Almighty God, give us grace to cast away the works of darkness,
and put on the armor of light, now and in the time of this mortal life
in which your Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility;
that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty
to judge both the living and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal;
through him who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.
Collect for Advent 1
Happy New Year! This 21
Century Congregations column will arrive in your email at the beginning of January. But, of course, we remembered the liturgical new year on Advent 1, about a month ago! Advent is a season of light as we eagerly anticipate the yearly celebration of the birth of Jesus who is, indeed, with us all the time. How do we reveal the light of the world? How do we work together with our parishes to
Jesus’ light in the world, and to do so with joyful hearts. I believe that when we can work together on our leadership teams with good process and clear mission, keeping our eyes on the one who is the light of the world, we can be bearers of the light in our parishes, communities, and the world. What in your heart and parish need to be revived to claim that mission?
Recently, I joined with a group of nine people to be trained in the Episcopal Church Foundation’s program
. You may know the Episcopal Church Foundation as the folks who publish the
Vestry Papers and Vital Practices
. If you do not know this valuable resource for the church, check it out. You can subscribe to these newsletters for wonderful ideas and guidance.
The Vital Teams program was offered to the initial group in the Vestry 2.0 program in September. Four parishes, about 40 people, gathered to learn about some ways to strengthen their vestry teams. We had some fun, and some serious conversation! One of the vestries spoke about how they realized that they were doing several of the practices suggested and it was great to find ways to affirm and strengthen those practices. Another parish was glad to hear about some of these approaches for the first time. Three of the parishes were merging or emerging parishes and were looking for a way to join their leadership teams together in a common experience with some new learning. Vestries got to know each other and learn from each other. Ken Wagner, from Wilbraham, notes
I really liked that we had pairs of congregations involved in cooperative or merger
activities; the insights from each were helpful. Since then, there have been a
few changes in how we operate, the biggest of which is pushing for info to go out to
vestry members a week ahead of our monthly meeting...the workshop provided the
impetus to move toward more advance notice (we frequently received reports no
more than a day before a meeting, making thoughtful review a challenge). We
also re-instituted a devotional period at the start of the meeting.
It's not rocket science, nor a magic bullet, but faithful reminders about how we can work even more faithfully and deeply together.
Vestry Retreat Idea #1:
As we enter a new year, and as we anticipate annual meetings and vestry elections, I am happy to offer the Vital Teams training for your vestry retreat in February or the beginning of March. I ask that 2 or more parishes get together to do this to enhance and develop partnerships – and, at the same time allow you to bring ideas back to your own parish. I am available
February 10, 17, 24 and March 3
. Please contact me for more information and planning – you choose the place and provide hospitality, and I will turn up for what I hope will be a fun, challenging, faithful approach to leadership in our churches. I look forward to this work with you.
What needs to be revived in your own soul? In the life of your parish? In your community? Where do you need light on your path? Join us in revival next year!
Our Diocese is hosting one of the
being offered through the office of the Presiding Bishop. It is very appropriate to have a revival in the home of the
(for another brief introduction, click
). We have been working closely with the Presiding Bishop’s office in the very beginning of the planning process; their recommendation was to pull together a relatively small discernment group comprised of people – lay and ordained – from around our diocese to determine a focus and direction. That group consists of: Sam Smith (co-facilitator), Zena Link, Jose Reyes, Craig Hammond, Nancy Webb Stroud, Vicki Ix, Milt Barnes, Tom Callard, Kathy Clausen and me. Faithful discussions are underway to determine a direction and shape for this Revival! You will definitely be hearing more – a lot more! But, in the meantime, consider in your own prayer what is calling out for revival in your faith and service.
Many have asked what will happen in this revival – much is up in the air at the moment – you can explore what other dioceses have done
. What we do know is that Presiding Bishop Michael Curry will be with us again on October 21, 2018. This is not, however, a one-time event but, rather, an arc of opportunities to deepen our faith. There will be several opportunities beginning in the spring to participate. Watch for more about Leadership Day, for example, on March 17, 2018, when we will be talking about evangelism and speaking about our faith. The Presiding Bishop’s Office will be supplying us with a plenary speaker and workshop leader. Save the date as this will be part of the emerging revival that will extend beyond next October!
Vestry Retreat Idea #2
– have the vestry make a point to come to Leadership Day and find a time later together to reflect and begin to practice what you learned!
I asked the members of our committee to speak about what “revival” means to them: how has this process of planning already enlivened them, and what their hope is for the revival in Western Massachusetts? Zena Link responded:
Revival to me means bringing something or someone to a renewed sense of
purpose or being. I'm reminded of the power and beauty of collaborating and
sharing ones faith and God's mission for us in the world with others. It is a
gathering and process I look forward to each month.
And, her hope for our diocese is...
A revived and enhanced experience of
coalitions, organizations, religious institutions and various ethnic groups
connecting to spread the "Good News."
Craig Hammond writes:
My thought of Episcopal revival is stated on the bumper sticker that many
Episcopalians have on the back of their automobiles that reads "The Jesus
Movement." It is my belief that any sort of genuine and dynamic church growth
must be exactly that--a movement by Jesus, from Jesus, through Jesus, and
in Jesus. If the Good News of Christ is center state, revival won't be far behind.
And Vicki Ix expresses this:
For me "revival" will be the beginning of something we can't see yet. We are being
led to some good, some new thing. It feels sacramental. It is an outward sign of
something gracious unfolding in our mission here in WMA.
Our co-facilitator, Sam Smith, reflects:
For me Revival means getting back to the basics--remembering those moments when
I have felt closest to God, when I have been most motivated to share the Good News,
when I have felt the power of God's grace. And then, remembering those moments, find
my way again to the power of God's love as a spark to help me be a light for the
World. As I think about what this revival might do for our church community, I pray that
we will create those moments for others--that we will create thousands of sparks,
helping light up the world with the light of Christ.
What are your thoughts? We will soon be having an online forum for thoughts and reflections--watch for it!
May we find ourselves leaning into the Light of Christ in the coming days, weeks, months and years – always anticipating the birth of Christ into our lives and, through our leadership, and our willingness to allow God to revive us, allowing Christ’s light to shine through us into the world. I leave you with Carrie Newcomer singing
Lean into the Light
, shared with our committee at our November meeting.
Blessings in this New Year.