Category Archives: Stories

Laundry Love

Laundry Love from The Episcopal Church on Vimeo.

The video above shows love in action with a ministry which any church of any size could take on if it is near a population of homeless persons. Watch as an Episcopal Church named Thad’s offers Laundry Love. As the Rev. Jimmy Bartz tells it, this is modern day footwashing. Community develops around washers and dryers as a practical need is met. Thad’s didn’t create the idea, but when they heard of Laundry Love in Huntington Beach, they knew it would fit their Venice Beach community and their church.

Pacific Inland Northwest Exchange

This is the fifth in a series of reports on initiatives funded through the budget of The Episcopal Church in its grants to Mission Enterprise Zones. Acts 8 Moment also has a series of reports on those receiving Church Planting Grants.

The Pacific Inland Northwest Exchange is a mission exchange program operated as a ministry of the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist in Spokane supported by the Episcopal Diocese of Spokane. PINE works in partnership with the West Central Episcopal Mission and Between the Ridges on the Yakama Reservation. PINE invites youth groups from within or outside our Diocese to spend a week serving at mission sites in Spokane and the Yakima Valley. Adults accompany those under 18, as young as 10. Groups are placed in sites which match their interest so that the work on the mission can translate into outreach they can continue in their home communities.

Michelle Klippert, youth minister at the Cathedral of St. John in Spokane, and Tracey Waring, a lay leader at St. Andrew’s in Spokane (Klippert and Waring are pictured at left). The idea for the mission exchange developed out of conversations among youth workers in the Diocese. Meanwhile, the Episcopal Church moved to a model of asset-based community development for ministries. “Looking at the diocese’s assets, the idea of mission trips arose,” Waring said. Between the Ridges, Campbell Farm, the Cathedral, St. Andrew’s and West Central Episcopal Mission decided to create mission opportunities for youth.

In 2014, PINE hosted summer mission experiences for middle- and high-school youthgroups from June 23 to July 18 at the West Central Episcopal Mission in Spokane and from July 21 to August 8 in the Yakima Valley.

In Spokane, youth started the day at a summer food program based in the West Central Episcopal Mission, formerly Holy Trinity Church. Teens served meals and worked with children. In the afternoon, they worked with Our Place, Project Hope and other agencies to do yard cleanup for West Central Neighbors.

In Yakima, youth worked with Campbell Farm’s summer food program in the morning and at different agencies in the afternoon, such as the food bank, Noah’s Ark and a Yakama Indian Nation yard clean-up program.

Late afternoons and early evenings, there was recreation. Every night ended with worship. Participants kept a notebook with responses to questions created to stir theological reflection on what they were doing and why they did it: “Who are my neighbors? Where did I see the face of Christ today?” They also discussed their experiences.

Speaking of the value of this program and others like it, Klippert said, “There is power in taking youth out of their home town and showing them poverty somewhere else, where they can see it clearly,” she said. “Once they recognize poverty, it’s hard to ignore it at home.” Michelle said youth return committed to help people in need in their hometown. A mission trip sets the foundation for their engaging in ministry from helping as acolytes to volunteering at a food bank.

Part of the mission of PINE in Spokane was to run a Stone Soup Café for 10 weeks, serving breakfast and lunch, and offering a program using “Godly Play,” building Bible stories in Lego, music, crafts and other activities.

Dixie, a youth participant, learned that many children don’t have access to art and craft supplies at home.

“Putting a piece of paper in their hand and watching their creative side fly was the best part of working with PINE,” she said.

Over the summer, the Stone Soup Café served 36 three-to-13-year-old children and about 40 teens from Project Hope a total of 4,761 meals. Youth in Project Hope run two urban farms, grow vegetables, mow lawns and sell what they grow in an open market.

Children caught “doing good” earned blessing bucks they used to buy ice cream or school supplies for their backpacks.

In addition to the $20,000 Mission Enterprise Zone grant, Bishop James Waggoner, Jr., contributed $5,000 and spent time with the children. Each youth paid $300 for the week with these fees raising $3,000. The USDA funded food. About $10,000 is left from the grant, and the diocese now includes PINE in its budget.

Kairos West Community Center

This is the fourth in a series of reports on initiatives funded through the budget of The Episcopal Church in its grants to Mission Enterprise Zones. Acts 8 Moment also has a series of reports on those receiving Church Planting Grants.

Many churches offer programs extending beyond the parish. But how might churches build real relationships outside our red doors? Kairos West is a new initiative in Western North Carolina that seeks to be the Church in the world. Funded in part by a Mission Enterprise Zone grant from The Episcopal Church, they are creating a community space that is dedicated to, and steeped in, relationship and community building in order to offer a visible and practical extension of the Church.

As a new work of the Asheville’s Cathedral of All Souls and the Diocese of Western North Carolina, Kairos West Community Center in West Asheville is a sacred space in a secular world. Accessible to all and set apart for community building, Kairos West helps empower emerging local leadership through art, liturgy, and social service in the spirit of Jesus.

The $20,000 Mission Enterprise Zone grant, which was matched locally, enabled the community center to open the doors of its space at 742 Haywood Road in June 2014, as well as create a website and begin hosting gatherings of volunteers and leaders. The cost of the project is actually quite minimal. With no staff costs, the funds raised through grants and donations cover the expenses so the center can offer use of its space for free to groups that fit the mission of Kairos West.

The Rev. Milly Morrow, Canon Missioner for the Cathedral who has overseen the work, says, “Being commerce-free is a core tenet of Kairos West Community Center.  We create space where we subvert the tendency to relate to each other through commerce (the buying and selling of goods and products) and instead make relationship our valued currency.” She adds, “We feel in this way we rid ourselves of many barriers to being truly present with each other and allow for the work of the Spirit to be manifest through our common work for justice and mercy.”

Kairos West Community Center exists to be a place of “radical welcome”. With representation from multiple denominations and a central location, Kairos  offers a neutral, open meeting ground and place for collaboration across sub-cultural, socio-economic and racial lines. Since launching, Kairos has partnered with 16 groups that now use the space, including the Asheville Radical Mental Health Collective, Asheville Youth Mission, Soulspeak youth poetry collective and Asheville Transformers (advocacy and support for the trans community in Asheville). It has also collaborated with Hillcrest Apartments in an early voting March and Roll to the Polls, held a vigil for Ferguson, Missouri, and launched ongoing free food markets and potlucks.

Co-founder Bill Buchanan explains they are not “marketing” to a particular culture nor prescribing what culture should look like — they’re simply catalyzing initiatives and individuals in this community that are meeting those human needs.

“The church’s job is to remind us that we are actually subversive; we need to bring about justice and mercy and love,” adds Morrow.

Among the sacred uses of the space, a group gathers on Tuesday and Thursday mornings at the Center for Morning Prayer. They chant the prayers and psalms in a service no longer than thirty minutes that allows participants to move into the rest of their day renewed by common prayer.

The group is denominationally diverse. In his role as associate minister of St. Paul Missionary Baptist Church, Kairos co-founder The Rev. James Lee pastors a largely aging congregation. “If we continue to do church in the same way, it will be a dead church,” he says. “And the black church, as far as being a vibrant part of the African-American community, will no longer exist. What will that mean for the church, and what will that mean for our community?”

For Lee, church buildings can actually divide the community as we gather together with people of similar socio-economic or ethnic backgrounds that do not reflect the community. Kairos then serves as a place that multiple faiths, non-faiths and diverse cultures can gather to further the common cause of justice and community empowerment.

All of the emerging leaders that hold gatherings at Kairos West commit to the core mission, offering their gatherings free of charge and they themselves do not get paid for the work they do at the center. Kairos West in turn supports the leaders with spiritual direction, access to resources for learning, free space and opportunities to build community together and network and organize.

Asked what she has learned through the process of founding the community center, Morrow says, “If I were to begin again, I would have a more diverse core group (age, race, denominations, class, gender, ethnicity, orientation, and unhoused).” She notes that the time to address this is not after the mission statement is written and the grant has come in, but from the very outset.

“The church is, first, the body of Christ,” says Morrow. “The people gathered in remembrance of Christ and Christ’s work in their world. And it’s for us to continue that — which is work of justice and mercy. We as humans don’t always prioritize justice and mercy, and so it is this constant need to subvert that human tendency for commerce, for gaining wealth and power.”

For Morrow, Kairos West is an experiment and it will take some time to assess whether it meets its stated purpose. She says, “It may be that it is a great service to the community for three years and then the energy needs to move on, or it may be at 742 Haywood Street for the next fifty years.” She adds, “As long as we are needed, we will do the work to remain open.”

Kairos West Community Center is a bold experiment, serving as a subversive catalyst for the Gospel beyond the walls of the Church. This empowering of the emerging leader is grounded in Christ’s call to equip the Saints for the work of justice and mercy in our broken world.

St. Columba’s Church Replant in Pa’auilo, Hawai’i

This is the third in a series of reports on initiatives funded through the budget of The Episcopal Church in its grants to Mission Enterprise Zones. Acts 8 Moment also has a series of reports on those receiving Church Planting Grants.
A Mission Enterprise Zone grant from The Episcopal Church is helping with the rebirth of St. Columba’s Episcopal Mission, in Pa’auilo, Hawai’i. Established in 1898 to serve the owners, managers and workers of the Hamakua Sugar Company, by the 1970s St. Columba’s had become the Filipino Church on the Big island. After the last sugar cane on the Hamakua Coast was harvested in 1996, the mission struggled to keep its doors open. St. Columba’s became a Preaching Station of St. James’ Church, offering a monthly Eucharist for the 8-10 faithful remaining members.

In early 2013, St. James’ congregation asked the Rev. Tom Buechele to help the Rev. David Stout, Rector at St. James, “replant” St. Columba’s. Buechele had been serving as an interim priest at Big Island churches, and felt drawn to explore the mission possibility at St. Columba’s. With a missionary spirit and a great deal of demographic research, the replant got underway.  On Easter Sunday 2013, St. Columba’s was reborn. They are now using a Mission Enterprise Zone Grant in support of their efforts to attract the growing population along the Hamakua Coast, from Kukuihailae to Honokaa to Laupahoehoe. Members of St. James, Waimea, St. Jude, Ocean View, and St. Augustine, Kapa’au helped with the initial replant efforts by making a commitment to walk alongside St. Columba’s Church.

Less than a year into the replant, Buechele moved to the mainland to retire. Without a priest on the island who could lead the church, the congregation turned to a Lay Missioner. Elizabeth Lewin had just completed 2 ½ years of Clinical Pastoral Education (hospital chaplaincy residency). Stout knew Lewin from his tenure at St. Bartholomew’s in New York City and after an interview, he extended a call. Lewin had long felt a call to the priesthood. The opportunity presented her with the chance to explore the local formation program. Stout says, “Elizabeth has been a great asset, greatly gifted in the areas of pastoral care and evangelism.”

Stout notes that the challenge has been providing formation and supervision from a distance.  Elizabeth and Steve McPeek, the congregation’s minister of music, having been raised up for ordination to priesthood, will now begin flying to Oahu once a month for classes and formation.  A new priest to the Island, the Rev. Diana Akiyama, has agreed to serve as Vicar-in-Charge for the next six months. Elizabeth will continue to live in the house on the St. Columba’s property while providing pastoral care and leading evangelism efforts and outreach to youth.

Throughout this time, the membership has been steadily growing. From December 2013 to December 2014, the Average Sunday Attendance (ASA) rose 86% from 23 to 43. Part of that growth has come through on-going attempts to reconnect with families who may have worshiped at St. Columba’s in the past. One way they have sought to do this was by offering a Homecoming Sunday, which brought 65 people to worship and, more importantly, rekindled the connection to history, culture, childhood memories, and life events. Many former members who had moved away after the Plantation shut down have begun coming back to St. Columba’s. They are reclaiming their childhood or ancestral spiritual home.

With the Plantation property being sold, new people are moving into the area and building homes. St. Columba’s is striving to reach out and attract these newcomers. Many of them are from the mainland or other islands. In their very rural part of the Big Island, a significant aspect of St. Columba’s ministry is providing a place of community and connection. The congregation is multi-denominational, multicultural, multi-generational and includes parishioners who are original families from the Plantation era, Filipino, Japanese, Hawai’ian and Haole (Caucasian).


  • Because of restrictions, the church cannot put a sign on the highway. So, they used their nearby cemetery for a new sign (pictured here). Banners on the church lawn have also added visibility and promoted initiatives, such as the after school program.
  • Early in the replanting process, St. Columba’s did not have infrastructure to provide care for children that might have come. The old church office was refurbished and dedicated as a children’s room. They also placed a glider in the back of the church for a parent with a baby to use during worship.
  • Despite trying several programs and ministries during the week, they have yet to find one that really attracts participation. They have offered a children’s Bible class and a trained Godly Play storyteller on Wednesdays, a healing service on Wednesdays, Morning Prayer on Mondays, and organized a grounds & planting and a cleaning day.
  • St. Columba’s is especially struggling to find a children’s program offering that works. The church is directly down the hill from the elementary school, yet so far no programs have been effective. They have talked to parents in the community and discovered that one issue is that many children are cared for by their grandparents. Many grandparents (and some parents) don’t have cars, and those that do are using them for work.

  • A recent study in the Church of England revealed that congregations that have a continual pastoral presence in the congregation and community, as opposed to a different person each Sunday, are more likely to grow.  St. Columba’s has been intentional in providing pastoral support for local families at risk, spending time visiting individuals and families in the congregation and newcomers in their homes. Pastoral care for the sick and acute/long term hospital care, bringing the Eucharist to home and hospital bound, praying, getting to know family members who work in the community—these are credited with being a part of the growth the congregation has experienced.


  • The church baptized four persons in 2014 and one more will be baptized this month. St. Columba’s officially welcomed seven new members this past year. To assist in incorporation of new members, they have designated several “Welcome Sundays” with a liturgy welcoming new members and marking this important decision.
  • While difficulties remain in connecting to children during the week, St. Columba’s has worked hard to incorporate the children they do have into Sunday worship. Children collect the offering almost every week, carry the cross, and bring the food offering forward (food items collected are given to Annunciation Roman Catholic Church Food Pantry in Waimea). Children ring the bell at the start at worship, and they have recently started using a child lector.

  • A potluck immediately following worship has become a key opportunity for connection. The food provided is reflective of their ethnically diverse population. Lewin says, “It is a joyous, delicious time for fellowship and hospitality feeding the body and the spirit.” The are trying to help people from different backgrounds get to one another. One way they do that is by encouraging people to sit together, mix and recently they asked people to sit with someone they do not know.
  • The best source of evangelism has been by word of mouth, going out into the community and building relationships through “talk story” and an open invitation to come for worship and and stay for the potluck. Parishioners have evangelized in Honaka’a, Christmas caroling with townspeople on First Friday. They distributed leaflets and post cards telling about programs.

Lewin said, “Mission Grant funds and support is giving the church time and space for people in need of relationship with God. This is the beginning and God said ‘It is good!’” She added, “We are continually given a glimpse of what a thriving church can be – with sounds of children, mothers/fathers with newborns, old members and new members getting to know each other, trusting that they are cared for and that this is a safe and a soft place to fall into the loving arms of our Lord Jesus Christ. A place to practice our spiritual muscles and building the foundation for a future.”

Lessons from a Coffee Shop with a Church

This is the third 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.

The Abbey is a coffee shop with a church founded in a partnership between the Episcopal Diocese of Alabama and St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Birmingham. When this new effort is fully launched in February 2015, The Abbey will provide coffee, tea, baked goods, and light lunches while also serving as a comfortable space to explore issues of faith and spirituality. In the meantime, a group of about 15 have been worshiping together as the Abbey, worshiping in the building on Sunday afternoons where the coffee shop will open.

The Abbey is influenced by the tradition of many monks and nuns who took on various secular professions – teaching, nursing, crafting, and even brewing beer. Besides being a way for monastics to support themselves, these were also ways in which ordinary folks came into contact with religious life. The Abbey hopes to be a place to rediscover and reimagine the traditions of the Christian Church in order to make Christianity readily available to anyone who wants to engage with it.

“As the world moves further away from the Church, it is time for the Church to move deeper into the world,” said the Rev. Katie Nakamura Rengers, The Abbey’s vicar. “This does not mean secularizing the Church — The Abbey is not an Episcopal Starbucks — but rather rediscovering and reimagining the traditions of the Church in order to make Christianity readily available to anyone who wants to engage with it.”

“One of my reservations, when I first conceived of the Abbey, was that a Christian coffee shop can come across as really creepy. There are certain types of churches that, if they started a coffee shop, I just wouldn’t go near it,” Rengers said. “If you want to get a cup of coffee and enjoy the place and leave, that’s totally fine with us. We aren’t trying to evangelize that way.”

Katie knows the area well. She is a cradle Episcopalian who grew up in the same Avondale neighborhood of Birmingham where The Abbey is located. She studied music in college, then went to seminary at Virginia Theological Seminary. Katie and her husband, Josiah, served two small parishes in the Black Belt before moving back to Birmingham.

In August, 2012, the Bishop’s office paid for Rengers to attend the Church Planter’s Academy which was held at Solomon’s Porch in Minneapolis. There she learned of “3rd Space Ministries.” As she recalls from that meeting, “If Church is only available on Sunday mornings and Wednesday nights, we’ve already lost… because people no longer block out those times specifically for worship.” If the Church building is open and available all week, for many uses and many purposes and particularly for activities that build community, then we are able to make spirituality and religion available at all those times as well.

Out of this desire to establish what Bishop Kee Sloan described as a “Church without Walls” a unique partnership developed between the diocese and a parish. Rengers will continue as a member of the staff St. Luke’s while serving as The Abbey’s vicar. The Rev. Kelley Hudlow will serve The Abbey as vocational deacon. Carrie Black, a member of the choir at the Cathedral Church of the Advent in Birmingham, has been hired as the coffee shop manager.

Visitors to The Abbey can look forward to great coffee, espresso and light lunches and snacks, “Java & Jesus” night; “Purple Hours” with our bishops; art and gifts for sale from around the diocese; a listening corner; a small group meeting space that will be perfect for reunion groups and bible studies; and new forms of worship. They also gather each Sunday at 3 p.m. for the Eucharist.

The Abbey has provided part of the match for the $100,000 Church Planting Grant with crowdfunding on Indiegogo. The goal is to raise an additional $40,000 to make the full launch possible.

“The churches have started realizing recently in past years is that millennials have all but quit going to church,” Rengers said. “We need some ways to reach out into the community and into the world that are different than what we’ve always done, which is kind of staying behind our stained glass windows and closed doors.”

In reflecting on her more than a year of work on this new start, Rengers said, “At least once a day I tell my husband (who is also a priest) that I’m going to quit my job and renounce my orders.” She added, “But alongside the immense frustration has come incredible spiritual renewal, and a deepening sense of how God is calling the Church to respond to the needs of the 21st century. I’m sure my team would agree that building The Abbey has taken a level of courage and faith that we didn’t know we had.”

During this past year, Rengers has learned some lessons that should assist those who follow. Most of these center around being clear and open about expectations as well as communications among those making decisions. Some key points:

  • Provide clear guidance
    The Diocese needs to create a guidebook (or offer a committee, or policies, or some similar assistance) to help new ministry leaders wade through the muddy waters of church bureaucracy. This will make it clear who needs what reports when and what approvals are needed for which steps. It is difficult enough to deal with over-eager developers, grumpy architects, pharisaical city officials, health department inspectors, and on and on. Dealing with others within the church should be made as easy and as transparent as possible.
  • Follow input from those to be served
    If The Abbey is to succeed at all in its primary mission – to reach out to younger adults and the unchurched – then it HAS to be the visioning work of younger people.  Millennials, unfortunately, have zero power in the Episcopal Church.  They also know that they have no power, so they give up easily. The church needs to listen, really listen, to those we want to serve.
  • Fund for success
    A “church without walls” still costs money, and more than one might first guess. Start-up costs for The Abbey include architect’s fees, build-out of the coffee bar and equipment.  Then, they’ll be hiring 5 or 6 employees, purchasing initial inventory and advertising the business to the world. Whatever your model for a new church start, that model needs to include realistic funding that can be sustained across a lengthy start up period.
  • Bring in Professionals
    Good professional advice is critical and it is not always easy to find. The recent Taskforce for Reimagining the Episcopal Church final report calls for the development of regional commissions of architects, builders, developers, etc. Rengers says these should be Episcopalians in good standing who actively participate in the life of the Church. She adds that it would be helpful for the Bishop to speak honestly and openly with them about what services they are and aren’t willing to offer for free. This will give new ministries the professional advice they need to succeed.

Rengers in looking back on the year of work says, “I was comforted by one of my colleague’s sermon words yesterday on the 4th Sunday of Advent: ‘God doesn’t ask us to succeed.  He asks us to be faithful.’”

Being faithful in starting a new church or ministry requires a lot of tenacity and a great deal of faith. The more dioceses can be clear on expectations and communication, follow input from those we seek to serve, funds for success and brings in needed professional expertise, the more we will assist those on the ground who are faithfully seeking to serve our Lord in new and innovative ways.

For now, The Abbey is in the perfect location and well positioned to carry out its mission. Along the way many generous people and parishes have come forward to help this new church.  Rengers says, “The outpouring of faith and hope in this project has been wonderful and humbling all at the same time.”

We will check back in with this innovative new church in a few months to see how the funding campaign goes, and what they are learning along the way.

A Movable Feast Food Truck Ministry

Feeding the body and soul, A Moveable Feast is a new and innovative mobile food truck ministry in the Episcopal Diocese of North Carolina. This is no ordinary food truck, it is part chapel as well. More specifically a “mobile sanctua10484110_372438406264782_6921757289782172321_nry” currently catering to the young adults and college students in Durham, NC.

Young adults are invited to serve as Companions and are called to bring the companionship of Jesus Christ alongside many people as they travel the roads of their everyday lives just as Jesus’ encounter with the disciples on the road to Emmaus.

“It will welcome people without exception and challenge them to look beyond themselves, to know that they are made in the image of God and infinitely precious, to know that they are part of a bigger picture, and to be at peace with themselves and others.

Companions have the opportunity to serve food, staff events, live intentionally, and participate in spiritual formation.

The truck and its’ Companions will travel to different Chapters.

“Movable Feast chapters are bodies of hungry searching people who wish to embark on a journey together to find the food that we all need.”

Chapters are made up of people of all ages from local parishes, friends, and neighbors. They engage in the ministry with practical10407451_383454255163197_3326974558213591535_n tasks like providing food, hospitality, office space, and liturgical and business expertise. The locations of these Chapters will be finalized in the upcoming months.

Caitlyn Darnell, a coordinator for a Movable Feast explains,

“It isn’t about how many souls we can suck into church, nor is it about bucking the whole church-sanctuary model. It’s about creating room for our Triune God to be apparent among us. It’s about the community that will appear just when the truck is there, and about the community that will linger together.”

Click here to learn more about A Movable Feast.

St. Joe’s Unplugged

This is the second in a series of reports on initiatives funded through the budget of The Episcopal Church in its grants to Mission Enterprise Zones.

St. Joe’s Unplugged is a mission of St. Joseph’s in Boynton Beach, Florida, whose focus is to attract people in their 20s and 30s, the unchurched, the de-churched, and those looking for a Fresh Expression of worship. The weekly Unplugged service began in the fall of 2005 as an ever growing joyful and soulful Sunday respite for humans being.

Guitars strumming, drums beating, and voices singing melodically, this service is a unique one for the Episcopal Church. For the majority of the service, you are on your feet, singing along to classic hymns, updated with a contemporary flare. The Unplugged service was born at the beach, with a portable sound system, chairs and a big cooler for an alfresco altar. The beach service was successful in that it was welcoming enough to attract strangers to join them. But the vagaries of south Florida weather – and blowing sand — eventually forced the group indoors.

The Rev. Martin Zlatic, Rector of St. Joseph’s Episcopal Church said, “We did focus groups with a professional marketing firm for the intended audience of the ’20-30 somethings’.” He went on to explain, “Universally, when asked, ‘if we were to design a church service that would meet the desired description you have given us, when would you like that service to be offered?’ – they all said early Sunday evening.” Based on this input, the service was founded at 6 pm on Sunday nights. On that day and time only 25-30 people attended in a typical week – very few of whom were in that age group. Zlatic notes, “Since the switch of the time to 11:45 am on Sunday morning, the attendance has continued to grow not only in the target segment, but with our intergenerational folks as well.” St. Joe’s Unplugged now has a sustained average of more than 130 on a typical Sunday.

Now led by St. Joseph’s Associate Priest, the Rev. Wendy Tobias, the liturgy continues to strive to be a haven for those looking to Unplug from stiff traditions, stale music or from churches who don’t welcome a questioning mind. Many come who are not “church” people at all. Others come to Unplug from all the ‘noise’ of life so they can better tune in to who and what they really are – loved, encouraged, and accepted by God.

The Mission Enterprise Zone Grant is providing key support for the continued ability to provide a dedicated associate priest and professional musicians for St. Joe’s Unplugged. Music by Live Hymnal led by Charles Milling continues to be a huge draw for these worship services and former youth band members are now working with youth as well as actively participating in services. Also, since receiving the MEZ grant, St. Joe’s Unplugged has been able to reach deeper into the Recovery Community, both through Tobias leading a small group in a treatment program’s once a month Spiritual Fridays and through Delray Recovery Center residents attending Unplugged. In naming some of what she has learned in leading St. Joe’s Unplugged, Tobias cited:

  • Risking experiential opportunities in the service has been met with increasing receptivity i.e. Word Beyond Words service, active prayer stations during prayers of the people, experiences during sermons e.g. Centering Prayer, Written Prayers of Release, parachute over everyone as an object lesson, vital preaching that challenges fear based theology.
  • We are also learning that it’s best to have real consistency in the details of the service i.e. lighting, sound, movement, timing.
  • Involvement of those in their 20s and 30s in service as candlelighters (especially newcomers when they are willing), greeters, ushers, prayer leaders, chalice bearers. Relaxed liturgical innovation helps them feel comfortable and a part of our worship community.
  • We are still trying to discern what is the best way to have a leaflet or not have one. We tried a tri-fold for a while with QR codes for our welcome video and announcements. Now we’re trying to figure out a different approach to a limited size leaflet. Tune In is a group just forming (20s and 30s) and they really want to have a slicker look, brief but then have some full page handouts for some appealing items like a Taking Faith Home sheet used in our traditional service.
  • I am learning that I need the 20s and 30s advisory group to help me navigate and advise and that I need to LISTEN to them and respond.
  • We are collaborating with our Diocesan Young Adult Ministry coordinator, Daniel Ledo, in planning some exciting networking with other young adult groups in our deanery and beyond.
  • Our Unplugged community really appreciates outreach through Habitat for Humanity, feeding homeless and needy through another local church, and our Mission Trip and efforts to the people of the Dominican Republic.

Take a seat at the Abundant Table

This is the second 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.

In an effort to reach out the underserved, the Abundant Table in Santa Paula, California is open for those that seek a sustainable way of life rooted in deep faith.

This 4-acre farm offers a variety of ways to support through different programs. Young adults have the opportunity to join the farm as part of an Episcopal Service Corps internship. This internship entails communal living, workh on the farm, learning about food injustice and a variety of essential skills for self-sufficiency. If you are interested in applying for the ESC program next year, the first deadline is Dec.15. Click here to submit an application. 

Farm to School is another initiative the people at the Abundant Table are participating in. With collaboration from local school districts, the Abundant Table is working hard to provide more locally grown and healthy food in school cafeterias. Their commitment to education is not limited to the classroom, the Abundant Table also invites students and others to the farm for hands-on learning experiences. This may take the form of a field trip or weekend or weeklong immersion projects.

While this project started off as a campus ministry for Episcopal and gggLutheran students at California State University, they now strive to be radically inclusive and welcoming to all people. Sunday evenings, everyone is invited to participate in communion and make connections with the community and God’s green Earth. The Abundant Table is also part of Community Supported Agriculture in which people sign up to receive boxes of fresh produce weekly.

Visit their website for an in-depth look of the farm via blogs with delicious recipes. Click the video below to see the many happy faces that are helping grow God’s kingdom here and now. 


Planting Hmong Churches in The Episcopal Church

This is the first 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.

Toua Vang recalls how he and his family felt like lost sheep, without a church home, without a place for their loved ones to be baptized and buried, without a place for them to gather as God’s people to be nourished by God’s Word and Christ’s body and blood, and to be strengthened for God’s work in the world. In 2005, Vang’s family and 74 other Hmong families (175 people total) joined Church of the Holy Apostles in St. Paul, Minnesota, making it the first Hmong-majority Episcopal congregation in the U.S. and in the entire Anglican Communion.

With the support of a UTO grant, they set about translating the Book of Common Prayer into Hmong. Pronounced “Mung”, Hmnong is the native language of the ethnic minority, originally from southern China, who were hilltop farmers in Laos, fighting as allies with the U.S. during the Vietnam War era. After the Communists take over of Laos in 1975, thousands of Hmong fled to Thailand. Eventually, many came to the U.S. as refugees. Today, the Minneapolis-St. Paul metropolitan area, Wisconsin, and California are home to 80% of the Hmong living in the U.S.

Since the group joined The Episcopal Church, Holy Apostles has enrolled 16 members in a Shared Ministry Team formation process. In 2013, the Rev. Toua Vang completed his Master of Divinity at Virginia Theological Seminary, and was ordained in Minnesota by Bishop Brian Prior. Fluent in English, Hmong, Thai, and Lao, he is the first Hmong Episcopal priest.

Bishop Brian Prior said of Vang’s ordination, “Toua was identified and affirmed by the community because of his particular gifts and his strong desire to serve both his people and the larger world. Toua has a particular missional zeal that really is very compelling — that you hear from hardly anyone else. He really feels this sense of calling.”

Prior added, “It’s part of the story of his people because they’ve been people in movement. He feels the call to be with other people who have been dislocated and have had to take a similar journey. I think he feels called to serve people who find themselves dislocated and have to move to a new world. He’s really passionate about that.”

The Church Planting Grant made it possible for Vang to work full time in this appointment using Holy Apostles in St. Paul’s Minnesota as a base. A quarter of his time is spent serving in an Associate Vicar position doing evangelism, preaching and teaching in the Twin Cities, so that the mission is well grounded and supported by the Hmong Episcopal community. In the first year, Vang is also spending a quarter of his time focused on acquiring skills and knowledge for the work of evangelism and ministry planting, and the remainder of his time is devoted to the Hmong Ministry Planting Initiative.

The Rev. Dr. Winfred Vergara, Missioner of Episcopal Asiamerica Ministries (EAM), is a partner in the Church Planting Grant received in 2014. The goal of the grant is to work with diocesan bishops to identify well-suited and well-situated Episcopal parishes within these targeted communities that would be willing to open their doors and hearts to Hmong neighbors in their communities. Core Teams will develop at the local community and parish level, with both Hmong and Episcopal leaders receiving training and ongoing support, as needed, by Vang, who is working as the Southeast Asian/Hmong Missioner. The long term goal is to raise up lay and ordained Hmong leaders to be ministers in their own communities, integrated into local Episcopal congregations.

Since recieving the grant, Vang has done “Hmong/Southeast Asia Ministry Probes” in the Diocese of Olympia, connecting particularly with the Cambodian & Laotian ministries in Tacoma, Washington and the Diocese of Colorado. He also participated in the revival event at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Stockton and visited many Hmong families in the Diocese of San Joaquin and the Diocese of Northern California, particularly in Sacramento.

Vergara preached in a Pentecost sermon with many Hmong baptisms, “Mission no longer means Anglo-Europeans crossing the Pacific Ocean to convert the Asian (Buddhist, Hindu, animists, ancestral worshipers, ‘free thinkers’, etc.) into the Christian faith.” He went on to add, “[Mission is] simply opening the doors of our American hearts and flinging open the doors of our churches to the neighbors whom God has brought to us. As you can see, in this church, the Chinese are among us, the Japanese are among us, the Koreans are among us, the South Asians and Southeast Asians are among us, the Filipinos are among us—and pardon the pun—the Hmong are among us.”


A 2005 article on the confirmation of 175 Hmong is found online here:

An article on Toua Vang’s ordination is online here: Toua Vang is first Hmong priest in Anglican Communion

Women of Holy Apostles Episcopal Church singing The Lord’s Prayer (Peb Txiv Nyob Saum Ntuj) in Hmong.

Episcopal Development Agency of Thomasville

This is the first in a series of reports on initiatives funded through the budget of The Episcopal Church in its grants to Mission Enterprise Zones. 

The Episcopal Development Agency of Thomasville is a new initiative in the Diocese of Georgia combining three Episcopal Churches in common mission. The community development work is all the more important as the three congregations came about through painful divisions. Good Shepherd was founded in 1894 after African Americans no longer felt welcome to worship at St. Thomas. Then in 1981, Episcopalians concerned about the ordination of women and prayer book revisions founded All Saints, which is a 1928 Prayer Book Parish. These divisions within the church occured in a town that experienced its own racial and socio-economic divisions.

In recent years, members of All Saints, Good Shepherd, and St. Thomas Churches had increasingly come together and in 2013 they combined their efforts through founding EDAT to address the needs of the impoverished and primarily African-American neighborhood which surrounds Good Shepherd. Members of the parishes and the community are working together to help the residents develop a plan to help themselves-a plan that will initially allow them to address neighborhood hunger, and later, empower them to address many of the other issues that are facing their inner-city community.

The Oak Street Community Garden became one of EDAT’s first initiatives. This garden gained funding through a United Thank Offering Grant which helped in hiring a Garden Supervisor. In 2014, the Garden fed more than 40 families while educating the community on gardening practices.

EDAT’s other initiative currently underway is the Enrichment Program developed in collaboration with the Thomasville Community Resource Center (TCRC). This Enrichment Program began with a summer camp and continues with an after school program also held on the Good Shepherd grounds. The program, which currently has 40 children, is open to those ages 6 through 12 four days a week. The curriculum, which includes academic enrichment in math, science, and reading, volunteer work in EDAT’s community garden, and exposure to the arts, serves children from a variety of Thomasville neighborhoods and socioeconomic backgrounds.

In 2014, a Mission Enterprise Zone Grant assisted EDAT in hiring Keith Jenkins as its first Executve Director. Jenkins is a Thomasville native with a degree in social work who has family living in the community near Good Shepherd. Since coming on board, he completed a door to door needs assessment, interviewing the community about how EDAT can assist them in developing their neighborhood.

The grants from UTO and the Mission Enterprise Zone have been more than matched by sustained local giving to the development agency. The EDAT Board, comprised of equal representation from the three founding congregations, is working from the needs assessment to continue its work in partnering with community members on development work. Future plans include job training. A video report on the work of EDAT uses interviews with many of the partners to tell the story of this community development agency.