Bringing Those on the Margins Back to Center

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This is the fifth of a series of follow up reports by Acts 8 on the recipients of Church Planting grants funded through The Episcopal Church budget. The $100,000 grants are matched by local money to make new church starts possible to communities that would not otherwise have the resources to start a new congregation. Brad Bates reports here on Our Lady of Guadalupe, Seattle, which received a grant from the 2012-2015 budget of the church.

Our Lady of Guadalupe Episcopal Church, Seattle, is a bicultural, bilingual, progressive Latino ministry in the Anglo-Catholic tradition. Bolstered by a contribution from the Episcopal Church and a matching endowment from the Diocese of Olympia, the Rev. Alfredo Feregrino planted the Our Lady of Guadalupe congregation in 2014 with a focus on urban Latinos, new-generation Latinos, while also reaching Anglos and non-Latinos.

Our Lady of Guadalupe takes Latino culture and traditions and put them in the midst of Anglo-Catholic worship. They celebrate five Latino cultural festivals each year – Cinco de Mayo, Fiestas Patrias, Dia de Muertos, Our Lady of Guadalupe, Las Posadas and Pastorelas – while incorporating artistic elements of faith and spirituality throughout the liturgical year. This approach can appeal to Latinos and many of whom have never heard of the Episcopal Church, as well as long-time Episcopalians, even if they speak little or no Spanish. All are welcomed and feel loved at our Lady of Guadalupe.

Feregrino was the first Latino ordained in his diocese, and is currently the only church planter. He his ministry is one of radical inclusion and hospitality to men and women who may find themselves socially and economically marginalized. “The goal,” he says, “is to bring those who are out on the margins back to the center,” which is why the Virgin of Guadalupe was selected as the patron saint. The Virgin of Guadalupe is “a symbol of unity that ties perfectly with the mission of the church, which as stated in the Book of Common Prayer’s catechism, is ‘to restore all people to unity with God and each other in Christ’” (p. 855).

“Unity is the core of my theology,” said Feregrino, “which finds its roots in two specific biblical passages. The first is Jesus’ Prayer for unity found in the Gospel of John, which conveys the idea that Jesus kept believers in their faith through divine power: ‘Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one’ (17:11, NRSV).

ourlady3“The second passage is Paul’s letter to the Galatians: ‘there is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus’ (3:28). Paul is declaring the distinctions of race, social status, and gender, which may generally divide people, no longer apply to those in Christ. A new creation is possible; one in which ethnic distinctions no longer matter because we all are one in Christ. It is not that people cease to be male or female; rather, these distinctions are not grounds for exclusion from the life that God offers all persons in Christ. This is not only what I believe as a steward of God’s mysteries, but this is the foundation of the theology of our ministry. Furthermore, this is the reason everybody is welcome to the table at Our Lady of Guadalupe.”

Our Lady of Guadalupe is a small congregation that shares worship space with St. Paul’s Episcopal Church. Feregrino appreciates this relationship. “Although difficulties can and often do arise when sharing space with another church, not having our own building is a good thing because we do not have to worry about expenses associated with owning a building.” Moreover, without permanent building, Our Lady of Guadalupe is better able to “foster unity with other congregations in the community. Not having a facility to limit us to one location gives us more of an opportunity to be the hands and feet of Jesus in our community. Instead of focusing on numbers and rooms, we are able to concentrate on the mission of transforming people into mature disciples for Christ.”

When asked what information, or bits of wisdom, he might pass on to people thinking of planting a church, Feregrino discussed the importance of thinking a plan through, understanding the theology of ministry, and having the willingness to work with different people. “The oneness of the church is a sign and witness to the world that Jesus was who he said he was. The implications of getting this wrong are significant. Therefore, by building bridges of radical hospitality and inclusion, we can all participate in God’s dream of unity where everyone is not only invited to the table, but also able to experience the source of love that is indiscriminate, abundant, and unconditional. Most importantly, though, be humble enough to understand you are not in control. It is God’s church,” he reminds us, “and it will make it with or without you.”

For more information, visit Our Lady of Guadalupe’s website, www.ourladyofguadalupeseattle.org

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How can I revitalize my church without $500k?

This is the question we’ve received in our inboxes, on Facebook, and via phone in the days after Frank Logue posted his article about Grace Yukon (New Life Emerges from a Dying Congregation). We are grateful for his invitation to share the story of Grace and we are grateful for a chance to address this big question that many people raised. Essentially, what can we learn about the factors that are helping Grace Church grow? And what role does funding play?

We started brainstorming factors that have helped Grace Church grow, and the good news is that most of them are FREE! The biggest factors are a vision and an emphasis on reaching new people, welcoming them, and including them in the life of the church. There is an energy at Grace Church that new people feel. They realize that we want them there – we want to learn their story and to share our story with them. This is engrained in our Rule of Life when we talk about Authentic Relationships. So, Grace Church really wants to grow and we’ve created a culture of invitation, hospitality and inclusion and set up intentional processes to do this. We strive to put this into practice everyday.

If you are looking for a place to start on this work, check out Mary Parmer’s work in the Diocese of Texas with Invite, Welcome, Connect. It is a gold mine of ideas, checklists, and resources for inviting people to church, welcoming them (and following up), and then integrating them into your church. And it is FREE. There is no one right way to do this – it is about setting a culture, not copying a method. But many best practices can be found with IWC.

Every church re-vitalization is unique. Ministry is an art, not a science, they say. Re-vitalizations and redevelopments are about creating energy and momentum. There are many re-vitalizations tactics that could do some of the above work and create missional energy and health within a congregation causing it to grow. But it depends on how much momentum a church has and how quickly you need/want to ramp up the momentum.

In the case of Grace Church, the diocese felt like there was a lot of growth opportunity (Yukon is Oklahoma City’s fastest growing suburb) and momentum needed to be built quickly. Bishop Ed Koneizcny and our then Congregational Development Officer, Canon Kevin Martin, felt that a hard re-start would create the most momentum. This meant ceasing Sunday morning worship and entering a Sabbatical period of discernment with the previous congregation. This allowed us to bring along as many people as we could towards a new ministry. About a dozen of those members were excited enough to join us in the full process of discerning and visioning for Grace Church (several more returned when we re-launched as Grace Church).

This essentially left us with the start of a launch team for a new church, which would become Grace. We started meeting and inviting new people to attend community events and some to join the Launch Team. The Launch Team started creating the vision for Grace Church, our Rule of Life, clarity of our mission field, etc. The hard re-start/church plant method created a lot of Spirt-driven momentum and a lot of energy, as church plants frequently do.

But choosing a hard re-start meant essentially starting a whole new church out of an existing facility and maintaining the expenses of that facility while we didn’t have a congregation. This is why grant money was so essential for us. Plus, to have one full time and one half time clergy dedicated to this project, you need financial support. All church plants do.

Our goal from the beginning has been to plant a program sized church in Yukon, OK of at least 300-350 ASA. In addition to us as the clergy, the grant money allowed us to hire a part-time music minister and paid nursery staff from the start. Essentially, grant money allowed us to provide some staff before we could otherwise have afforded it. That is what grant money can buy. But money is useless without the vision and clarity of mission – without a passion for evangelism and including new people in the body of Christ.

Our grant money is spread out over 4-5 years and steps down as our congregation becomes financially self-sufficient. We are essentially a church plant and we are on our way to becoming a parish, but still have a lot of work to do.

Simply put, it takes money to do ministry. It takes dioceses and bishops willing to invest in people and resources. This is absolutely essential for re-starts and church plants. Maybe your diocese has it or maybe you will have to raise it. But money does follow mission. If God has planted a call in you to start a new church or to re-start a church, the money is out there. It just needs to be invited to be used for the Kingdom of God.

Maybe you are in a smaller church and wondering, “Is there a cheaper way to do re-vitalizations?” Absolutely. Get to work now. The harvest is plentiful, Jesus said. So spend some time reading the Apostle Paul and channel his urgency and zeal. Let’s get passionate about evangelism, about hospitality, about reaching out and including people. Let’s get intentional about our processes and practices! Let’s open ourselves to change and being flexible. And let’s do it before we are so limited on people and financial resources that it takes an infusion of cash and a re-start to get things rolling!

Do we believe the Episcopal Church has Good News to share?

If so, then figure out what your church has to offer. If you aren’t passionate about your worship and ministry or you don’t know what your church does well, then no amount of money can help – only prayer and discernment. But figure out what you do well and what enlivens your congregation. Maybe it is a fantastic Outreach Ministry. Maybe it is connecting people to the Sacraments though inspiring and accessible worship (so many evangelicals are thirsty for this). Maybe it is your small group ministry or kid’s ministry. Whatever it is, do it well, and get excited about it.

Knowing what you have to offer is important. But also look around and see what your community needs. Where do your gifts align? Can you be a different kind of church in your city? Start hanging out with new people… get to know them for who they are… show them you want authentic Christ centered relationships. Invite. Welcome. Connect.

-The Revs. Kirsten and Tim Baer

New Life Emerges from a Dying Congregation

Resurrection is taking place in Oklahoma as a once dying Episcopal Church has found new life in birthing a new congregation. The Church of the Savior in Yukon was down to 36 active members when worship stopped for a sabbatical period of discernment. What followed was new birth as the Revs. Tim and Kirsten Baer, funded in large part by a $100,000 Church Planting Grant from the Episcopal Church and a $500,000 grant from the Diocese of Oklahoma, forged a new vision and kindled a sense of hope as they worked with a dozen members to reboot the church.

Our Savior became Grace as the new vision and new sense of calling needed a new name, like Saul becoming Paul as he responded to the call to be an Apostle to the Gentiles. They became a church for post-evangelical Christians who as Tim says, “Don’t want to give up Jesus, but they need a new lens for the Bible, for theology, and for how to do church.”

Learning from the emerging church as they sought to build a traditional one, the Baers brought a church plant mentality and a missional eye to the struggling congregation. They had a clear vision for their unique mission field and a willingness to flex the tradition in order to reach new people.

Newly graduated from seminary, the Baers looked around their mission field, which was a little more than 5-mile radius, and asked where they fit into the church landscape. The two priests realized their niche was a “third way” in a via media between traditional organ and choir led worship and the contemporary mega-church rock band churches that are so entertainment driven. Kirsten says, “We blend old and new, ancient and modern, and connect liturgy and sacraments to people’s lives.” Tim adds, “Some people come to Grace and say ‘whoa, this is really traditional’ and others say, ‘whoa, this is really contemporary.’ We consider that a good thing – it means we’ve struck the via media.”

The Baers now see how once the vision clarified all of the decisions came easier—worship style, music, projector screens, how to do hospitality, and a focus on Anglican Essentials for newcomers—as they looked for ways to translate the tradition and make it accessible. Tim notes, “We are ‘lowering the speed bump’ into the Episcopal Church—all the while not throwing out the baby with the bath water.”

The vision for Grace included those who were already part of the congregation becoming evangelists too. Kirsten recalls that those existing members who had the courage to join in the rebirth became passionate and excited about creating a Christian community that could spark a connection with their children and grandchildren. Kirsten said, “We emphasized our hope of being an intergenerational church and they also desperately wanted that.”

Looking back, Kirsten says she sees how some people who started out nervous and even angry became the biggest supporters and most successful evangelists. Kirsten said, “They brought family and friends and quickly helped us grow the church. It was an exciting process to see people’s hearts and minds change and in such a missional way.”

Two further components were unique in their early emphasis at Grace Church—Hospitality and a Rule of Life:

Hospitality
Thirty percent of the congregation trained as Hospitality members. While there is a rotation, the saying is that “Even when you are not on duty, you are on duty.” Within 48 hours they get a phone call, email or card depending on the information provided. The retention rate for those who attend is roughly fifty percent. Beyond this hospitality, there is always something new to invite others to and there are lots of ways to connect to the community.

Rule of Life
The Rule of Life focuses on Authentic Relationships, Sacramental Lives, and Generous Hearts (http://graceyukon.org/content.cfm?id=306). “The Rule of Life leveraged the vision for the whole community” Tim said. To move people from visiting to fully being part of Grace Church a Foundations of Grace Course starts with the Rule of Life and the vision for Grace Church. Part of each first session is to ask people where they have seen the Rule of Life exemplified in the community. Often they will say something like “I saw authentic relationships as soon as I walked in the door.” People report experiencing authenticity right away and connect that this is what they do want church to be about. Visitors in various ways say they sense the intentionality behind our worship and find it very accessible.

New Challenges
Now two and a half years into the reboot, as more former evangelicals have found a home at Grace the church has baptized their spouses and children. Twenty percent the church is comprised of new Christians. The ongoing growth has led to new challenges.

For the first year the challenge was forging and living into the new vision. In the second year, the challenge was to create more programs. They launched their second service last year with 9:15 and 11 a.m. liturgies on Sundays. This contributed to a 40% rise in attendance in just over six months from 115 in attendance on an average Sunday to 160-165 in two services.

In the last year, Grace Church not only launched a second Sunday morning liturgy, but they also started a youth ministry and formed three outreach ministry teams—a hunger team, a mentor ministry team, and a laundry love ministry. Now as they are past year two, the challenge has been to create more committees. “It’s not sexy, but it has been essential work to support the ministry and growth,” Tim says.

By the end of 2015, Grace Yukon had about 200 members on the roles together with more people who attend, but have yet to join. Tim says, “What I find amazing is that we have done over 40 baptisms. About a third have been infants, a third older kids, and a third adults.”

Kirsten adds that the growth at Grace, “was about reaching those closest to them with good news of Jesus. Relational evangelism is really what helped us grow especially in the very beginning.”


Grace Church’s Leadership Team

The Collect Call: Church Planting in the Suburbs

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Image: Andrew Comings, published under a CC BY license.

The budget passed at General Convention directed significant funding toward church planting. But the Episcopal Church is a little out of the habit, so we don’t have a good feel for what church planting looks like. Here are two examples of the form it might take in the suburbs – we talk to the planters behind Emmaus Episcopal Church in Surprise, Arizona, and Good Samaritan Episcopal Church in Brownsburg, Indiana. Bonus! Find the interview transcript after the jump.

Continue reading The Collect Call: Church Planting in the Suburbs

#GC78 Resurrection Report: July 3, 2015

From beginning to end, the 78th General Convention of the Episcopal Church was filled with resurrection moments, moments where it was clear to everyone in attendance that this church was alive and kicking, or as the Presiding Bishop said last week, “Get up, girl! You’re not dead yet!” Here are a few of my favorite moments from today.


 

Presiding Bishop-elect Curry preached at the Convention’s closing Eucharist today. His sermon is well worth your time.


 

Not long after Bishop-elect Curry finished his sermon, he got a surprise from Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori and another somewhat important person.

 

 


 

The House of Bishops also sent Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori off with a resounding round of applause.

Photo credit: @LIDiocese on Twitter.
Photo credit: @LIDiocese on Twitter.

 

Both houses adjourned before the scheduled “Sine Die” time of 6:30 pm, with the House of Deputies ending at 6:10 pm after one final song from our beloved chaplain, Lester Mackenzie. Ever wonder what Sine Die means? It means to adjourn a meeting with no appointed time for resumption.


 

Overall, if I had to describe this General Convention in three words, it would be “Go–follow Jesus!” From our choice of a new Presiding Bishop to the priorities made clear by the Houses to the spirit permeating the Salt Palace, everything we did pointed towards the love and redemption of Jesus. We are poised to do amazing things this next triennium–I can’t wait to hear all about them! Don’t wait until Austin 2018 though–we always want your stories on Facebook or Twitter.

Until next time, respectfully submitted, yo yo yo,

Holli Powell, Chief Resurrection Reporter

#GC78 Resurrection Report: July 2, 2015

Wow. What a legislative day. Today the House of Deputies stood in session for almost seven full hours. Some resurrection moments from the floor today:

  • The House of Deputies voted through an amended budget which included nearly $3 million in additional money for evangelism efforts (church planting and Latino ministries) as well as additional funding for The Episcopal Network for Stewardship. The House of Bishops concurred.
  • Both Houses also passed new structure resolutions, reducing CCABs and changing Executive Council’s authority with regard to executive officers. See here for more details.
  • The House of Deputies concurred with two amendments from the HoB (C045 and A030), creating a climate change advisory committee and directing the Investment Committee of Executive Council and the Episcopal Church Endowment to divest from fossil fuel investments and reinvest in clean energy.
  • The president of the Episcopal Church in South Carolina rose to the floor of the House of Deputies to say, “We aren’t going anywhere!” and to thank the House for its support.
Photo credit: Chuck Stewart, Twitter at @stewartcn.
Photo credit: Chuck Stewart, Twitter at @stewartcn.

 

We also received several mentions of today’s worship service as particularly uplifting, from the baby being held by the lector to the featured music to the invigorating sermon preached by the Rev. Colin Mathewson from the Diocese of San Diego (read full text or watch here).


Are you on Instagram? Have you taken a scroll through the #gc78 hashtag to see what people are seeing here in Salt Lake City? If not, check it out here. (You can access this link without logging into Instagram, by the way.)


 

Today I received this text from a friend. What we do here matters. What we do here is a witness to the love of Jesus in the world. Thanks be to God!
Today I received this text from a friend. What we do here matters. What we do here is a witness to the love of Jesus in the world. Thanks be to God!

Tomorrow’s the final day! Don’t forget to send any pictures, stories, blog posts, or notes to gcreporting@acts8moment.org before you pack up and go in peace to love and serve the Lord!

 

#GC78 Resurrection Report: July 1, 2015

Resurrection is not an easy thing.  It requires death before it can occur.  Today at General Convention has been a day celebrated by many, and mourned by others.

Screen Shot 2015-07-02 at 12.43.42 AMThe day began with worship to the sound of Japanese Taiko Drums by Kenshin Taiko, with a moving sermon by The Rev. Becca Stevens, founder of Magdalene and Thistle Farms.  The commemoration was of Hiram Hisanori Kano, who was a missionary among the Japanese-American population throughout the Southwest.  The presider was the Rt. Rev. Scott Hayashi, Bishop of Utah.  During the day, testimony was given by deputies and visitors of Japanese-American descent as to how powerful the service was and how much it affirmed their ethnic identity within the church.

The budget was presented today.  It will go to deliberation in the House of Deputies tomorrow.

Many of the structure resolutions that evolved from the TREC report, Episcopal Resurrection, and other sources were passed through the House of Deputies.  Many of them are still being weighed in the House of Bishops.

Of course, the biggest news is the passage by votes of orders of the rites and canonical changes made to bring about the possibility of same-gender marriage in states where such is legal.  It is a cause of great happiness for much of the convention, and of sadness for others.  The House of Deputies acted with great decorum, restraining applause and celebration.  A deputy from Albany thanked the convention for showing restraint and care for the minority.

At the end of the day, the Union of Black Episcopalians and Acts8 gathered at the Hilton ballroom for a discussion of race and mission.  It was an event that had many positive aspects, but also highlighted in it’s very format the fact that we still have a long way to go in the way we talk about race as a church, even among those of us who consider ourselves dedicated allies.  Acts8 would like to thank all those who participated.

Resurrection cannot happen until we die to the things that hold us back.  What is it that holds us back?  Racism and privilege?  Buildings and endowments?  Political constructions of liberal or conservative?  The Gospel tells us we must give up all that does not serve the kingdom.  We must die to ourselves so that we may receive everlasting life now, and in the age to come.

Where do you see resurrection?

#GC78 Resurrection Report: June 30, 2015

As the weather in Salt Lake City turns windy (seriously, did anyone else whisper to themselves “I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore” this evening?), resurrection keeps on happening, just like the Lord intended.


 

Worship this morning was particularly lovely, featuring the Rev. Kimberly Jackson from the Absalom Jones Episcopal Center as preacher.


 

The House of Bishops today passed two resolutions about climate change: C045, calling for divestment from fossil fuel investing, and A030, establishing a climate change advisory committee. These resolutions will now move to the House of Deputies for concurrence.


 

In possibly one of the most photographed moments of General Convention so far, the past, present, and future Presiding Bishops of the Episcopal Church appeared together in the House of Deputies.

Bishop Curry, Bishop Jefferts Schori, and Bishop Griswold. Photo credit: Susan Brown Snook.
Bishop Curry, Bishop Jefferts Schori, and Bishop Griswold. Photo credit: Susan Brown Snook.

Raves are flooding into the Resurrection Report about the Episcopal Service Corps dinner this evening, where Presiding Bishop-elect Curry spoke. One quote I received from his speech: “We who follow Jesus do not settle. Because we have a savior who did not settle for powers of evil but rose above them.”


 

And finally, in another point of personal privilege, The Collect Call’s first live recording is now available on iTunes, Soundcloud, or wherever you listen to podcasts. Featuring Kyle Oliver, Lisa Kimball, Sean Maloney, David Simmons, and a lively studio audience, this has so far been the most fun I’ve had at General Convention hands down.

 

#GC78 Resurrection Report: June 29, 2015

Happy Hump Day, General Conventionistas! That’s right–it may not seem like it now, but we’ve now reached the downhill slope, with only four legislative days remaining until adjournment.


We received a photo submission from The Very Rev. Cliff Haggenjos of the Diocese of Northern California. Taken at Sunday’s march against gun violence, he notes, “It is for these little ones that we march and witness to love.”

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How often do you hear Jesus being talked about in a budget meeting? Thanks be to God for Presiding Bishop-elect Michael Curry for bringing his message to the Programs Budget & Finance Committee today.


The House of Bishops passed resolution A054 today, the resolution which will allow same-sex marriages in the Episcopal Church. This resolution now heads to the House of Deputies for concurrence.

Not to be outdone, the House of Deputies passed several key evangelism resolutions, including $5 million for church planting, $1 million to revitalize existing congregations, and $3 million for digital evangelism. (Read an excellent summary of these resolutions here.) These resolutions will move to the House of Bishops.


 

Also today, on the floor of the House of Deputies, a moving moment submitted by many readers occurred when the entire deputation of the Diocese of Mississippi rose to the platform to support resolution D044, encouraging removal of the Confederate battle flag.

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What’s your resurrection story? What’s been giving you life–other than coffee and the free candy in the exhibit hall? Send your tweets, blog posts, pictures, or stories to gcreporting@acts8moment.org.

 

#GC78 Resurrection Report: June 28, 2015

No day of rest here in Salt Lake City, people of God. Your elected representatives at General Convention were a busy group today just like any other day.


The day began early, with a march organized by Bishops United Against Gun Violence which had over 1500 attendees walking through the streets of SLC. More details, including video, can be found here.

Photo credit: Bishop Ian Douglas, @ctbishopian on Twitter.
Photo credit: Bishop Ian Douglas, @ctbishopian on Twitter.

Following that, the convocation gathered for the traditional UTO Ingathering and Eucharist. The crowd audibly gasped when the final total was announced–over the last triennium, UTO had raised over $4 million for their work.


 

For those of you at home, here’s a short video showing just how incredible worshipping with so many fellow Episcopalians can be.


 

Overheard: “Look around–resurrection is always emerging.”–Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, in her sermon today.


Tonight, TransEpiscopal held a Eucharist service. Thanks to Kori Pacyniak for posting this clip.


 

Nurya Love Parish of ChurchWork writes this helpful post about how General Convention is doing with caring for God’s creation.


Finally, in a point of personal privilege (sorry, I’ve been in the House of Deputies too long), the Acts 8 Moment’s podcast about prayer, The Collect Call, held a live recording of its show this evening. Joining hosts Brendan O’Sullivan-Hale and yours truly were Kyle Oliver and Lisa Kimball from Easter People, Sean Maloney from Padre’s Pods (via the telephone), and the Rev. David Simmons as our special live music DJ. Look for the episode on the Acts 8 Moment website later this week!

From left to right: Oliver, Kimball, Powell, O'Sullivan-Hale, Simmons. Front row: Grumpy Episcopal Cat.
From left to right: Oliver, Kimball, Powell, O’Sullivan-Hale, Simmons. Front row: Grumpy Episcopal Cat.

 


Where are you seeing new life at General Convention? Send me your stories, pictures, blogposts, roundups at gcreporting@acts8moment.org!