News & Features : Archives August 2019
August 29, 2019
More than twenty years of working in the corporate arena exposed me to many of the processes used to identify company objectives. Executive management teams batted around various terms--mission, vision, aspirations, values, strengths, challenges--to ultimately craft a strategic plan that would move the company from a space of current complacency to a space of future excitement and growth.
In this environment, I learned that the crafting of a transformative strategic plan capable of bridging the chasm between these two spaces required yet another space to be incorporated: a space for grace.
As I experienced the discovery sessions of our diocesan strategic planning process, I was touched by the emotional texture of the conversations that shared rather intimate aspects of parish life. Throughout the conversations, there was an infused space for grace that was rich with authenticity, genuineness, and integrity of spirit. Space for grace created a sense of safety that extended an invitation to share both one’s beauty and one’s brokenness with boldness. Naming and claiming the totality of one’s being is a modeling of boldness that can reap many benefits--healing and growth.
I believe that everyone has a fervent desire to be heard, seen, loved, and connected. I also believe that these fervent desires are typically fervently kept secret because of our need to honor our projected image to others rather than being honest with the reality of who we really are. Intentionally infusing a space for grace into our conversations as we develop healthy relationships with each other enables a realization that whatever situation in which we find ourselves, we’re not in it alone.
Podcast host Sasza Lohrey reminds us that, “Knowing that you’re not alone--that all humans struggle--is one of the foundations of self-compassion and it’s a game changer.” As we embark upon our strategic plan, we, too, are called to be “game changers” by continuing to infuse a space for grace throughout our work. For in so doing, we not only enable the fulfillment of our strategic plan, but enable personal healing and growth as well.
The Rev. Dr. Robert T. Phillips
Senior Associate for Leadership Development and Congregational Care
Episcopal Diocese of Washington
August 22, 2019
In the beauty of the liturgy, there is a moment of confession:
“Most merciful God, we confess that we have sinned against you in thought, word, and deed, by what we have done, and by what we have left undone.” (The Book of Common Prayer, p. 360)
For many, including myself, recalling the sins I have done doesn’t need much reflection. Educing “what we have left undone,” however, requires more intentional thought and often calls up anxiety. What have I not done? Who have I not forgiven? Who have I not loved? For whom did I not act when I had the power to?
This confession teaches us that sin is expressed not only in acts of commission, but in acts of omission--failing to act when possessing the ability, power, and privilege to do so is indicative of spiritual malaise.
This spiritual uneasiness is not isolated to individualistic piety. We have to admit that corporately, as a Christian institution, we are challenged not by what we have done, as much as by what we have left undone. For many parishes, attendance decline is not traced to a dysfunctional clergy person or vestry, something we might label an act of commission. Instead, more often than not, a drop off in membership stems from a lack of strategy for reaching the next generation, whether that’s evangelizing their neighborhoods or serving new digital audiences with the loving, liberating and life-giving gospel of Jesus Christ. This absence of a plan for the future is an act of omission.
The beauty of strategic planning is that it offers us an opportunity to take stock, not only of what have been areas of growth and decline, but as importantly, of what terrains of the harvest we have yet to explore. Strategic planning allows us to consider the possibilities and potentialities that would inspire every person to grow deeper with Christ: Which communities need strategic investment to propel them into revitalization? Who is serving at the communion table on Sunday mornings--and what races, generations, gender expressions are missing that we need to reach? How can we engage them using digital media and inspired in-person content?*
There is a proverb of the Akan people in Ghana, “Se wo were fi na wosankofa a yenkyi,” which translated means: “It is not wrong to go back for that which you have forgotten.” I pray we have the courage to go back, remember, and embrace the possibilities.
*For more reading and some answers to some of these questions that were raised, I commend The Great Opportunity Report.
Rev. Daryl Lobban
Missioner for Communications
August 22, 2019
The Rev. Peter Jarrett-Schell responds to a question from the Rev. Gayle Fisher-Stewart
Know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.
This past Saturday, Calvary Church hosted the launch party for a book I wrote: Seeing My Skin: A Story of Wrestling with Whiteness. If you couldn't guess from the title, it's about being White.
A week before the launch, my colleague, the Rev. Gayle Fisher-Stewart, called to talk about the event's Q and A session. She would be leading off the discussion, and wanted to know which questions would be off limits.
"I know I can come across sometimes like I'm Interrogating folks."
I thought about how to reply. It was complicated.
On the one hand, I invited Gayle to lead the discussion specifically because I've come to respect her skill at asking hard, even painful, questions with clarity, precision and grace. Marking off certain questions as forbidden would undermine the very reason I had requested her help.
On the other hand, in writing the book, I had already stretched myself, and shared more than I was comfortable sharing. I dreaded the possibility that Gayle might ask something I was flatly unprepared or embarrassed to answer, in front of a crowd of friends and strangers, no less.
"You can ask me whatever you want," I heard myself say.
For me, honesty and courage are usually a matter of saying "yes" before I know what I've gotten myself into, thus intentionally backing myself into a corner. It's a practice I've borrowed from my biblical namesake.
Truth is tough. Rationalizations, defensiveness, and ignorance are easier and more comfortable. But they are also paralyzing; like being tied with velvet bonds. At the end of day, you're still a prisoner. Jesus taught us that.
"Know the truth," he said, "and the truth shall make you free."
These words are probably one of Christ's most repeated teachings, and with good reason. In poignant brevity, he sums up both the hard cost, and the sweet reward of discipleship.
Truth is hard.
On the path of truth, we will learn things about ourselves that we would rather not know. We who are called White might discover how inherited racist patterns still play out in our thinking and actions. We might see the structures of a White Supremacist society that still supports us, and that we in turn support, even if only unconsciously. We might recognize the magnitude of the debt we owe to generations of Black and Brown folk whose lives purchased our comfort. These are hard roads to walk.
But, says the Christ, they lead to freedom.
Imagine what it would be like to leave behind all the double-talk, evasion, rationalizations, hand-wringing and paralyzing guilt; to face squarely what racism has wrought, and still works in the lives of our neighbors, in our own lives and in the world, and to say, "this is not who I want to be; this is not the world I want to live in. And by God's grace, it is in my power to do something about it." And then to follow through.
I think that kind of freedom would be worth the price of some hard Gospel truth. I think it would be worth almost any price.
"Are you sure?" Gayle asked me wryly, just before we hung up the phone. "No questions are off limits?"
I could tell she had some doozies in mind.
The Rev. Peter Jarrett-Schell, rector of Calvary Episcopal Church and author of Seeing My Skin: A Story of Wrestling with Whiteness
August 14, 2019
Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified… for the LORD your God goes with you.
Last week I finally got around to the cleaning of my home office I skipped this spring because I was busy sojourning with the Diocese of Michigan exploring a call to the episcopate. As I plowed through papers, I ran across one of my favorite poems by the great African American theologian and mystic Howard Thurman, “Give me the Courage to Live.”
As I re-read Thurman’s words, the poem spoke to me in a different way given my journey in the bishop’s search, my role in walking with parishes throughout transition processes, and most recently, my time as Canon to the Ordinary working closely with congregations who are determining how they will forge into the future with some of the challenges all parishes face in the swift and varied changes of church life today.
Here is Thurman’s prayer-filled poem on courage:
Give me the courage to live! Really live—not merely exist.
Daring the truth—
Particularly the truth of myself.
Ever changing, ever growing, ever adapting.
Enduring the pain of change.
As though ‘twere the travail of birth.
Give me the courage to live,
Give me the strength to be free
And endure the burden of freedom
And the loneliness of those without chains;
Let me not be trapped by success
Nor by failure, nor pleasure, nor grief,
Nor malice, nor praise, nor remorse!
Give me the courage to go on!
Facing all that waits on the trail –
Going eagerly, joyously on,
Without anger or fear or regret
Taking what life gives,
Spending myself to the full,
Head high, spirit winged, …
Gracious God, hear my prayer;
Give me the courage to live.
As I reflected on these words, I realized that although I wasn’t called to be Bishop of Michigan, I was proud I had applied, that I “entered the arena” as Brené Brown would say. I have been approached before about bishop searches, and have been afraid to say yes to the possibility. The prospect of facing the so-called “walkabouts,” where candidates answer questions in a series of forums, not unlike political debates, just terrified me. There was something about Michigan, though—their passions, their priorities, their courageous ministry—that beckoned me to see what God had in store.
Well, my friend the Rev. Dr. Bonnie Perry was called as bishop, yet I left the process grateful for all I learned about ministry, creative congregational development, and courageous leadership. I wouldn’t have traded the experience for the world. I not only endured the dreaded walkabouts, I was inspired by a process that called me to dig deeper. God gave me the courage, and the words to get through them, and for that I say, “To God be the glory!”
On the other side of the Michigan bishop’s search, I am convinced that courage is paramount to our ministry in congregations—whether it’s parishes embracing a clergy transition process or tackling hard conversations about financial viability and building maintenance. Now more than ever, I believe the key to experiencing turnaround, to addressing and overcoming these challenges, is courage.
Courage to sunset the ministry that served so well 20 years ago; courage to end the beloved Sunday service that now has an attendance of 5; courage to move the whole congregation because that old beloved building is sucking up all the congregational resources.
Courage. That will be my focus personally and professionally over the next year, as we embark on implementing our Diocesan Strategic Plan. I invite you on this journey of courage, Diocese of Washington friends and worshiping communities. Remember God’s exhortation in Deuteronomy 3:6, “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified… for the LORD your God goes with you.”
The Rev. Paula E. Clark
Canon to the Ordinary
August 14, 2019
Participants at the July 20 Annual Giving Campaign workshop at Grace, Silver Spring watch Bishop Mariann's video message
On Saturday, August 3, members of the Financial Resources Committee had the pleasure of presenting information about Stewardship and Annual Giving Campaigns with several parishes from Southern Maryland. Hosted by St. Andrew’s, Leonardtown, over twenty participants gathered to share ideas and strategies for helping their congregations to engage in joyful financial support of their church’s mission and ministries.
During the workshop, participants learned about best practices for Annual Giving Campaigns and engaged in small group discussions about methodologies and materials. It was in these lively discussions, where attendees focused on both successes and challenges, that much of the most helpful work was accomplished. In the words of FRC committee member Linda Baily, “It is always amazing when the solution to a struggle encountered by members of one church, is solved through the shared experience of parishioners of another church seated at the same table.”
An exciting new dimension of the Annual Giving Campaign workshops this summer has been the opportunity to share and review the EDOW online materials, “Planting Seeds.” These new materials, including a wonderful video of Bishop Mariann talking about the theme, provide numerous templates and resources to launch an Annual Giving Campaign.
The Rev. Michele Morgan, rector of St. Mark's, Capitol Hill and member of the Financial Resources Committee addresses participants at the July 20 Annual Giving Campaign workshop at Grace, Silver Spring.
August 08, 2019
Shelling corn in Ecuador
You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name.
In what ways might you be bearing fruit? Is your faith community engaged in the world around you? Is there fruit coming from those connections in the local city, around the country, or around the world?
In our diocesan Deacons’ School, we teach about community involvement and social change in many ways. One tool we use is called the Charity to Justice Continuum. It approaches social justice initiatives with four different responses—Charity, Service, Advocacy, and Justice.
All four of these are necessary, but the goal is to reach a place of justice; that enough power, prayer, time, energy, and love be given to a problem so that systems will change, and the problem will be solved. For example, solving hunger requires that those who are hungry be fed. Charity is needed to pay for food and Service is essential to prepare and distribute that food. Advocacy gives voice to those who do not have the power to speak for themselves. But ultimately, Justice would result in all people having a share of the abundance of food available in our world.
This is the first summer in years I have not accompanied youth on a short-term mission. In my experience, well done mission experiences are not sightseeing trips or an opportunity to do some project for those who may be in need.
Good mission is about bearing fruit—yes, while on the mission, but especially after the mission.
Making tuna casserole at a Martin Luther King, Jr. day of service
In the most rewarding circumstances, transformation takes place as all involved become Christ to one another and lives are changed forever. This might come from attending a Martin Luther King, Jr. day of service making tuna casseroles, or mixing cement with your hands in rural Kentucky, or sitting on a dirt floor in Ecuador shelling corn. And maybe months, or even years later, a life is focused on service because Jesus transformed a heart to reach out.
Mixing cement in rural Kentucky
Our Bishop shares these words of Teresa of Avila:
“Christ has no body now but yours. No hands, no feet on earth but yours. Yours are the eyes through which he looks compassion on this world. Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good. Yours are the hands through which he blesses all the world. Yours are the hands, yours are the feet, yours are the eyes, you are his body. Christ has no body now on earth but yours.”
Find your passion for making a difference and allow your heart to be transformed, so that you may bear fruit in the world by being Jesus’ hands, feet, and eyes.
The Ven. L. Sue Von Rautenkranz
August 08, 2019
Kathleen Hall, Director of Human Resources and Administration, presents at Human Resources best practices
This summer, diocesan staff launched Stewardship of Our Assets, a new initiative intended to help raise awareness among our parish leaders of key business practices and operations via an introductory overview workshop. Over 90 parish leaders, representing 40 congregations, have participated in the three workshops held so far. We give thanks to St. Mathew’s/San Mateo, St. Columba’s, and Christ Church, Kensington for hosting and to all who attended. A workshop for parishes in Southern Maryland will take place at St. Paul’s, Waldorf, on Saturday, September 28 from 8:30 a.m. - 1:00 p.m.
These business methods workshops are designed as a primer for Church leaders with responsibilities for finance and administration to ensure their familiarity with requirements and best practices for the business side of Church Affairs. Four areas are covered: financial management (internal controls, financial reporting, and audits); information technology and cybersecurity; risk management; and human resources best practices.
Each presentation provides an overview of core topics essential for careful stewardship of our assets and foundational to the ability to pursue our mission as parishes and as the Episcopal Diocese of Washington. Sound management is a critical element for achieving the fruit envisioned by our developing strategic plan.
A panel of experts presents on financial management
A secondary objective for the workshops is to provide an opportunity for leaders from different parishes to meet with others who routinely deal with the same issues. Our time together offers a forum both for asking questions of diocesan staff and peer to peer learning. We are grateful to those parishioners and administrators who served as panelists in the workshops offered to date, generously sharing their expertise. As we plan more opportunities to develop collaboration within the diocese, we will continue to seek out similar high level talent, experience, and wisdom.
The materials from the Stewardship of our Assets workshops can be found on the EDOW website. These workshops are intended as an introductory overview and reflect the best practices of the moment. As requirements and best practices evolve, so will the material we cover. We will offer the introductory overview periodically throughout the year to insure new parish leaders have access to the latest information.
The Stewardship of our Assets workshops are expressly intended to be an introduction to the four key areas listed above and, as such, cannot address fully all aspects of any of these topics. To address this second level of training, diocesan staff is planning a series of live webinars that will roll out over the course of the coming year.
In the meantime, please be assured that diocesan staff is available to assist parishes with challenges in any of these areas.
Please contact Don Crane, Chief Operating Officer, with your questions.
August 01, 2019
Caption: Youth at Camp Claggett - Middle School Week, 2019
Photo credit: Camp Claggett and Mildred Reyes
A few weeks ago, in the midst of 268 acres, with stunning views of the Sugarloaf Mountains and the Monocacy River, I attended Camp Claggett - Middle School Week for the first time as an adult volunteer. To my surprise, just like many first-time campers, I too experienced a sense of nervousness, curiosity, shyness, and excitement. As we kicked off our week at Claggett by welcoming campers and their families, I was thrilled to see friends reunite, new friendships begin, and all of us try eagerly to figure out what our next steps would be.
This year’s theme was Holy Ground. And just as Moses experienced standing on holy ground by going barefoot (Acts 7:33), at different moments throughout the week, I also would take off my sandals where I stood. Not because of the scenery that surrounded me, or the zip line course, or the games and workshops, or any of the other activities planned and executed, but because God was clearly present--in the campers, the amazing camp counselors, directors, chaplain and volunteers. As I participated in the small group discussions, I was awed again and again by the purity and sensitivity of the faith conversations we shared. Each served as a reminder for me to breathe deeply and allow myself to experience God’s spirit among all who were present.
In the joy of experiencing holy ground, many campers taught me valuable lessons that I cherish in my heart. They were not shy to teach an adult a thing or two about friendship bracelets, games, art, and most importantly--faith. In particular, I was struck by one veteran camper of seven years who expressed the reason for his repeated attendance at Camp Claggett is because it allows him to breathe.
Imagine if we took the necessary time from the constant busyness of this world, to allow ourselves to breathe--how would that impact our lives and how would we experience God’s presence on holy ground?
Missioner for Formation
August 01, 2019
Photo caption: Mae Wong, a councilor, with one of the neighborhood children. At the time, Mae was a fine arts freshman at Carnegie Institute of Technology, in Pittsburgh, PA.
What was your first summer camp experience? Was it a classic sleep away with roasted marshmallows and time in the outdoors? Or was it closer to home, maybe in Washington, DC?
The Diocese offered sleep away opportunities for students entering 8th and 9th graders (or Junior High) in the 1940s and 1950s at Camp Strawderman in Columbia Furnace, Virginia. "A large mountain farm, 12 minutes from Woodstock, Virginia, where cabins and an outdoor chapel, the Chapel of the Pines, offer an ideal setting for six days of fellowship, study and recreation for young people of the diocese." Shrine Mont, in Orkney Springs, Virginia, was promoted for Senior High students (age 15 years and up).
Closer to home, in the 1960s, St. Stephen and the Incarnation poured resources into a summer day camp for children from the parish and the neighborhood. Five days a week, beginning in July and August of 1961, the "inter-racial and inter-denominational" staff of college students with experience with youth work lived in the Rectory or their Church House. They partnered with the clergy to offer a church service, trips to a reserved space in Rock Creek Park, swim lessons at the Jewish Community Center pool, and lessons in art, sewing, music, dramatics, and athletics.
The children’s families were involved as well. In order to “stimulate parental cooperation and interest,” adults were required to personally register the children and pay $5, if they were able. They were offered small tasks to assist with the program and parents’ nights were an opportunity to show what was going on during the day and to “air various neighborhood concerns.” In later years, the meetings served as a “sounding board for community needs and resources as seen by the neighborhood residents themselves.”
Photo caption: Songfest around the campfire at the Junior High Summer Conference, at Camp Strawderman, led by the Rev. Harry B. Dalzell (far left) in charge of Recreation
There were also trips to the country. A partnership with St. Francis, Potomac brought a busload of children far from the city to dig for fishing worms; visit prize cattle; watch a horse being shod; and to pick plums, apples, and tomatoes--and to immediately consume them! The last activity of the day was a swim in a parishioner’s pool, watched over by young people from St. Francis.
Where did the money come from for the ministry? Donations from St. Margaret’s, St. Alban’s, St. Patrick’s, and women’s and other groups from other parishes. In 1966, financial aid came from the Office of Economic Opportunity, the National Youth Corps and other Government agencies. The Diocese, working with the Department of Christian Social Services, filled gaps in financing amounting.
The program began in 1961 serving 200 children. By 1966 the report was that 375 children participated with 64 adults listed as staff. The Rector, the Rev. William Wendt, said “...we believe that the Church has an obligation to play its part in bringing these children and people to the healing love of Jesus Christ. By keeping its doors open and by demonstrating its concern for the people around it, the Church can make an indelible mark on the life of the whole community.”
Pictures and history brought to you by Susan Stonesifer, diocesan historiographer