Courageous Discipleship

As a diocese, we value spiritual growth and inspired, well-equipped leaders. In 2023, we took faithful steps toward building greater capacity for forming committed disciples and resourced leaders, by:

  • Continuing to expand the School for Christian Faith and Leadership as we live into the realities of the post-pandemic church, providing up-to-date and well-curated offerings that support spiritual growth, parish vitality, leadership skills, and work for equity and justice.
  • Clarifying and taking the next steps in developing the Path of Discipleship to ensure that it is user friendly, easily adaptable and accessible for individuals and worshiping communities.
  • Establishing a new vision and goals for Episcopal campus ministry and work toward the implementation phase by the fall of 2023.
  • Establishing a vision for active youth ministry in the diocese that will be supported and guided by a Youth Committee.

Here, we highlight the work that went into progressing in each of these four objectives and turn our eyes to what’s coming in 2024. First, though, we wanted to note a shift in this area of reporting. In previous years we have included information about Tending Our Soil in the Faith and Leadership section. This year, we’ve moved it under Revitalization, but of course the reality is that the Tending Our Soil Thriving Congregations initiative is deeply tied to all three areas of our diocesan strategic plan as is much of our collective work.

The diocesan Youth Visioning Committee
The Episcopal Youth Event 2023: A New Age of Faith
Christian Disciple: Believing, Belonging, Behaving

The School for Christian Faith and Leadership

The School for Christian Faith and Leadership is the organizing and resource platform for leadership development and faith formation in the diocese. Its mission grows out of the EDOW strategic plan’s commitment to “Inspire all people to grow spiritually and equip our leaders to lead well.”

  • 2023 has been a year of listening and re-visioning for the School.
  • During the Spring and Summer, the Rev. David Potter undertook a survey and study of diocesan interests and possible new directions for the School.
  • In September, the diocese hired the Rev. Anna Olson to serve as Director of the School for Faith and Leadership.
  • Anna has:
    • begun to refresh and restructure the School’s online resources
    • traveled the diocese meeting congregations and leaders to better understand local contexts and needs
    • worked with diocesan staff and committees to develop strategy for the School to serve as a resource and support to the various projects and programs prioritized by Convention and under the EDOW strategic plan
    • For more about Anna’s first months, see her article from the October 26 Diocesan Bulletin newsletter, Inspiring and Equipping: Next Faithful Steps for the School for Christian Faith and Leadership.
The School in 2024

In 2024, we plan to:

  • Define, complete and promote a core curriculum for the School for Christian Faith and Leadership that includes resources and training for parish leaders as well as materials on the baptismal covenant, Bible, and spiritual practices for use by congregations and individuals
  • Provide resources for living into the 2024 Convention theme of courageous discipleship, starting with a discipleship resource day in January and a participatory discipleship experience on the Friday night of Diocesan Convention
  • Expand the School’s constituency, including adding resources specifically tailored to the needs of our Spanish-speaking congregations
  • Begin to organize and adapt Tending our Soil content to live on the School’s platform as a lasting set of congregational revitalization resources available to all congregations
  • Work strategically with equity and justice-focused committees of the Diocese, including the committees on Black Church Ministries, Diocesan Reparations, and Creation Care
  • Pilot cohort experiences to support small groups of congregational and ministry leaders in experimentation and adaptive strategy for ministry.

Path of Discipleship and Courageous Disciples

We worked in 2023 to revise and simplify EDOW’s Path of Discipleship, striving to create a tool that will help individuals and congregations create individualized paths to deepen their relationships with Christ and one another.

  • We identified three elements of discipleship: Believing, Belonging and Behaving
  • We created a simple worksheet to begin to explore faith through each of these lenses
  • We have begun constructing a more detailed set of paths on the website for each of the following categories of believers
    • People considering faith from the outside
    • People who are new to Christian faith
    • People who are recommitting to Christ after a period of deconstruction or exploration
    • People who have been Christians for a long time and are seeking to deepen and grow their faith

Episcopal Campus Ministry/Ministry with University Neighbors

There are over 35 colleges and universities in the geographic bounds of the Diocese of Washington. These institutions are centers of learning where students, faculty, and staff seek purpose and belonging. The Episcopal Diocese of Washington wants to meet our university neighbors, provide a loving embrace, and cultivate community in which faith can be explored and nourished.

  • In 2022, the outdated model of having an individual chaplain employed by a diocese or congregation to minister to students on campuses was sunsetted due to lack of sustainability and efficacy.
  • The diocese has sought instead to form creative partnerships with ecumenical partners. In the spring of 2023, EDOW entered a partnership with The Humble Walk (Lutheran Ministry) at the University of Maryland to continue supporting Episcopal students there.
  • In the spring of 2023, EDOW entered a consulting relationship with The Vinery as we seek to reimagine campus ministry throughout the diocese.
    • Over the summer of 2023, The Vinery conducted a survey of campus ministry stakeholders to determine the capacity of parishes to engage in ministry with university neighbors.
    • In September 2023, leaders (30) from parishes close to college and university campus gathered for a workshop facilitated by The Vinery.
    • In October 2023 workshop attendees participated in a follow-up webinar to assess their assets.
  • In 2024 the diocese plans to encourage collaborative partnerships between parishes through grants, webinars, coaching, and other support.

To learn more, read the EDOW articles Rooted in Purpose: Reimagining Episcopal Campus Ministry and Next Faithful Steps: Episcopal Campus Ministry.

Visioning Youth Ministry

The Episcopal Diocese of Washington seeks to provide a sustainable diocesan ministry for youth (aged 11-18). To do this, the diocese must first develop a strategic vision for this ministry that incorporates leaders from our diocese and input from our constituencies.

  • In spring 2023, a Youth Ministry Visioning Committee, whose purpose is to create a mission and strategic plan for youth ministry in the Episcopal Diocese of Washington, was formed.
  • The committee is made up of seven leaders who each have several years experience working with youth, both within and outside of the parish context.
  • In the summer of 2023, the committee hired consultant Katie Glover with Open Gate Solutions (for one year) to narrow the scope of the committee’s work and to help guide the committee’s efforts.
  • In the winter and early spring of 2024, the committee will gather input about the needs and desires of folks in our diocesan bounds.
  • After assessing the gathered input, the committee will develop a mission, vision, and timeline for diocesan youth ministry by the summer of 2024.

To learn more, read the EDOW article A Vision for Diocesan Youth Ministry.

Courageous Discipleship and Faithful Leadership in 2024

We’re grateful for the good forward movement we achieved on each of these strategic plan objectives in 2023. With this solid progress in hand, we look to a rich and exciting year five of implementing the diocesan strategic plan as we continue to be a diocese that draws on the gifts of all of God’s people to serve Christ together.

In 2024, we will:

  • Define, complete and promote a core curriculum for the School for Christian Faith and Leadership that includes resources and training for parish leaders as well as materials on the baptismal covenant, Bible, and spiritual practices for use by congregations and individuals.
  • Further develop the path of discipleship.
  • Continue to advance our vision for campus ministry by identifying three parishes to serve as a center for ministry with university neighbors.
  • Develop a mission, vision, and timeline for diocesan youth ministry by the fall of 2024.

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