Episcopal Diocese of Washington

Engaging a changing world with
an enduring faith in Jesus Christ

News & Features

Washington Episcopal School Blessing of the (Stuffed) Animals

October 10, 2019

Bishop Mariann with students, staff, and members of the beloved (stuffed) animal community of Washington Episcopal School (adults  from left to right: Trina Curtis-Belote, first grade teacher; Bishop Mariann Budde; the Rev. Kristen Pitts, chaplain at WES; Danny Vogelman, head of school)
Wednesday morning, October 10, Bishop Mariann visited Washington Episcopal School to lead a Chapel service and offer a special Blessing of the Animals for the students' pets, stuffed animals and favorite animal friends. "The WES community was so grateful to have Bishop Mariann," says the Rev. Kristen Pitts, chaplain at WES. "The students were very excited to bring their pictures and stuffed animals to Chapel for the blessing and to learn more about St. Francis and how he taught others to, 'Be kind' -- which is the WES motto!"

A dog and a tiger were among the blessed!

A girl and her bear...

The bishop blesses a panda and his boy

Students with the Rev. Kristen Pitts, chaplain at Washington Episcopal School, and Bishop Mariann

Category: News

Evensong to Welcome Bishop Chilton Knudsen

October 09, 2019

Bishop Chilton Knudsen and Bishop Mariann Budde / all photos: Donovan Marks

On Sunday, October 6, the diocese gathered to welcome The Rt. Rev. Chilton Knudsen as Assisting Bishop of Washington at Evensong at Washington National Cathedral. Bishop Chilton began sharing her many gifts throughout the diocese in February and quickly won the affection, admiration, and gratitude of all she meets and works with. We are grateful for her presence among us! 

Of the event, Bishop Chilton says, "The service was wonderful beyond all my expectations. Many of you were able to be there. Others sent dear notes and kind thoughts. I've done a lot of hello-ings and goodbye-ings in our church, and this was one of the best!"

Clergy from the diocese gathered in celebration of Bishop Chilton

  Bishop Chilton in the Canterbury pulpit

  Bishop Chilton Knudsen, The Rev. Canon Paula Clark

Category: News

Out of the Archives: Adult Education Classes

September 26, 2019

The Rev. Dr. Harrison Owen, associate rector at St. Margaret's Church, leads an adult education class - picture from Washington Diocese magazine, March 1966

The program year has begun in churches throughout the Diocese! In today’s world, lifelong learning opportunities to explore our Christian vocations are offered for all ages, but that wasn’t always the case. Back in 1966, the March edition of the “Diocesan Newswire” column in Washington Diocese magazine, reported on a new phenomenon:

Groups of churchmen and women are gathering informally in increasing numbers to give hard thought to ….. perplexing problems. Some come under the label of “adult education classes” like the one meeting Sunday morning at 9:45 a.m. with Harrison Owen, the young associate rector at St. Margaret’s Church.  There was literally “no room” for them in the church. They gather in the Sirloin and Saddle room of the Hot Shoppes just opposite on Connecticut Ave. N.W., and drink coffee as he propounds profound and broadly liberal truths of the life, death and resurrection of daily life. More come each week. He does not view God as a “pale reflection of humanity with a long white beard” but views Him as a God of love whose outreach embraces all humanity and who meets us supremely in the life of Jesus Christ. Lively discussion follows.

Recently, I spoke with the Rev. Dr. Owen about the origin of these new “adult education classes.” When asked to name the class he would teach, Dr. Owen came up with “Faith to Live By.” At first, he had no idea what the content would be. Eventually the focus developed into the dilemmas that people face every day, with one aspect of the discussion centering on the tensions of the Ten Commandments. All these years later, Dr. Owen recounts the success of his adult education experiment with humble amazement, still awed by the fun and excitement. 

If you need resources to assist your leaders in educating any age, I encourage you to check into Department of Lifelong Learning at Virginia Theological Seminary. The staff host webinars, provide consultations, crowd-source ideas, and more. Then you, too, could take over the dining room of the closest restaurant!

Mrs. Susan Stonesifer
Diocesan Historiographer


Category: News

Blessing of the Steeple at St. Mark's, Capitol Hill

September 25, 2019

The Rt. Rev. Mariann Edgar Budde and The Rev. Michele Morgan soaring 120 feet off the ground at St. Mark's, Capitol Hill

On Friday, September 13, Bishop Mariann traveled to St. Mark's, Capitol Hill to bless the completion of the restoration of the church's tower. Joining her on the lift was St. Mark's rector, the Rev. Michele Morgan, and Walker Matthews, one of the masons from the preservation company St. Mark's contacted with to do the work. 

See more photos from the day

Category: News

Reimagining Vacation Bible School

September 12, 2019

Participants having a good time at the St. John's, Olney Vacation Bible School, August 2019

Last fall, I sat down with my newly christened lead volunteers for Vacation Bible School. They were still glowing from the VBS we completed a month earlier, the first St. John’s, Olney had offered in about ten years. 

We had carefully crafted a theologically sound, all-activities-point-to-the-Gospel, week of fun and selected specifically the last week of August--a week often void of kid camps before the start of school--and we were thrilled with our over 70 participants and 30 some volunteers. Energy was high. Conversations rang with remembrances of the good old days of VBS at the height of church attendance, a nostalgic vision of ministry in the collective memory of the parish.

I was a little troubled, however. For one, most of the thanks from the parents echoed a similar refrain of cheap child-care, which of course is a ministry, but of a different sort than we had been looking to provide. For two, upon coming into St. John’s, I had spent my time re-working the Sunday School program to be more reflective of family formation expectations, with Holy Household Toolkits coming home quarterly, Sunday School with a clear objectives trajectory and expectation toward attendance, and across generations prayer partnerships with events featuring prayer tools.

Our VBS, while solid in its teachings, felt out of sync with our formation goals. How were these parents empowered to continue these themes at home? For the amount of resources (time, talent and treasure) involved, did we offer the most positive formation experience possible? So I emailed my two stand-out, supportive volunteers.

Sitting across from their excited, expectant faces, knowing full well that they were expecting to launch into planning next year’s camp, with a Harry Potter theme, I stated my concerns, “So, I’ve prayerfully been thinking, we should offer our VBS at night, as a family-oriented event, with people of all ages being formed and fed, with activities that would reach multiple ages and faith development levels.”


“You know we won’t get as many people--it’s a much bigger ask of a family.”

“Yes,” I replied. “But I think it will be better long-term formation.”

Silence again.

“We should feed them dinner.”

From that comment, we launched into planning a week-long program, where parents would be expected to stay and be formed alongside of their kids, where teenagers and parishioners without small kids would be required to form and be formed at the same time, and where we were certain we would drop numbers and have to talk people into coming.

What we found, is on whole, we didn’t have to convince people into coming. People were hungry for the opportunity to talk formation, to have tools to help them teach formation, and to find a path to understanding their family as faithful.

Sorted into Hogwarts Houses, VBS participants work together on a craft project

In keeping with the Harry Potter framework:

  • We served dinner, buffet style, with each family sitting in a larger grouping of their Hogwarts House.
  • We “Owl Mailed” a daily newsletter of the theme, the Harry Potter connections, the bible stories and the “why” of every activity.
  • We did one craft--fitting the theme of Harry Potter and the theme of the day.
  • We did a House challenge, requiring all the members of the House to work together--building a marble run, completing a puzzle in silence, participating in scooter races, unwrapping saran-wrap balls of goodies, and collaborating in a photo scavenger hunt.
  • We watched a daily bible video, created by one of our own parish teenagers.
  • We broke into age-appropriate groups to discuss the Bible story (the only time we divided by age).
  • We took next steps as households to discuss where this theme takes us further in faith--as individuals, as church, as families, etc.
  • We prayed compline, every night, except Friday, when we celebrated the Eucharist together.

At home, the conversations continued. Spouses continued discussing scripture and parents were ready to discuss Harry Potter in the view of the Gospel, the world in the view of the Gospel, their family in the view of the Gospel.

Small group, age-based, Bible discussion 

Over the course of a week, we had over 70 participants, with few who were strictly volunteers and no one not participating.

Our numbers included all ages, from infants through parishioners in their 80s. Our households included young families, empty-nesters, and people without children. Participants left asking for more family formation events, saying that they valued this time of learning and family. They were adding the following year’s VBS week into their phones to hold the dates before vacation could be planned.

We’re already planning next summer’s Lion, Witch and Wardrobe Vacation Bible, with the assumption we will have more people from across the age spectrum participating, with or without kids, but ready, in child-like curiosity, to learn about faith so that they may take it with them to continue their formation long after the experience is over. 

The Rev. Shivaun Wilkinson
Associate Rector, St. John’s, Olney

Laughter and joy during one of the nightly Hogwarts House challenges

Category: News

Sharing Faith cards can be printed (double sided) from the document located here: Faith Cards Avery 8387. They are on Avery 8387 postcard stock and need to be cut in half  once printed.