News & Features
May 10, 2018
We had a young adult baptism on the Georgetown University campus; an outward sign of an inward conversion. I was responsible for the outward sign; God was responsible for the inward conversion. But what I did do one day was ask, “Hey, do you want to talk?” The answer was yes.
And so we talked every week for months.
We talked about God. About what it actually means that Jesus died “for” our sins. We talked about Scripture. We talked about vocation and call, we talked about Holy Week and what it meant. We talked about spiritual gifts, we talked about the bodily resurrection. We talked about the church and its future. We talked about how God had been working in her life from the very beginning. We talked about the possibilities of lived discipleship, about religious identity, about a real relationship with the Living God, and Jesus, and the Spirit that was blowing around us each time we came together.
In other words, we talked about the stuff of faith, the stuff of life itself.
Then one day, in the midst of our talking, we both realized that she had to be baptized, that Jesus had a hold on her heart and was not going to let her go. With joyful tears, we welcomed her into our family on April 24th, the last service of the school year. Students of different faiths, and even no faith, joined us in celebrating the beginning of her new life in Christ.
These life-giving conversations are the work of the church. But we can’t have them if we’re not there.
It’s no surprise to me that “conversation” and “conversion” are closely related, both meaning, “turning with.” Only God turns hearts, only God converts. What happened was sheer grace. But those conversations matter, and being present on campuses matters. God is working there already. We need to be there, too.
by The Rev. Becky Zartman, Episcopal Missioner to Georgetown University.
May 03, 2018
By Billy Kluttz and Elizabeth Boyd, Seabury Resources for Aging
Postcards to homebound parishioners, telephone prayer services, spiritual resources for aging: these are just a few of the ways that parishes and Episcopal-associated non-profits in the Diocese of Washington are reaching out to local older adults.
Recognition and relationships: A common concern as we age is maintaining strong social connections. Churches are fighting social isolation among elders and recognizing older adults for their service to the church and community. St. Mary Magdalene Episcopal Church in Silver Spring has created a postcard ministry to connect younger and older parishioners. Young churchgoers regularly create and send beautiful prayers and artwork to homebound members. St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, Capitol Hill is creating a new liturgy in recognition of older adult life transitions. The new celebration will celebrate elder milestones in the congregation this summer. Likewise, the annual Seabury Celebration of Service recognizes the work of older adult volunteers from across the Diocese.
Classes and connections: Congregations are also creating new resources for both practical and spiritual learning for older adults. St. Mark’s Episcopal Anglican Church in Silver Spring worked with Seabury Resources for Aging to create its Conversations at Eleven series. In this weekday forum, St. Mark’s welcomes community organizations to present on common aging interests and concerns. St. Mark’s will continue this popular series this year with an emphasis on women’s heart health. In 2017, the Episcopal Diocese of Washington and Seabury also partnered to create Sightlines, a new pilot curriculum exploring the nexus of spirituality and aging. This multi-part course exposes older adults to spiritual resources for aging, reframes broader questions associated with aging through a spiritual lens, and helps participants reflect theologically on their experiences and relationships as they grow older. Seabury has offered the Sightlines series twice and looks forward to expanding the program to serve congregations across the Diocese.
Creative worship: Congregations are also using creative worship to connect with older adults. St. Mary Magdalene Episcopal Church in Silver Spring started a weekly phone-in Evening Prayer service for parishioners of all ages. Older adult members are finding new connections through the service. “The idea came about because we realized that most of our housebound parishioners were not able to access our Facebook page to watch Sunday services,” said Rev. Sarah Lamming, rector. “We wanted to see if they would use the phone, instead.” The answer was a resounding “Yes!,” with longtime members reconnecting with each other--and the church--after hiatuses not of their choosing. The age range on the calls actually stretched from 9 to 89, making the service also intergenerational. In a similar way, during 2018 and 2019 Seabury will partner with Episcopal and United Church of Christ congregations to create a series of participatory intergenerational worship services specifically designed for older adults and people with disabilities. This program is made possible through a Vital Worship Grant from the Calvin Institute of Worship, Grand Rapids, Michigan, with funds provided by Lilly Endowment Inc.
Does your congregation’s ministry with older adults need a boost? A new direction? Or, something--you’re just not sure what? A few thoughts to keep in mind:
- Ask older adults what they need! Continuing a ministry model just because it’s always been done a certain way nearly always leads to its demise.
- Don’t be afraid to innovate (see examples above).
- Reach out for ideas and expertise (Don’t “reinvent the wheel.”).
Seabury Resources for Aging will consult with you about older adult ministry design and development. Contact Elizabeth Boyd, Congregational Resources Coordinator.
April 26, 2018
I have a symbol of the sankofa bird in my home office that reminds me to both look back and keep my feet moving forward. This year we, as a nation, looked back to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the April 4, 1968 death of Martin Luther King, Jr. Here in our Diocese, I participated in the interfaith rally on the National Mall, April 4, 2018, as a means of looking back. Moving forward comes through my volunteer work with the Diocese as chairperson for its Race and Social Justice Task Force. Let me give you a sense of my journey.
April 4, 1968, I was in the spring semester of my first-year at a college outside of Chicago. The assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. thrust our newly formed Black Student Association into action as foot soldiers for civil rights. As Chicago burned, we marched for equal/open housing in the all-white suburb where the college was located. In that environment, I was introduced to epithets like jungle bunny, the n-word, jigaboo, go back to Africa. To protect me, my birth family had said that only in the South could dogs “sic” Negroes, but at college I learned otherwise. Throughout my career I continued to be a foot soldier, both professionally in university settings and personally in the community. The election of our first Black President, Barack H. Obama, gave me hope that a part of King’s Dream had been realized. There was still work to be done, however, I was not clear how to pursue this work when retirement came.
How am I going to structure these 168 hours per week that are all mine? What am I being called to do now that I have more time than money? My discernment process was underway. When I asked my clergy friends how they came to be ordained, two words stood out: discernment and call. While on a pilgrimage in 2015 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the August 20, 1965 death of Jonathan Myrick Daniels in Hayneville, Alabama, I literally felt the call. At the time of this martyr’s death he was both an Episcopal seminarian and a civil rights activist. This 26-year-old white male died shielding a 17-year-old black female; both were in Alabama to register black voters. The call was clear: resume being a foot soldier, as a lay person, for race and social justice in the religious arena.
The mission of the Race and Social Justice Task Force is:
“Answering God’s call by building relationships across boundaries, advocating and educating for racial and social justice.”
Answering God’s call: Being a foot soldier in 2015, 50+ years later, means crossing more than race, black and white, boundaries. Relationships are a bridge to understanding, and like bridges, they must be built.
Building relationships across boundaries: In addition to the April 4, 2018 rally on the National Mall, I participated in the intergenerational March for Our Lives on March 24th to protest gun violence. Another boundary crossed has been to march with the Dreamers on March 5th for a Clean Dream Act. Many members of the Task Force are building relationships and seeking justice for sisters and brothers whose immigrant status makes them vulnerable.
Advocating and educating: Since October 2015, we have held seven “Seeing the Face of God in Each Other” anti-racism workshops, which have been completed by over 120 people from 28 parishes in our Diocese. Moving forward, we are preparing materials to help those interested in participating more fully in being a Sanctuary Diocese. As often as possible we facilitate ways to tell the truth, seek multiple means to repair the breach, all while practicing the way of love and proclaiming our dream of building the beloved community.
Enid LaGesse, Ph.D.
April 19, 2018
The Episcopal family that is the Diocese of Washington increasingly relies on electronic tools for communicating with each other, whether it be newsletters, websites, social media, or committee or group collaboration.
One of the most critical pieces of this jigsaw is email and collaboration tools, and as a Diocese we have standardized the Google Suite for Non-Profits platform. Currently over 70% (and growing) of our parishes are using Google Suite. Supported by Church House and Google support, more are adopting it each month.
April 19, 2018
“Like many high-profile leaders, Moses began to do too much. … It took the two brothers, Moses and Aaron, just to get the primary needs of the vision (Moses’ responsibility) and the community (Aaron’s responsibility) met. The first lesson in leadership was about sharing.” Susan Beaumont, from When Moses Meets Aaron
With all that others may do to assist, sometimes the best guidance and support comes from peers. One group that created its own peer-to-peer network is the Parish Administrators. They gather for lunch and short learning sessions, help orient each other to the role and frequently use their listserv. Here’s what they say about the value of this network.
The connection, the camaraderie, and everything has been awesome! … As a result, I can be confident of starting from a place of knowledge thanks to you all. Grace
As a new Parish Administrator, with years of non-profit management experience, church operations are so different and critical to people enjoying and being members of the church. While each church is unique … there are many similarities and more important, needs. Anita
Great resources, great advice, and colleagues who are walking in your shoes and completely understand the value of "sharing" information!! Tracy
It is very much a support group for difficult but rewarding jobs. Raiford
As a new P.A., and not of the church admin background, just reading the P.A. emails requesting information and guidance is useful to me. It's a great learning tool. Thank you. Maya
A number of ministry peer groups benefit from these networking tools, including wardens, treasurers, youth ministry leaders and the Southern Maryland and Central Montgomery County clergy. You may be the only ministry leader in your parish, but there are others sharing the journey. Regional gatherings provide one opportunity for connection.
Have ideas or interest in other means of connecting? Please share these with a Diocesan staff or Council member.
Written by Kathleen Hall, Director of Human Resources and Administration.