News & Features
May 27, 2021
I will instruct you and teach you the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you.
Yo te instruiré y te enseñaré el camino que debes seguir, te aconsejaré y pondré mis ojos en ti.
Since moving into the role of Missioner for Latino/Hispanic Ministries and Diocesan Initiatives three months ago, I’ve hit the ground running--occasionally wishing I had more time to get acclimated to this new position, yet committed to moving forward and creating an intentional balance between the transactional and relational components of my work.
Within the context of our Latino/Hispanic Ministries, I’ve been focusing on better understanding the composition of the counties in which our six Spanish-speaking communities reside, using MissionInsite to get a better understanding of potential opportunities for mission, outreach, and engagement. Here are some of the fascinating data points I’ve uncovered:
- The United States is the second largest Latino/Hispanic country in the world (Mexico is the largest).
- In DC, Latinos/Hispanics are 11.3% of the population, making them the 3rd largest ethnic group in the city.
- In North Prince George’s County, Latinos/Hispanics are the 2nd largest segment of the population at 19.1%.
- In Montgomery County, Latinos/Hispanics are 19.9% of the population, making them the 4th largest ethnic group in the county.
This data suggests there is a rich mission field open to us as we seek new opportunities to serve our Latino/Hispanic communities and invite those in search of a spiritual home into the Episcopal Church.
In the next 90 days, I will convene an Advisory Group and lead them in the development of a vision and goals for Latino/Hispanic Ministries that align with the Diocesan Strategic Plan and its priorities of spiritual formation, church viability, and equity and justice. An essential part of this work will include journeying alongside our Latino/Hispanic clergy and six Spanish-speaking faith communities, listening deeply to their issues, challenges, opportunities and dreams.
Under the “Diocesan Initiatives” section of my new portfolio, over the last three months, I’ve found joy getting to know more about our various diocesan grants--from the COVID Emergency Relief Fund to student scholarships to clergy support grants to Congregational Growth Grants. The committee members who help administer these grants dedicate their time, passion, and care to ensure that our leaders--lay and ordained--and our congregations have an opportunity to embark on continuing education, support initiatives that foster collaborative partnerships in evangelism, worship, and justice, and support college expenses for students. In June, we’ll make an announcement about the reopening of the Congregational Growth Grants, so stay tuned!
With much joy and excitement, I continue to caminando hacia delante [walk forward] with God’s grace and blessing in advocating for and supporting our Latino/Hispanic faith communities, and supporting our key diocesan programs and grants to strengthen our diocesan mission of drawing people to Jesus and embodying his love for the world.
Mildred Briones Reyes
Missioner for Latino/Hispanic Ministries and Diocesan Initiatives
May 27, 2021
The hopes of the diocesan strategic plan are dependent on the raising up of transformed leadership, both lay and ordained. And all of the leadership of the diocese are responsible for this work. We make that promise each time a person is baptized or confirmed and every time a person is ordained.
At a baptism or confirmation, all present are asked a very serious question: Will you who witness these vows do all in your power to support these persons in their life in Christ? Our response: We will. We do a similar affirmation at ordinations, following the ordinands’ commitments to ministry. We are asked if we support them and then if we will uphold them in ministry. Those responses of -- It is -- and -- We will -- are followed by prayers.
The work we all do in forming committed Christian leaders is so important to the health and future of our congregations and diocese. If we are really teaching and embedding the truths of our faith in the parents of those being baptized and the young persons and adults we are presenting for confirmation, we will have transformed leaders willing to both share their faith and work for equity and justice. This was my commitment when I worked at the parish level. Now as I do ministry at the judicatory level, we seek to do this as we form and empower leaders in ordained ministry and provide liturgies that we hope are both inspiring and affirming.
Over the last six years this diocese has raised up 30 new deacons. While each one is a unique person with different passions and gifts for ministry, all of them are committed to empowering congregations and individuals to live out our baptismal promises to tell the story of faith and do the work of the church. That is, to proclaim by word and example the Good News of Christ, to seek and serve all, and to strive for justice and peace. The work and ministry of every Christian.
Over the last months:
- Nine new deacons have been deployed to 11 congregations in every region of the diocese, increasing the collaborative work for justice ministry.
- We are forming ten more deacons in our diocesan Deacons School, including persons from our Latino congregations.
- Our Deacons School is the only formation program in The Episcopal Church doing bilingual formation of deacons. And we are sharing our learnings and materials with the wider church.
- The deacons have gathered with Hazel Monae, our new Missioner for Justice, to share information about the various justice ministries of our congregations.
We are just beginning to see the fruits of our diaconal work and the hope that our churches will be seen and heard in neighborhoods and in places where we are most needed. This is not easy ministry and it confronts our congregations in ways that are new. We have been very comfortable in our pews and buildings for too many years. The deacons’ call and ministry are to push us out of our comfortable places inside and move us outside. Outside to learn about where we can make a difference and partner with those in need.
In the next months:
- We will form a Deacons Council which will be focused on helping our diocese learn about the ministry of deacons.
- We are continuing our conversations with the wider church about Spanish language formation of deacons.
- We will be meeting with persons who have been discerning their call to the diaconate and determining possible next steps.
There is so much work to do and we need every one of us doing this work to create God’s reign now. Where are you willing to go, to learn, to partner and to do justice?
The Ven. L. Sue von Rautenkranz
Archdeacon and Diocesan Liturgist
May 26, 2021
My name is Hazel Monae and I am honored to serve as the Missioner for Equity & Justice at the Episcopal Diocese of Washington.
God is a word that means anything beyond self; beyond ego. If theology is what I believe about God, then it must be that what I believe about God must go beyond my experiences alone. I’m speaking as someone who is a relentless follower of Jesus Christ and is in love with Jesus’ vision for how we ought to be in the world--workers and strivers for justice.
Justice means centering historically marginalized communities to ensure their thriving & healing from generations of injustice. A justice framework can move us from a reactive posture to a more powerful, proactive and even preventative approach. This understanding of justice is not just a wish. Even in my short time in this Diocese, I have seen so much potential for this vision to be made manifest.
- I see the vision in the revamped Prison Ministry Team that’s working to build a multi-layered approach to restoring human dignity.
- I see the vision in the Sanctuary Ministry that’s actively working to support our undocumented siblings.
- The vision is nigh in the work of the Reparations Task Force as it seeks to uncover the truth about our past and to repair the breach in our present.
- The vision is here and now in the Race & Social Justice Committee’s work to train us all in the important work of anti-racism.
These are just small glimpses into the myriad ways that your parishes, regions and this diocese are manifesting a lived theology of justice and preparing us for what’s ahead. In the next 90 days we will…
- Continue to tell the truth about racism through the launching of an Anti-Racism 101 Curriculum and ongoing Sacred Ground circles throughout the Diocese.
- Pursue Congregational and Diocesan History Projects for the work of Reparations.
- Create toolkits for individuals and parishes to engage Racial Equity conversations and practices.
- Discern priorities for future work of equity & justice.
May we continue to respond to God’s promise made in Amos--of justice that rolls like a mighty river and righteousness that runs like an ever-flowing stream. I’m encouraged. I’m excited. I’m ready. Thank you all for being on this journey. I look forward to our work together.
Hazel Monae (she/her)
Missioner for Equity and Justice
May 26, 2021
As we engage with the Diocesan Strategic Plan, we follow a rhythm of work to keep us focused. For the last two years, we’ve set 12-month priorities and concrete objectives in 90-day increments to help us stay focused.
Our second year goals include engaging every congregation with our seven Vital Signs of Parish Health and the launching of the Tending Our Soil initiative. As a reminder, Tending Our Soil is our grant-funded initiative which will lead up to 36 parishes through a three-year process of vitality assessments, community engagement and new ministry development. Our most recent 90-day goals have achieved some important milestones and energizing activities.
In the last 90 days, we have welcomed some amazing new staff to Church House, including our Canon for Congregational Vitality, the Rev. Dr. Anne-Marie Jeffery. Rev. Jeffery comes onto the staff at an exciting time and has already brought her own energy to conversations and planning. An incredible amount of work has been done to get ready for the Tending Our Soil launch with our first twelve congregations in September. We also hosted an online series called Teaching Tuesdays: Signs of Parish Vitality. We gathered at noon each Tuesday for seven weeks to collect wisdom, resources and creativity around the seven vital signs, and just finished the series this week. Registrations for those lunch gatherings included clergy and lay leaders from forty-six parishes across our diocese, not to mention schools and guests from outside the diocese. Even though we finished the series, we’ll be getting together again!
What are we looking to accomplish in the realm of congregational vitality in the next ninety days? We’ll be calling for more collaborative work like we had back in February of 2020 when we met to combine our experience and wisdom to develop the Vital Signs and their supporting metrics. Some of that collaboration will take the form of establishing a Parish Vitality working group to help us continue to meet our two-year and five-year strategic goals including helping every single parish engage with the Vital Signs and restarting or starting three new worshipping communities focused on reaching younger generations. We’ll be working to craft some vitality meetings and exercises for the Fall, possibly some small group studies, Vital Signs sermon prep toolkits, and media for parishes to adapt and use in their own context. Does the work of parish vitality resonate with you and get your creative passions stirred up? Does the idea of crafting genuine worship experiences and community for younger generations get you excited? Let me know. We have many exciting things still to come in 2021!
The Rev. Todd Thomas
Missioner for Revitalization and Your Adult Ministry
May 26, 2021
In late September 2020, the Diocese received a $1 million grant from Lilly Endowment, Inc. to fund a thriving congregations initiative that will engage up to 36 congregations over five years in a journey toward greater vitality called Tending Our Soil.
The application period opened just after convention in January of this year with several open houses and visits with vestries. By mid-April, we received 16 applications and have made invitations to 12 congregations to begin this fall. Using the Vital Signs for Parish Health, we will be working with the four congregations invited to wait to help prepare them to join Tending Our Soil in 2022. If your congregation is interested in participating, please take a look at this promotional flyer or invite the Rev. Jenifer Gamber to give a presentation to your vestry.
One of the central features of Tending Our Soil are professional coaches who will accompany leadership teams from each congregation, helping them identify learnings and make commitments in next steps on the journey. We received a number of applications and have selected four individuals from the diocese who are currently being trained by the Holmes Coaching Group. We will announce the names of participating congregations and their coaches shortly.
Finally, we are making plans for the Tending Our Soil launch on Saturday, September 18 at 9:00 a.m. with Eucharist, Bishop Mariann Budde, presiding, and the Rev. Canon Stephanie Spellers, preaching. We are working to make this event accessible to all members of the diocese. More details about this event are forthcoming.
While the Tending Our Soil initiative will focus on participating congregations, it is intended to benefit all congregations. As such, the assets, activities, and courses developed for the initiative will be available to the entire diocese along with the afternoon teaching portion of the quarterly gathering of leaders.
The Rev. Jenifer Gamber
Missioner for the School for Christian Faith and Leadership and Program Director for Tending Our Soil Thriving Congregations
The Rev. Emily Snowden
Program Coordinator for the School for Christian Faith and Leadership and Tending Our Soil Thriving Congregations