Tell Me The Truth about Racism

Tell Me The Truth about Racism

Tell Me the Truth About Racism is a story that frames racism through the lens of Christian faith for children aged 5-12. Leaders Will Bouvel and Jen Holt Enriquez, first built the foundation of this work in Lent 2021 to teach to children at churches in the Episcopal Diocese of Chicago. Soon thereafter they began training other Christian formation leaders to do this work in their own churches.

Tell Me the Truth About Racism is respected throughout the church and received a Becoming the Beloved Community grant from the Episcopal Church. The entire training is 7 sessions. This 2-hour workshop, sponsored by the Episcopal Diocese of Washington is an opportunity to learn more about the training and to discern if it is a good fit for your community.

The workshop takes place at Diocesan Church House on Tuesday, January 17, 2023 from 11:00 AM to 1:00 PM. Lunch will be provided. The event is free and open to all. Registration is required. You can register on the learning hub here or at learn.edow.org.

Guard the Good Treasures that Are Within You

Guard the Good Treasures that Are Within You

In 2 Timothy, the writer encourages Timothy and his second century Christian community to “guard the good treasures entrusted to you.”  Amid increasing religious disaffiliation today, we may do well to consider doing the same. 

But, what is this good treasure? Is the good treasure our buildings? The sacred items inside our buildings – tables, basins, and pews? Is it the grounds on which this building stands? The pandemic may have shifted our understanding of the place of these material things in our common life. Is our good treasure what we do as a faith community – praising God, sharing meals, baptizing, proclaiming, celebrating, burying, sharing, serving?

What if, as the writer suggests, the good treasures are the gifts God that has sown within you – a relationship with Jesus that presses you to go out into the world to share the good news of God in Christ? What if the good treasure is a way of life that witnesses the presence of God and God’s love for the people in your neighborhood?

The good treasures entrusted to your care begin with your faith – your relationship with Jesus and the trust you have placed in God.

“Guard the good treasures entrusted to you.” 

Twenty-four congregations in the Episcopal Diocese of Washington have now embarked on a three-year journey to guard the good treasures entrusted to them called “Tending Our Soil.” These congregations have been challenged to name, and then steward their good treasures so that they will remain vital bearers of God’s love in this time and place in a rapidly changing world. 

The word entrusted suggests two actions: passing down and caring for. Indeed, our faith is a gift from God passed down through the generations. Just as Timothy’s faith first lived in his grandmother Lois and then in his mother Eunice and finally in Timothy, we are inheritors of good treasure(s). We are the inheritors of faith from your own grandparents, parents, and those who built and stewarded this parish over the centuries. 

Yet, because faith is transmitted from elders to younger generations, the good news of Christ is always one generation away from extinction. 

Today, with declining religious affiliation in the United States, we are acutely aware of this possibility. Every Christian denomination in the United States is now declining. Younger generations in the United States are less and less religious. More than 40 percent of the Gen Z and Millennial generation (those born after 1981) have no religious affiliation compared to 25 percent of Baby Boomers and 20 percent of the Silent Generation.  

Yet, we have been entrusted with good treasures – a gift of God that lives within us – that we are called to share. 

Gen Z and Millennial generations have not stopped seeking the spiritual. Young people today continue to seek identity, purpose, and meaning beyond what can be seen and touched. They continue to ask questions and they do not need to answer life’s big questions alone. 

Tending Our Soil is based on this belief – that local congregations will continue to be the primary form of Christian community… places where Christians gather regularly to worship, teach their religious traditions to their children and youth, extend care to one another, and proclaim love for their neighbors through acts of service and hospitality.  Every congregation serves as a foundational building block of Christian community and a central carrier of faith.

Over three years, the congregations participating in Tending Our Soil will explore and understand the rapidly changing social and cultural context around them; gain greater clarity about their values and mission; and draw on Christian practices from the Episcopal tradition and theology to adapt their ministries to the concerns and gifts of their neighbors. The ultimate aim is to strengthen congregations so that they can better help people deepen their relationships with God, enhance their connections with each other and contribute to the flourishing of their communities and the world.

As Episcopalians, we have been entrusted with much to treasure: good news that our neighbors so desperately want to hear – that they are loved, have infinite value, are called to lives of purpose and meaning, and are not alone. God loves them with a love that endures all things. These are the treasures that are meant to be given away.

You can join by taking part of the many courses that School for Christian Faith and Leadership offers every congregation. Some of these courses feature the very same speakers in Tending Our Soil. The course “Pathways of Discipleship” by the Rev. Dr. Douglas Powe is just one live course. A whole suite of on-demand courses are available too, including these short-courses that focus on parish vitality.

Which course this fall will help you guard the good treasure that is entrusted to you?

The Good Neighbor Church

The Good Neighbor Church

A congregation nestled comfortably in the midst of a two-mile radius of middle-class homes strongly desired to reach new people for Christ. They had deep hearts of compassion and felt God speaking to them to become invitational. To accomplish that goal, they had been investigating the possibility of planting a new worshipping community on the city’s outskirts, 13 miles away in an area filled with young professionals. A preliminary estimate of the cost to support this plant for the first three years added up to a few hundred thousand dollars.

I asked a simple question and the answer surprised us all. “Have you researched how many of your current members happen to live within six blocks in any direction of the church here?” The pastor responded immediately, “Yes, we have done the work of plotting where our congregation lives. Only one family attending here lives within six blocks. Interestingly, though, no one else does. Everyone else drives in from other neighborhoods.”

Do you know your immediate neighbors?

“Do you happen to be acquainted with who lives in the houses on either side of the church, or the three houses right across the street? Your neighbors, so to speak?” The room was silent. “How about the four houses along your parking lot in back? Have you met any of them? What are the names of their children, their pets? Do they have any needs the church could care for, or any way the church could be good neighbors to them and build friendships with them? Do they even go to church anywhere?” More silence.

After further contemplation, the pastor and leadership realized it wasn’t necessary to drive miles to the outskirts of the city and invest significant funds to reach the churchless. They had a mission field immediately around their existing church building that was completely untapped. Perhaps launching a satellite campus in the upscale suburbs seemed trendier and more glamorous, but simply walking across the street or parking lot to meet and get acquainted with the church’s neighbors was intimidating yet free — with eternal reward potential.

A Good Neighbor team

A “Good Neighbors” team was formed, composed mostly of the church’s newest members. The team’s single purpose was to get acquainted with every person or family whose home was within sight of the church building, a two-block square. The Good Neighbors team would gather to prayer walk the “Neighbors Square” as they nicknamed it, introducing themselves to the residents who happened to be outside. They identified themselves as being from the church and simply asked, “How can our church be a good neighbor to you?” They also asked, “Do you have anything we could pray about for you?”

Their goal was to make friends. Sometimes they took plates of homemade cookies to share. They learned the names of children, of cats and dogs. They heard about griefs, challenges, and joys. They occasionally helped change a flat tire. One on the Good Neighbor team went to a court hearing in spiritual support of a church neighbor. Others on the Good Neighbor team decided to start a quarterly neighborhood birthday party in the church fellowship hall, and invited the church’s immediate neighbors and their families for one afternoon of celebrating every neighbor’s birthday at the same time. Many others in the congregation attended and brought cards; some even brought small gifts. A few neighbors from houses down the street — not on the Good Neighbors team’s route – heard about the party and unexpectedly showed up as well. They were immediately added.

Eventually several of the church’s neighborhood residents were spotted sitting in worship with their new friends from the Good Neighbors team. Some of the children attended Vacation Bible School. And at the fall all-church vision dinner, the pastor had two members of the Good Neighbors team share stories of their experiences. The congregational response was so enthusiastic that his church eventually developed several additional Good Neighbors teams to befriend an entire six-block square area around itself. The teams each took spiritual responsibility to help the church become a loving, relational neighbor to those living in its immediate mission field. A few months ago, the pastor baptized a mother and her four children whose home he can see from the church’s office window, and they have all become deeply involved in church life. A weekly Good Neighbors Bible study has started on three of the blocks, led by individuals serving on those teams.

Who are your church’s neighbors, literally?

The Path Ahead℠ Facilitator Training

The Path Ahead℠ Facilitator Training

Seabury Resources for Aging® facilitator training for The Path Ahead: Spirituality & Purpose in Later Life℠, a six-part curriculum on the spirituality of aging designed for small groups. Over four consecutive Tuesday evenings, Sept. 20th-Oct. 11th. via Zoom.

The Path Ahead℠ Facilitator Training

The Path Ahead℠ Facilitator Training

Seabury Resources for Aging® facilitator training for The Path Ahead: Spirituality & Purpose in Later Life℠, a six-part curriculum on the spirituality of aging designed for small groups. Over four consecutive Tuesday evenings, Sept. 20th-Oct. 11th. via Zoom.