Episcopal Diocese of Washington

Engaging a changing world with
an enduring faith in Jesus Christ

News & Features

Lessons Learned: Periodic Confirmation of Parish Internet Domain and Social Media Account Registration and Administration Rights

June 06, 2018

Among the lessons learned by Diocesan staff—several times each year over the past decade—concerns the problems EDOW parishes have encountered in situations relating to control of their website and social media accounts. For example:

  • A parish sought to move its hosting to a new provider only to find this couldn’t be accomplished until parish leaders traced the registration to a former parishioner who had arranged for the creation of the internet domain twenty years ago. The former parishioner had since died. Complicated and time-consuming efforts were required to transfer the domain registration to the parish.

  • Another parish decided to increase use of its Facebook account in parish communications. The Facebook account had been created ten years ago, but had been used only sporadically. When the parish tried to change the administrator of the account, it couldn’t do so because it couldn’t locate the individual who, as a member of the youth group, had opened the Facebook account in the name of the parish before going off to college. The former youth member had since moved across the county and his other family members also had relocated in the meantime, to whereabouts unknown. The registration was transferred only after weeks of effort.

These are examples of internet domain and social media registration/administrative rights difficulties that EDOW parishes have confronted in recent years.  

We recommend parishes verify internet domains and social media account registrations and administrative rights each year so that changes among volunteer leadership over time don’t jeopardize access to vital communication channels. Peter Turner, EDOW’s Technology Director, can help if you have questions or concerns.

Category: Uncategorized

What Property-Related Transactions Require Diocesan Approval?

June 06, 2018

One of the most common interactions between parish and diocesan leaders occurs in the context of renovation projects, loan transactions, leases, easements and sales of parish real estate. The Episcopal Church canons require the consent of the Bishop and Standing Committee before a parish enters into certain transactions. Episcopal Church Canon I.7.3 provides that:

 No Vestry, Trustee, or other Body, authorized by Civil or Canon law to hold, manage, or administer real property for any Parish, Mission, Congregation, or Institution, shall encumber or alienate the same or any part thereof without the written consent of the Bishop and Standing Committee of the Diocese…

How does this canonical requirement apply to the following situations?

Q1: A parish is planning a major renovation of its parish hall, to be financed by a loan that will be secured by a mortgage/deed of trust on parish real estate. Consent required?
A1: Yes.

Q2: The vestry has determined to sell the parish rectory. Consent required?
A2: Yes.

Q3: A parish plans to finance a major renovation by a bank loan secured by pledging a portion of its endowment account. Consent required?
A3: No. Endowment funds are not real property; since there is no lien being placed on real property of the parish, no consent of the Bishop and Standing Committee is required.

Q4: A parish desires to lease an unused area in the parish house to a local charitable organization. Is this an “encumbrance or alienation” requiring consent?
A4: Maybe. It depends on the length of the lease. If the term of the lease--including renewals--is for more than three years or more, consent is required.

Q5: The parish has an opportunity to receive a grant from the local county, which provides financial support for maintenance of historical properties. A condition of the grant requires the vestry to enter into an easement agreement with the county. Consent required?
A5: Yes. An easement on real estate imposes limitations on the use of that property. For canonical purposes, this is an “encumbrance.” Consent of the Bishop and Standing Committee is required.

Who can help? In the Diocese of Washington, the Diocesan Finance Committee serves as staff to the Standing Committee and Bishop on property sale and encumbrance matters. Contact Paul Cooney, staff liaison to the Finance Committee, if you have questions.

Category: Uncategorized

Holy Impact

May 31, 2018

ETH Walk, Silver Spring, 2017

How does the Holy Spirit inspire our mission to make a holy impact in this world?  When we think about social impact we typically think more about how we “help” others, less about how the helping changes us disciples. Yet that change may be as important and impactful as the other – or so I would suggest! 

At Samaritan Ministry where I serve, those two ingredients are intermixed in an inspired “special sauce” which is how our mission was ingeniously defined 32 years ago, a sauce that continues to be a winning formula. It works like this: We invite potential participants to sit down with a caseworker to consider three questions:  

  • Do you want your life to be better and what would that look like? 
  • Are you ready for change and will you participate in the change process?  
  • Will you accept the coaching required to set goals and take the necessary “next steps” to meet those goals?   

If the answer is “Yes” then we offer all the coaching, support, and follow-up for as long as a participant needs it to succeed – our proverbial hand-up!  

But a second ingredient is equally important for us:  When we invite a participant into our Next Step program, we also invite ourselves. In a quote that’s been on my office door since our earliest days, “If you have come to help me you are wasting your time; but if you have come because your liberation is bound up in mine, then let us work together.”   

This wisdom speaks to who we are and what we do but also to how impactful collaborative ministry is.  Samaritan Ministry wasn’t founded just to “help people” but to participate in their liberation, with the implied invitation that they will participate in ours. This demands a level of compassion, commitment and vulnerability not found anywhere or among everyone. But we – Samaritan and the Body of Christ – are not just anywhere or anyone. We’re followers of Jesus – so the greatest impact we make is when we are impacted ourselves. We rely heavily on volunteers because we believe in mutual empowerment, in a community partnership where everyone experiences for themselves the change they want to see in the world – generating an explosive and inspired holy impact!    

As I write, our Partner Churches and Schools are planning events in our Empower the Homeless (ETH) Campaign where partners engage with those who experience homelessness, while building momentum to address homelessness in our region – great opportunities for holy impact. Five Silver Spring partner parishes are planning a Community Walk in September, St. Luke’s & St. Thomas’ in DC are hosting a participant success story on July 1 – or you can jump into a partner-wide 5K ETH run/walk this Sunday, June 3, from 8:45 a.m. – 10 a.m. at Bluemont Park in Arlington. Interested? Email us at development@samaritanministry.org with “ETH event question” in the subject line and we’ll guide you. 

Opportunities for holy impact abound, but remember to bring yourself, because the greatest change may be in YOU and through YOU – that’s the holiest impact of all!       

The Rev. David B. Wolf serves as Executive Director of Samaritan Ministry of Greater Washington (SMGW) and adjunct priest at Church of the Transfiguration, Silver Spring. 

Category: Uncategorized

A Labor of Love

May 31, 2018

John McCleaf and the pews he built for St. Luke's

It all started when I asked John McCleaf, one of our parishioners at St. Luke's, Brighton, a seemingly simple question as we shook hands after a Sunday worship service, “How hard would it be to refinish these pews with a new coat of stain?” The first thing you need to know about John is that he is a master craftsman, specializing in woodwork. The second thing you need to know is that master craftsmen take their work very seriously. Serious as in there is no simple way to “freshen up” pews, there’s only the right way.

John replied, “What you’re talking about is sanding off the polyurethane coating and the stain; that’s a huge amount of work, months of labor.” Weeks went by and I could see John giving the pews a once over after each service. Then one day he said, “You know, I could build pews for the amount of time and energy it would take to refinish and repair the existing ones.”

Thus began the pew project. John presented to the vestry design plans, a cost analysis for supplies (labor would be his gift to the church), and an estimated time line. Given the parish’s blessing, he began the project in October 2017.

The third thing you need to know about John is that he is diligent. For eight months he woke up early (Sundays were days of rest), went to his workshop, and worked on the project until evening. Lovingly transforming six thousand pounds of red oak lumber into twenty pews.

“He was driven,” said his wife Beverly. “He’d go into his workshop, I’d hear him sawing away, he’d come in for lunch, and then he’d go back and work until dinnertime.”

Most of us would consider this a Herculean project; John saw it as a challenge. “For years I wondered how difficult it would be to make pews,” he explained. “I discovered I enjoyed fabricating the pieces and fitting them together. It was like doing a massive puzzle.”

Like many Episcopal churches, St. Luke’s Brighton Parish has a tradition of supporting local artists. At our fall festival (known in the community as the Candle Festival; when years ago the parish sold hand-dipped candles) artisans are invited to sell their wares. The Brighton Quilters handmade quilt raffle has been a big draw for over 50 years.  A portion of the proceeds from the festival supports the local food pantry.

Throughout the year, members of the community visit our labyrinth, an Eagle Scout project by parishioner Ian Smith, and stroll through our Memorial Garden.  John’s work is the latest addition to our sacred space. Completed in May 2018, the pews now reside in their new home. We invite you to visit; our church doors are always open.

The Rev. Vikki Clayton, rector of St. Luke's, Brighton

John McCleaf in his studio

Category: Uncategorized

Multi-cultural or Multi-racial?

May 24, 2018

Multi-cultural, multi-racial, interracial, culturally diverse? These and other terms have been used in the attempt to describe congregations that have more than one race. However, a congregation can be multi-racial and not multi-cultural. As we strive to evangelize, to bring others to Christ, and in truth, into our congregations, it is crucial that our liturgies actually reflect “the work of the people.”  What follows are two examples of how to take our familiar liturgy and make it welcoming to those who might not be Episcopalian.

A classic pipe organ or a Hammond B-3? The decision between the two is usually not difficult in the traditional black church. Hands down, you will find a Hammond B-3 because it plays well the contemporary gospel music of today. So, it came as a surprise when Rev. Delman Coates, senior pastor of Mt. Ennon Baptist Church, told EDOW lay and clergy at a “learning day” in April that he advised his congregation a pipe organ would join the church’s Hammond organ. “Anthems,” he said, “sound better on a pipe organ.” His lesson? Music speaks to the soul and if a visitor to the church can find something familiar in the service, in the liturgy, it just might bring them back the next Sunday.

An inclusive liturgy could also be found at St. Stephen and the Incarnation on Good Friday. The sweet aroma of Copal incense from Ethiopia and sounds of soft cello music greeted me as I entered the church for the “Liturgy of the Burial of the Icon.” Throughout the service, the readings, the music, the lighting, all engaged the entire body of the worshiper; engaging all of the senses. he music spanned Latino hymns, European anthems, and black spirituals. The readings and prayers were spoken in English and Spanish. A Tibetan singing bowl announced and ended the periods of meditation. The congregational procession to the place of repose evoked visions of a New Orleans funeral procession. The service was Episcopal; the framework of the Eucharist was there; however, onto that frame, liturgy – the work of the people – was enfleshed.  

What a radical welcome for a first-time visitor to experience worship that lifts up the familiar – a smell, a song, a prayer, a custom. Visitors should not have to assimilate to worship. The preface to the 1789 Book of Common Prayer, reads, “It is a most invaluable part of that blessed ‘liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free,’ that in his worship different forms and usages may without offence be allowed, provided the substance of the Faith be kept entire. . . ”

The Book of Common Prayer permits flexibility in worship and that flexibility will permit us to be both multi-racial and multi-cultural, and above all else, welcoming.

The Rev. Gayle Fisher-Stewart serves as the assistant rector at Calvary, D.C.


Category: Uncategorized

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.