an internet connection. We’re looking for questions that can capture the imagination of the church. Got ideas? Put them in the comments.
Two of our lay members, Holli Powell and Brendan O’Sullivan-Hale, launched The Collect Call podcast (subscribe on iTunes; subscribe using RSS; follow on Soundcloud) as a way to highlight an often-overlooked portion of the Episcopal worship experience, and to share their own stories of faith. We’re thrilled that The Collect Call has received favorable notice, and that what started as an experimental pilot project will continue.
Our efforts going forward will build on these successes. We are working out a more regular BLOGFORCE schedule, and are looking at the possibility of Twitter hashtag parties or other online events to deepen discussion of the questions. We’ll also be looking for opportunities to leverage our podcast learning and infrastructure to introduce new topics in line with our mission to proclaim resurrection.
Over the next year, we plan for more experimentation. Some things will work and others won’t – and that’s ok. But this brings us to how we closed our conversations last month: how do we enable involvement with the Acts 8 Moment? Do we go old school and have a formal membership model with a subscription fee and a newsletter? For now, we’ve decided, no. Our projects over the next year will be very participatory in nature. The more answers we get to BLOGFORCE questions, the better. Holli and Brendan are starting to look for guests to include on the podcast (listen to an episode to learn how to get in touch). So – how to be involved in Acts 8? Participate! We look forward to talking with you online or in person in the coming year.