After this the Lord appointed seventy others and sent them on ahead of him in pairs to every town and place where he himself intended to go. He said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”
Luke 10:1-2, NRSV
How about them Nats?!!! Whether or not you’re a baseball fan, the story of the Washington Nationals quest to become the MLB’s 2019 World Series Champions is compelling. The Nationals started out the season poorly, and as Nationals Manager Dave Martinez said in his post-game interview, “Guess what? We stayed in the fight. We won the fight! …We were down and out. We were 19-31. We didn’t quit then, we weren’t going to quit now.”
As a die-hard sports fan, and a native Washingtonian, I’ve been longing for some championship teams for some time. Yet, in 2018 and 2019, our blessings were abundant. The Capitals winning the Stanley Cup last year, the Mystics winning the WNBA Championship earlier this month, and the Nationals winning the World Series last night just fills my sports junkie heart with joy, and I dare say, joy abounds in the DMV today.
But, as a die-hard cheerleader for the Diocese of Washington, I can’t help but wonder how we can translate that winning, never-quit attitude to our efforts to spread the love of Jesus and build up the Body of Christ in our diocese.
The Diocesan Strategic Plan was approved in early October, after months of meeting with faithful people of God all across the Diocese.
From these efforts, we identified three areas of focus for our collective work over the next five years:
Revitalize our churches to grow the Jesus Movement
Inspire every person to grow in faith & equip our leaders to lead well
Partner in ministries of service & justice for greater impact in our communities
We then chose three specific measurable objectives to accomplish in the first 12 months of Strategic Plan implementation, one under each area of focus.
Those objectives are:
Church Revitalization — We will provide church health assessments and revitalization strategies, and introduce these strategies to ten representative congregations.
Spiritual Formation — We will establish a school for Christian leadership.
Justice — We will work with each region to identify a primary ministry of justice on which to collaborate for greater social impact.
As Jesus appointed the 70 to go out, we are seeking “champions,” people passionate about Church Revitalization, Spiritual Formation or Justice and willing to invest their time, talent and expertise in tilling the soil of our potential so that we may harvest the bounty we believe God has in store for the diocese. To that end, we have started putting together leadership teams of lay and ordained people who can help us advance in our first three ministry objectives.
If you are excited about our Diocesan initiatives, and are fired up by our mission, “To draw people to Jesus and embody his love for the world by equipping faith communities, promoting spiritual growth, and striving for justice,” we’d like to talk with you further about serving on one of our teams of champions and we invite you to complete this brief online form by November 30.
We plan to announce and commission these Strategic Plan leadership teams at Diocesan Convention, January 25, 2020.
We are excited about what God has in store for the Diocese of Washington. God calls us to “stay in the fight” for our church, God’s people, the nation and the world. We believe that with the support of Church Revitalization, Spiritual Formation and Justice champions, we will gather a joyous harvest.
EDOW Goes to the Birds, September 2004
Congratulations to the Washington Nationals for achieving the #finishthefight status that has decorated t-shirts throughout the DC area in recent weeks. Go team!
A search of Diocesan Archives found no references to World Series appearances by the Senators in 1924 and 1933, but in 1961, the Washington Diocese magazine did begin running features on Episcopalian Nights: “The night game between the Senators and the Baltimore Orioles will be promoted by the Church of the Holy Communion as a fund-raising event for the site-purchase program. Each parish will be asked to sell blocks of tickets at the usual $1.50 grandstand seat price. Of this amount, 50 cents will go into the special fund.”
Parishes were asked to send representatives to a final plan meeting in July, before the August 18 game. The May 1963 magazine advertised the third annual “Episcopal Night” for June 7, “when the Washington Senators play the Cleveland Indians in the new D.C. Stadium.” This time the recipients of the largesse of the 50 cents from each ticket was the Department of Missions program for a total of $1700. The Diocese of Virginia had joined the group the previous year and their donations of $800 went for its advance work. In 1967 the Diocesan Department of Information Service sought an individual or group with time and energy to organize the event. The appeal advises, “The time commitment would be considerable as the event nears.” No one must have stepped up to the plate because that is the last mention of the Senators and the Diocese in the Diocesan magazine or newspaper.
When the Senators left Washington in 1971, there was a drought of EDOW baseball events until Bishop John Chane’s arrival. While Bishop Chane was a stalwart Boston Red Sox fan, the Diocese went to a September 2003 game of the Orioles vs. the Seattle Mariners. Not only were there almost 550 Episcopalians there, their center field seats also came with home run balls from Ichiro Suzuki and B.J. Surhoff. There was also “free” baseball, since the Mariners ended up winning, 6-4, in 13 innings.
The Rev. Canon Nan Peete, formerly on Church House staff, receives a handshake and a baseball
Newly named “EDOW Goes to the Birds”, the second annual trek to Camden Yards brought both the New York Yankees and 900 parishioners on I-95 in September of 2004. Runs abounded as the O’s beat the Yanks 14-8. Jim Naughton, the Diocesan Director of Communications and organizer of the events, said he “would happily promise Orioles owner Peter Angelos that EDOW would go to the Birds again next season if Angelos would drop his opposition to locating a major league team in the District.”
The next year brought EDOW back to RFK (DC) Stadium for the inaugural season of the Washington Nationals. That September game saw the Nats come from behind to beat the Atlanta Braves 8-6. More than 40 of the then 93 parishes bought 1,550 tickets for the event, larger than the two previous years combined and was one of the largest groups that the Nats hosted for the first season. Naughton requested assistance with organizing future trips, especially in light of accessibility issues for the upper deck seats that are usually assigned to groups. Unfortunately, no one was in the on deck circle, although I have seen individual parishes listed on the list of groups attending games over the years at Nationals Park.
And, in case you weren’t sure about the connection between Major League Baseball and the Episcopal Church, read this archived column from the Episcopal Cafe. Written by the Rev. Andrew Gerns and shared worldwide, please especially notice the date of the article.
Mrs. Susan Stonesifer
Washington Nationals mascot, Screech, hanging out with some young Episcopalian fans
The mission of the 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.
To be a diocese that draws on the gifts of all God’s people to serve Christ together and live Jesus’ way of love.
At the heart of our newly-adopted strategic plan is the conviction, widely shared throughout the diocese, that our congregations cannot and need not address their challenges alone, nor can we accomplish our God-inspired dreams alone. We need one another. We have identified three specific goals for the first year, one for each arena of our diocesan mission, with a plan for regional implementation.
As a key component for regional implementation of our strategic goals, we will build regional leadership networks led by regional deans. Regional deans will serve as adjunct diocesan staff, working roughly 10-12 hours per month to help organize regional clergy and lay leaders. Of the 8 regions that make up our diocese, two are significantly larger than the other 6–Southern Maryland and Central DC. For those two regions, we will either name two deans, or one with double the time commitment and compensation.
The ideal regional dean is an established clergy or lay leader with a passion for collaborative ministry and good community organizing skills. Specific responsibilities include regularly convening regional clergy and lay leaders, so that wardens can know and support one another, vestries in neighboring congregations can work and learn together, justice champions can increase their social impact through collaboration, and congregational clergy can deepen ties of their collegiality and hone skills together.
Regional deans, in turn, will be led and supported by a senior leader of diocesan staff, the Canon for Strategic Collaboration, whose primary responsibility will be regional implementation of the strategic plan. I will write more about that new position in coming weeks.
The regional dean position description and nomination form are now on the diocesan website. Our goal is to solicit names from among our most motivated leaders between now and November 22. We’ll begin the interview process in December, so that we can present and commission the regional deans at Diocesan Convention in January.
I ask you to spend time in prayerful consideration of who might be called to serve as dean in your region and encourage them to submit a nomination. If you would like to explore the call for yourself, do not hesitate to contact me or Canon Paula Clark. We are confident that the Spirit will raise up these leaders, and grateful for the opportunity to take one more step toward the vision God has set before us all.
Trees ablaze with fall color at the Claggett Center
On a recent October weekend, parishioners from across the diocese gathered at the scenic Claggett Center for the Visions of Healing Fall Weekend Retreat. The Rev. Dr. Robert Philips, Director of Leadership Development and Congregational Care for the diocese, led participants through a program that addressed healing from personal brokenness using the Lament Psalm structure, empathic communication techniques, and introspective exercises.
Retreat participants put learning into practice in one-on-one listening sessions
Some of the creative healing activities included walking the labyrinth, meditation, and the opportunity to practice active listening skills in a series of one-on-one small group sessions.
The labyrinth (photo courtesy of the Claggett Center)
“It was a transformative experience,” says Rev. Philips. “Some folks came not knowing what to expect and left feeling energized and encouraged to navigate some of life’s more challenging roads.”
Learn more about the purpose of these retreats
Fog and rain on Sunday helped set a contemplative mood for the group
I am confident of this, that the One who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ.
At a joint meeting of Diocesan Council and Standing Committee on October 8, both leadership bodies unanimously approved a strategic plan for the diocese. Then Diocesan Council, with Standing Committee approval, voted to approve a funding proposal that allows us to begin the implementation process right away. You can read the strategic plan here.
The joint meeting was a decisive moment, one of many on this journey. Moderator of Diocesan Council, the Rev. Melana Nelson-Amaker writes,
When more than 30 people–Bishop, elected leaders, diocesan officers and senior staff–gathered that night, we knew our agenda was both critical and ambitious. Work by hundreds of people over several months was before us. So were the hopes, dreams and direction of EDOW for the next five years. Yet, after taking time to ground ourselves in scripture and prayer; hearing the vision freshly articulated by Bishop Mariann; and being led in fruitful discussion by our consultant, Ms. Lauralyn Lee, the work went surprisingly smoothly. When it came time to vote, we proved to be peaceful of heart and of one mind. I believe that our new strategic plan has a means of being of practical help to every single congregation in the diocese; and that our mission, relationships and effectiveness will be strengthened by it.
President of the Standing Committee, the Rev. Dr. Sheila McJilton, writes:
The Standing Committee has been part of several conversations about our diocesan strategic plan. Much thoughtful, prayerful,and lively conversation occurred around this plan. When the Standing Committee met last week with Diocesan Council, we listened to updates, had more reflective conversation, then Bishop Mariann asked if Standing Committee needed to gather separately to discuss moving this Strategic Plan forward. I looked around the table, gauging the reactions of Standing Committee members. Not one of them needed to huddle separately. It felt like a Holy Spirit moment in the room. Unanimous vote of both bodies! Hard work has been done. More hard work lies ahead. Yet you cannot get where you are going if you don’t have a destination. We have a plan. As a leader in this amazing diocese, I look forward to helping make that plan a reality.
My heart is filled with gratitude to God and all who have walked this journey. To those who attended one of 12 discovery sessions and those who helped facilitate them; to those who attended the two-day strategic planning retreat to craft the first draft and the many who provided thoughtful feedback to help strengthen it; to the members of the diocesan staff who have devoted countless hours to this work and to our consultants; to the leadership bodies and above all, to all who have prayed and helped imagine God’s preferred future for us all–thank you.
We wouldn’t be here without you.
Let me remind you why we undertook this work. During my sabbatical in 2018, I spent time in prayer reflecting on my first 7 years as your bishop and asking God what kind of bishop the Diocese of Washington needed now. What I heard was that the time had come to engage you, the people of the diocese, in a collective process to clarify our mission, a vision for the immediate future, and strategic goals to accomplish that vision.
There is some urgency to this work. For while there is good and fruitful ministry taking place across the diocese, as a whole, we are not making measurable progress in addressing the fundamental issue of membership plateau and decline that works against every creative endeavor we attempt.
At the heart of the strategic planning process was this question: how can we invest the considerable resources of the diocese where they might bear the greatest fruit in service to Christ and His mission? We were blessed that over 500 people from across the diocese helped us to answer that question.
In the next few months, our work is to lay the foundations for the first year of plan implementation, which we will launch at Diocesan Convention. Over the next few weeks, I’ll write with greater specificity about these foundations, which will include regional staffing, gathering of resources, and the creation of three leadership teams, drawing on the gifts and passions of our people. If you have suggestions or questions as we move toward implementation, or if you would like to get involved in this early stage, please feel free to email me.
At the end of last week’s meeting, we gathered around a piano and sang a spiritual: Guide our feet, Lord, while we run this race. Hold our hands, Lord. . . Stand by us, Lord, because we don’t want to run this race in vain. I felt the power of our prayer and collective awareness of our dependence on God’s guidance and grace as we move forward. May the One who has begun this good work among us help us see it through to completion.