Episcopal Diocese of Washington

To draw people to Jesus and embody his love
for the world by equipping faith communities,
promoting spiritual growth, and striving for justice

News & Features

Thank you and Farewell, Diocese of Washington

September 16, 2021

Bishop Chilton at the dedication of a tribute for Pauli Murray at St. Thomas', Croom

Together with bishops from across the church, I moved from office to office in the Capitol Building, advocating for sensible gun laws. Shepherded by staff from our excellent Office of Government Relations, we were prayerful and resolute. At one point in the day, it came over me in a wave: God called me to this unique mission field in our capital city!

In Southern Maryland, many small churches, themselves living month-to-month in perilous financial circumstances, banded together repeatedly to provide backpacks full of school supplies, diapers, non-perishable food, coats and blankets, fuel assistance and other necessities to people in need. Applause to the dedicated deacons who organized these efforts and to the many, many folks who generously contributed.

Bishop Chilton and the North Montgomery Country region clericus

In Northern Montgomery County, congregations supported several dozen families and faithfully provided them with food and household supplies. Various reasons (lack of transportation, chronic illness, language barriers, lack of documentation, fear of racial targeting) isolated these families. I was with one of these families. They could not stop weeping at the kindness they experienced, which they knew was motivated by our Gospel values.

Events of recent years reveal, yet once again, the many ways our nation has fallen far short of our constitutional ideals. Members of our diocesan community gave voice to those ideals, bearing witness in the public square to justice and equity, often at risk to themselves.

Washington National Cathedral, a cherished worldwide beacon of prayer and hospitality, moved its life of worship, public dialogue and outreach to virtual space. Literally hundreds of thousands of people across the globe tuned in as the pandemic continued. Countless folks drew strength from the Cathedral’s Sunday worship broadcasts as they faced horrible tragedy in their own lives.

Bishop Chilton recording a sermon for an online service

Each of these vignettes is representative of many more examples of the amazing faithfulness evident in the Diocese of Washington. But what is lodged in my heart most deeply are so many phone calls, emails and Zoom meetings as we explored how to continue worshipping, serving, growing as disciples and loving our neighbor when we could not gather in person.  

Clergy and lay leaders doggedly sought ways to meet the spiritual needs of their people. Can we have a distanced healing service in the parking lot? How can I safely do baptisms in a backyard? Funerals and weddings, choirs and vestries, pastoral care and community life -- how can all this happen? I am in awe of your faith, your passion, your deep commitment to being the Body of Christ here and now, whatever it takes.

Bishop Chilton at the dedication of the columbarium at St. David's

Diocese of Washington, I leave now for a new ministry in the Diocese of Chicago, as they -- and we -- pray for our sister and their Bishop-elect Paula Clark. Thank you for every moment of this season of ministry. You have blessed me and carried me and inspired me. Vaya con Dios.

With love and prayers. +Chilton

A joyful Bishop Chilton rededicating All Saints, Oakley after extensive renovations

Category: News

EDOW's Path of Discipleship

August 19, 2021

Above: We've created sets of playing cards with questions for each practice of the Path of Discipleship for children, youth and adults to help in their spiritual formation. 

We grow as followers of Jesus throughout our lives, growing evermore fully into the stature of Christ. But what are the catalysts that cultivate that growth?  

Twelve months ago, more than two dozen congregational leaders in the Diocese of Washington gathered in small groups to share experiences of people, events, and practices that deepened their faith and drew them closer to Jesus. For some, pivotal moments such as an illness, the loss of employment, or the birth of a child drew them closer to God. Others found their faith grew through faithful ministry with others. Still others found Jesus’ love in the abiding love of a grandparent. These rich and varied experiences affirmed that following Jesus is a life of continuous turning toward Jesus, a journey of experiencing the holy, of finding oneself, of searching, and of making commitments. 

The purpose of the work of this group was to discern a path of discipleship for congregations in the Diocese of Washington--a pathway with a core set of essential practices that congregations can invite those new to faith and those with maturing faith to take in order to grow as followers of Jesus. Through a time of listening, prayer, and reflection on Scripture, we discerned five essential spiritual practices of discipleship:

Pray - Talk, listen, and respond to God
Learn - Learn the story of God and God’s people
Serve - Take part in God’s mission by serving others and creation
Give - Give generously from God’s abundant blessings
Share - Invite others to come on the journey with God

We invite every congregation to use these practices as a framework to review their formation offerings, their ministries, and their life together to help all people--newcomers and long-timers, young and old, weekly and monthly worshipers--take their next steps to grow in faith and deepen their commitment to Jesus

The life of faith is not a one-time event. It is a lifelong journey of growth and maturing as we are drawn more deeply into the heart of God and community and back out into the world. It is both individual and community oriented and changes along a growth path. 

Knowing where those you serve are along their path will help you be more effective in helping them grow in their faith. Those new to faith grow in faith through opportunities to know the love of Jesus through experiences characterized by love, trust, and acceptance. As their faith grows, they soon begin to feel at home within a particular faith community and enjoy participating in experiences of awe, wonder, and mystery. Many people’s faith, at some point, is challenged by new circumstances, a crisis, or relationship. This is a time of doubt, questioning and experimentation that can lead to growing clarity and commitment to particular faith claims and an awareness of what nurtures the spiritual life. The hope is that we grow in commitment to following Jesus with our hearts, hands, and heads, putting faith into personal and social action and being willing and able to stand up for what we believe.   

The journey described above can be identified as four styles of faith along a path of discipleship:

  1. experiencing faith
  2. belonging faith
  3. searching faith, and 
  4. owning faith.

The description may sound linear, but styles of faith are better understood as the rings of a tree. Each expression of faith is whole, yet there’s always room to grow. And as a person grows in faith, they don’t let go of previous capacities or affinities. Instead they build on them. While experiences of awe, wonder, and mystery are a primary marker for belonging faith, God meets us all in the realm of mystery. Those with an owned faith continue to yearn for such experiences. Lastly a person can exhibit multiple styles of faith simultaneously--for example, questioning in some areas and being fully committed in others. Faith is a lifelong process.

Knowing the predominant expression of faith, however, is helpful in discerning our next steps in faith and how we might grow in faith. Someone new to faith needs to feel a sense of belonging and might welcome prayer or reflecting on Scripture in a small group, or serving alongside others. Those with an owned faith could be invited to find ways to share their faith with others. 

To help congregations adopt this path of discipleship, we have developed:

  • A set of posters that can be displayed in your buildings and website that describe each practice. (Download here)
  • A set of playing cards for children, youth, and adults with questions for each practice. Send a deck to households. Use them at congregational gatherings, online or in person. (Print your own: Adults | Youth | Children; Print-on-demand decks coming soon.)
  • A path of discipleship app for iOS and Android devices to help individuals to grow faith on-the-go will premier in September. 

We will continue to develop and curate spiritual formation resources using these five practices as a framework to help you along the way.

The Rev. Jenifer Gamber
Director of the School for Christian Faith and Leadership
and Tending Our Soil Thriving Congregations Initiative

Category: News

Digital Learning

August 19, 2021

Imagine with me. You’re a brand new vestry member and relatively new to the Episcopal Church. You would like to learn more about what it means to be on the vestry. You are excited for your role and want to learn the role of the vestry, the kinds of decisions you will help make, and how the vestry works with the rector. You happen to get The Bulletin in your email and notice that the School is offering a course called Vestry 101. “Perfect, you think. I’ll sign up! That will help me learn!” Only then you discover it’s being offered once this fall, in person, in DC on a Wednesday night. For those who live in Southern or Northern Maryland, driving into DC can take 90 minutes or more. On some nights, driving 5 miles even within DC can take 90 minutes! So you can’t attend, therefore starting your tenure as a vestry member knowing less about what you’ve agreed to than you’d hoped. 

The other possibility is the course is offered online, via zoom, and recorded. It’s on a Saturday at 10:00 a.m. but your kid has a soccer game. So you miss the online session. You go back to watch it after the fact and realize there are all kinds of questions that didn’t get answered but now you’re watching the recording and don’t have an opportunity for a real-time Q&A. 

The mission of the School for Christian Faith and Leadership is to inspire, equip, connect, and empower the people of God for faithful life and leadership. If we want to do that effectively, we have to get innovative. We have to be forward-leaning and outward-looking. 

The School’s new digital learning hub provides us the opportunity to do just that. Starting this fall, you will find courses online that are both live and on-demand. If you miss a live course, you’ll have the opportunity to take it on-demand whenever and wherever you want, and still be able to connect with others in ministry. Our learning hub doesn’t just deliver information, it builds community. (By the way, you can sign up for the on-demand Vestry 101 course here.)

The Role of the Pandemic in Shaping Online Learning 

Pushed by the pandemic, digital learning has swept the globe over the last 18 months. Individuals, families, schools, companies, and faith communities have adapted beyond our imaginations. This global crisis has exposed our vulnerabilities, laid bare our societal inequalities, and increased our capacity for creativity as we sought to adapt in real time. Churches turned to technology to make worship, formation, and committee meetings accessible, making church far more available to those near and far.

In their March study, the Barna Group discovered that among what people missed most about church during the pandemic included “socializing with other churchgoers before and after services” and the “chance to connect with like-minded people.” People simply want to gather. They want to gather and socialize, gather and learn, gather and serve. Embracing digital learning provides the opportunity to gather online and build community in and beyond the diocese.

Digital community has been looked down upon as fabricated. But as my friend and colleague, the Rev. Jim Keat reminds us, “Virtual is not the opposite of real, it’s the opposite of physical.” When we approach digital learning with the innovation of a digital learning hub, so much more is made possible in our efforts to equip and connect the people of God. 

So then, what about this learning hub? 

We invite you to try out the School’s digital learning hub at learn.edow.org. It is designed with you in mind. It is easy, streamlined, and collaborative. Our learning hub meets the needs of a variety of learning styles--whether you learn by reading, watching videos, engaging in conversation, or practicing. And there will be the opportunity to participate in live as well as on-demand learning opportunities. 

Our digital offerings last year have become known for their digital toolboxes chock full of resources to support you in applying what you have learned to your context. We continue this practice. Each course has a section dedicated to resources to which you can return again and again. 

You can participate from the comfort of your own home which makes this particularly useful during the pandemic, or anytime you’d prefer to learn from home or office. The School is committed to growing your capacity for baptismal living and faithful leadership. Our goal is to become your go-to place for best practices in ministry. We want to provide you access to the riches within the diocese on topics that matter, such as stewardship, creation justice, prayer practices, Wardens 101, and more. 

Our new learning hub will allow us to share resources widely and readily. After your course is complete, you can maintain your connection to that course and continue the conversation with other participants about topics you learned or ideas they shared, increasing the overall collaboration across the diocese to build communities of practice. 

We know that not everyone is tech savvy. When you find a sticking point or run into an issue, support is readily available with a course that orients you to how the learning hub works. Plus, we are here to support you as you explore, learn, and grow. 

We are so excited to be able to offer you the School’s new learning hub for ongoing faith and leadership formation in the Episcopal Diocese of Washington. 

To learn more about the diocese’s new learning hub and how you can use it in your congregation, attend the School’s Open House on August 31, 12:00-1:00 pm. (Register). Or, take a course about the learning hub on your own time with this Learner Guide.

The Rev. Emily Snowden
Program Coordinator for The School of Christian Faith and Leadership
and Tending Our Soil Thriving Congregations Initiative

Category: News

Celebrating the Official Launch of the School for Christian Faith and Leadership

August 19, 2021

Above: A screenshot of what you'll see when you click on the School's new online learning hub

“[S]peaking the truth with love, let’s grow in every way into Christ, who is the head. The whole body grows from him, as it is joined and held together by all the supporting ligaments. The body makes itself grow in that it builds itself up with love as each one does its part.”
Ephesians 4:15-17  

Today, we celebrate the official (hard) launch of the School for Christian Faith and Leadership with an online learning hub that hosts both on-demand and live courses and an ever-growing set of congregational formation series to support congregations in their ministry of formation and leadership. 

In the fall of 2020 we launched with a suite of online learning opportunities. In the early months of the School, a team of leaders met to discern the School’s mission and vision. Over the summer we convened an Advisory Board to guide the future of the School. This official launch comes after a yearlong “soft launch” the School hosted more than 40 courses, serving over 2,000 people from the Diocese of Washington and beyond. 

On the learning hub, you will find courses to take as an individual such as the Bible’s Books of Wisdom (click to learn more) and courses for congregational leaders such as Strategic Pyramid and Ministry Alignment (click to learn more) as well as formation series for your entire congregation to take together such as Discover (click to learn more).

Finally, we have designed a clear path of discipleship that every congregation can adopt to guide individuals in taking their next step in faith. Read about the path of discipleship here.

As you explore the offerings, you will notice that the School has drawn on the rich gifts of leaders in the diocese. For these gifts, we give thanks. 

We’re excited by the great potential of the School and its joyful reception. We invite you to join us as we continue to grow in every way into Christ and build up the body of Christ. 

The Rev. Jenifer Gamber
Director of the School for Christian Faith and Leadership
and Tending Our Soil Thriving Congregations Initiative

Category: News

Vital Stories Everywhere

August 05, 2021

When Barnabas came and saw the grace of God, he rejoiced, and he exhorted them all to remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast devotion; for he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And a great many people were brought to the Lord.
Acts 11: 22-24 

The Parish Vitality Working Group

The verse above comes from a longer passage in Acts 11:19-30 that describes one of the high points of the early church. In Acts we can find lots of passages about the struggles of the early church, but there are also passages like this one which relate stories of the early Christians thriving. In a recent meeting of the Parish Vitality Working Group--a collection of diocesan leaders and staff working to advance our strategic plan around vitality--we spent time sharing the same kind of stories of where we’ve seen congregations thriving. 

Identifying Vital Signs in Scripture

In that meeting we read the longer Acts passage and identified the vital signs in their story. We heard “Compelling Mission and Vision” in Barnabas’ exhortation for the people to remain faithful to the Lord. We heard “Inspiring and Capable Leadership” in how Barnabas was described as a “good man full of the Holy Spirit and faith.” Although the passage didn’t specifically mention worship, we saw “Inviting and Uplifting Worship” and “Welcoming and Connecting Ministries” present in the rejoicing and exhorting. 

In other parts of the passage, we noticed “Blessing of the Community” as they sent help to those who were suffering from famine and “Faithful Financial Practices” in how they determined what they could send. This exercise showed us how the seven Vital Signs can serve as touch points to see where a Christian community is doing well. 

Using the Vital Signs to Share Stories About Our Own Recent Experiences and Innovations

Locating the Vital Signs in the Acts passage became a jumping off point for us to share stories of how we saw the vital signs at work in our own parishes, especially in the last 18 months of our pandemic journey. The stories soon took on a recognizable rhythm: Members of the working group would identify a need or challenge that arose at their parish, explain what was done to address the issue, then share the outcome, relating each story to a Vital Sign. 

It was an energizing, informative, and inspiring conversation--and when we shared our takeaways at the end, each member of the working group offered an encouraging or empowering insight:  “Stay creative.”, “Let’s keep shaking it up!”, “Surfacing people’s gifts”, “Meeting people where they are”, and “Moving from our building dependence”

An Invitation to the Diocese

This fall, the Parish Vitality Working Group will invite the whole diocese to share stories about the ways in which our parishes have experienced vitality in the last 18 months, framed by the seven Vital Signs. 

In addition to being a great opportunity to cross-pollinate ministry ideas, this Zoom gathering will allow us to document the creativity and innovation demonstrated by our congregations during a time of immense challenge. The Rev. Dr. Anne-Marie Jeffery, Canon for Congregational Vitality will facilitate. 

Have questions about the Parish Vitality Working Group or how to use the seven Vital Signs to help with storytelling? Contact the Rev. Canon Anne-Marie Jeffery.

Category: News