Why Church Planting? Why Now? New Faith Communities in EDOW

Why Church Planting? Why Now? New Faith Communities in EDOW

The Rev. Canon Anne-Marie Jeffery welcomes particpants to Church Planting workshop
Why church planting, why now, new faith communities in the Diocese of Washington
A group studies what growing younger but diocesan neighborhoods have no Episcopal representation

“…So that we may become a spiritual home for our children and grandchildren.”
Diocesan Strategic Plan 

As people gathered by region and special interest cohort in 2019 to begin listening to where the Holy Spirit was guiding the Episcopal Diocese of Washington, one conviction rose again and again: we had to make an intentional effort to serve the needs of our youth and young adults so that we could become a spiritual home for our children and grandchildren. When the time came, the team tasked with drafting our Diocesan Strategic Plan molded that belief into a goal: to launch or relaunch three worshiping communities focused on rising generations.

In part, this goal emerged from the recognition that the average age of nearly all our congregations is significantly higher than that of their surrounding neighborhoods, Bishop Mariann shared in her address to Diocesan Convention this past January. “It is clear,” she said, “that the churches with the greatest success in growing young are those that make reaching rising generations their top priority.” In her address, the bishop issued an invitation to individuals interested in joining this effort.

Nearly every congregation in the diocese wants to be a spiritual home for rising generations and we are committed to providing resources and opportunities for that important work. The new faith communities initiative, however, asks different questions. Where in our growing population of young adults is The Episcopal Church underrepresented or not present at all? Where might God be calling us to offer something new? Whose spiritual needs are not being met?

In June, diocesan staff began working with experienced church planters from ACS Technologies–the company behind the powerful demographics tool MissionInsite–to help us discover what communities hold the greatest promise for new worshiping communities and dig into the specific context of each area under consideration.

Chuck Salter and Emily Reece–our ACS Technologies partners–prepared an extensive demographic report that identified regions with high and growing concentrations of young people. After prayerful deliberation, diocesan staff ultimately discerned four potential areas:

    1. Bowie, MD
    2. Downtown Silver Spring, MD
    3. Brookland/NoMa, DC
    4. LaPlata/Waldorf, MD

In late October, Emily and Chuck were on the ground visiting churches in these four areas exploring the possibility of partnership. The site visits were followed by a workshop on Saturday, October 29 for those who responded to Bishop Mariann’s call to be part of this work along with members of the congregations in the targeted areas and diocesan staff.

During our time together, we learned that it is likely that these new faith communities will not be the “bricks and mortar” based communities we are accustomed to, but they will need the support and input of existing nearby communities. We also learned that relationship building is essential for planting new faith communities. It is only by being in relationship with the people where we want to plant that we can know their needs and how to engage them.

At the end of the workshop, participants were invited to take their next step, from praying for this vital work to committing to being part of the initiative. I will repeat that invitation here. Please pray for us as we take our next faithful steps in growing younger as a diocese and please contact me if you’d like to take part.

Creator God, we seek to find new ways to share your message of love beyond the walls of our church buildings and ask you to send us leaders who are called to this work. Plant the gospel in their hearts and empower them with the Spirit, that they may see and hear the people they are sent to reach. Grant them joy, wisdom, and freedom in the midst of challenges; give them enough fruit for encouragement; laughter and humility to soften their hearts, refreshment for sanity; grace to support their teams; and resources to minimize their stress. In all things encourage them with your constant presence and knowledge of your love through Jesus who is our guide.

The Rev. Anne-Marie Jeffery
Canon for Congregational Vitality

Church Planting workshop participants study demographic data
A group of three intently studying MissionInsite demographics
Bishop Mariann speaks to Church Planting workshop participants
Christian Formation Leaders Retreat

Christian Formation Leaders Retreat

Connect, pray, engage, and refresh with other formation leaders from EDOW.

Rhythms of life are changing for many families. In this climate, the traditional models of Sunday School and Youth Group aren’t always as life-giving as they were in the past. This means that Christian formation leaders, whose ministry is to help form young people as Christians, are shifting their ministerial approach. That takes energy, creativity, and trust in the Holy Spirit.

Communities of support – colleagues in ministry – also help. To this end, the diocese is sponsoring an in-person retreat for formation leaders who work with children and/or youth. Held at the Claggett Center Friday, Nov. 4 through Saturday, Nov. 5, 2022, the retreat is an opportunity for formation leaders to connect, pray, engage, and refresh. There will be ample time in the agenda for community building as well as personal retreat space. Participants will stay in private rooms at the Christiane Inn and have access to the center’s beautiful indoor and outdoor spaces, including walking trails and a labyrinth.

Retreat attendance is limited to 20 participants. Any formation leader in the diocese working with children and/or youth is welcome to participate. Registration will close once all spots are full. This retreat will take place Fri. Nov. 4 at 2 pm to Sat. Nov. 5 at 2pm.

The retreat costs $50 which covers room, board, and materials.

Christian Formation Leaders Retreat

Christian Formation Leaders Retreat

Image of the labyrinth at Claggett CenterSupporting faith formation leaders is part of my ministry as the Missioner for Faith Formation and Development. Since joining the bishop’s staff six months ago, one of my priorities has been to meet with Christian educators and formation leaders working with children and youth. These conversations informed me about how our leaders are doing and what the landscape of formation ministry for rising generations looks like in our diocese.

When asked what they need right now, leaders responded. “I yearn to feel connected,” one leader said. “I want to learn from my colleagues,” another shared. Other sentiments included a desire to hear what’s happening in the diocese and to learn how folks are engaged in formation ministry as we emerge from the pandemic. Others spoke of just needing a break. “I just want some rest,” a colleague said, “this stuff is hard.”

It is hard. Even before the pandemic, rhythms of life were changing for many of our families. In this climate, the traditional models of Sunday School and Youth Group aren’t always as life-giving as they were in the past. This means that Christian formation leaders, whose ministry is to help form young people as Christians, are shifting their ministerial approach. That takes energy, creativity, and trust in the Holy Spirit.

Communities of support – colleagues in ministry – also help. One of my goals is to create spaces where these communities of colleagues can flourish and feed one another. To this end, the diocese is sponsoring an in-person retreat for formation leaders who work with children and/or youth. Held at the Claggett Center Friday and Saturday, November 4 & 5, the retreat is an opportunity for formation leaders to connect, pray, engage, and refresh. There will be ample time for community building as well as personal retreat space. Participants will stay in private rooms at the Christiane Inn and have access to the center’s beautiful indoor and outdoor spaces, including walking trails and a labyrinth.

Retreat registration opens Thursday, September 1 through the School for Christian Faith and Leadership. Any formation leader in the diocese working with children and/or youth is welcome to participate, but please note that attendance is limited to 20 participants and registration will close once all spots are full. The retreat costs $50 and covers all your expenses for the event. I hope you will join us and be refreshed.

For more information about the retreat or other opportunities to connect with formation leaders, contact The Rev. Amanda Akes-Cardwell.

Spotlight on Rising Generations: Bishop Walker School Alumnus Jordan Dunstan

Spotlight on Rising Generations: Bishop Walker School Alumnus Jordan Dunstan

The Bishop John T. Walker School for Boys, a ministry of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington, is a transformative community, the type we are working toward by making rising generations a priority. While Bishop Mariann does not name schools specifically in her article on ministry among rising generations from last fall, it is precisely Episcopal school communities like the Bishop Walker School that help nurture and develop our future generations. Today, we share just one example of the positive impact our schools make every day, the story of Jordan Dunstan, a former student at BWS with a promising future.

The Bishop Walker School formally opened in 2008 as the Episcopal Diocese of Washington’s response to the serious educational challenges facing African American boys in the low-income communities east of the Anacostia River in Washington, DC. Tuition-free and named in honor of the first African American bishop of the diocese, the school started its first year with a single class of 13 four-year-olds. From that hope-filled start, the Bishop Walker School community today includes students from kindergarten through fifth grade who participate in academic programs that not only ignite their intellectual curiosity but also expose them to ideas and themes critical to their development as student leaders.

This June, the Bishop Walker School welcomed back a shining example of intellectual curiosity and student leadership as Jordan Dunstan, alumnus of BWS’s first graduating class, returned to the community as the 5th grade promotion speaker.

Recipient of the first Bishop John T. Walker Award, Jordan followed eight years of academic excellence in elementary school with more excellence in both middle and high school. At Oxon Hill Middle School, he earned all A’s and received the highest honors possible in math, art, and science–and was named student-athlete of the year for (baseball). Then at Oxon Hill High School, Jordan took part in the Science and Technology Program and graduated with honors in the top 5% of a graduating class of 316 students. He served as President of the National Social Studies Honor Society, Parliamentarian of the National Honor Society, and helped low-income students with the college application process as Senior Captain of the Peer Forward Organization. While achieving all of these academic and leadership milestones, Jordan also completed over 400 community service hours, from baking, packaging, and delivering meals to veterans, firefighters, and those experiencing homelessness to volunteering at Howard University School of Divinity and the Kairos Prison Ministry.

Jordan was awarded $1.1 Million in scholarships and 27 college acceptances, including offers from Harvard University and Johns Hopkins University. Jordan will be attending Morehouse College in the fall as part of the 2026 Howard Thurman Honors Scholars Cohort and the recipient of the Michael L. Lomax Scholarship which fully covers all of his academic and living expenses.

“Jordan and his fellow classmates of the class of 2022 represent the hope at the core of the mission and vision for the Bishop Walker School,” shares Bishop Walker School Head of School Mike Molina.

Join us in praying for Jordan’s continuing journey and for the entire community at the Bishop John T. Walker School for Boys. By investing in our youth, we make the way for a better world.

Listening to Rising Generations Survey

Listening to Rising Generations Survey

Survey for Listening to Rising Generations eventThanks to everyone who attended the Listening to Rising Generations discussion with Mark Yaconelli, Bishop Mariann, and the Rev. Canon Anne-Marie Jeffery on Friday, January 28. We heard powerful testimonials from four young adults of the diocese and Mark Yaconelli cast a Holy Spirit infused-vision of what’s possible when elders take the time to make genuine connections with the youth and young adults in our communities.

As we continue the work of prioritizing rising generations, we seek your engagement and reflections on how this evening has inspired you.

Please complete this event survey no later than 5:00 p.m., Friday, February 4.

Want a replay of the event? Here’s the recording on our YouTube channel.

 

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