Task Force on Black Ministries – Members Announced and First Meeting

Task Force on Black Ministries – Members Announced and First Meeting

Your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt; you shall raise up the foundations of many generations; you shall be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of streets to live in.
Isaiah 58 12

On Thursday, March 17, members of the newly formed Task Force on Black Ministries convened for the first time to consider its charter mission “to study the revitalization of Black churches in the Episcopal Diocese of Washington…and make recommendations to the Diocesan Council to enhance, revitalize, and empower Black churches and Black parishioners [in the diocese]…” by September 1, 2022.

We began by sharing our thoughts with one another about what the work involved would entail. Immediately the power of listening became apparent as we began to see ideas coalescing and building on one another. The Rev. Antonio Baxter, one of the cosponsors of the resolution that brought this task force into being, shared his passion for ensuring that the Black church continues to evolve and play a role in our communities, particularly in the lives of rising generations – millennials and generation Z. He described the need for the Black church to step in where, at times, there seems to be no hope. Others voiced similar visions for Black churches to once more serve as centers of community support.

From this rich conversation, our first essential task took shape–to reach out to members of our Black congregations for one-on-one conversations. What issues do they see affecting the Black church? What can we do as a diocese to enhance, revitalize, and empower Black church and Black parishioners? And where do we hear the Holy Spirit in this shared work?

The task force members agreed: it will be a challenge to fulfill its mission in the relatively brief timeframe between now and September 1. But each of us is grateful that this task force has been formed. And I am personally grateful for the task force members’ commitment to this important work and the space they’ve made in their busy schedules. We are all motivated to get our work underway.

We invite your prayers for the work ahead, the Black church, and the lay and clerical members of the Task Force on Back Ministries:

Sonia Anderson, St. John’s Mount Rainier, MD
The Rev. Antonio Baxter, Atonement, DC
Timothy Q Grandy, Calvary, DC
The Rev. Caron Gwynn, UBE representative
The Rev. Canon Michele Hagans, Washington National Cathedral
The Rev. John Harmon, Trinity, DC
Rosemary Latney, Our Savior, Brookland
Sibyl Moses, St. Augustine’s, DC
Diane Quinn, St. Luke’s, DC
Charmaine Romear, Trinity, DC
Paul Ruffins, St. John’s, Mount Rainier
The Rev. Ricardo Sheppard, Atonement, DC, Chair of the Task Force
Andrea Thomas, St. Georges, DC
The Rev. Canon, Anne-Marie Jeffery, EDOW staff liaison

Thanksgiving for Vital Stories

Thanksgiving for Vital Stories

As I reflect on this season of thanksgiving, I find I am grateful for our Regional Gatherings this fall. They were great in helping me get to know the people of this diocese better. I am especially grateful for the discussions we had around the Vital Signs of Parish Health. Developed out of diocesan-wide conversations held in 2020 to identify what areas of focus go into creating a health church, the Vital Signs are now an integral part of all of our revitalization work. At each of the Regional Gatherings, we took 10 minutes in Zoom breakout rooms to answer the following questions.

       Which Vital Sign do you think is your congregation’s greatest strength?
       Where do you think God is calling you to invest your energy?

Watching the expression on people’s faces as they described their greatest strength became a source of growing joy. They lit up with energy and enthusiasm, eager to share that area of ministry in their church. And even as they moved to share what area they felt called to invest in, the energy–and the sense of possibility–remained. I love hearing these stories. Especially amazing are those that came out of this pandemic time. They give me great hope for our churches and how we are going about sharing the gospel in this world.

Last Thursday, the Parish Vitality Working Group and I hosted Sharing Vital Stories through the School for Christian Faith and Leadership, an event inviting 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. We did the work in small groups. And while I was a bit worried when we began because many of the people in my group had done this previously in a trial run — Would they tell the same story as last time? — new stories were told. New stories that were just as awe inspiring as those from that first test round. As the evening ended, I gave great thanks for how we have embraced the inspiration of the Holy Spirit in a pandemic time that could have shut us down physically, mentally, and spiritually. As the evening ended, I gave great thanks. This pandemic time could have shut us down, physically, mentally, and spiritually. Instead, we embraced the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. And as we continue sharing vital stories, continue embracing the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, continue investing in possibility, we surely will also continue our path toward revitalization.

The Rev. Canon Anne-Marie Jeffery, Canon for Congregational Vitality