The 21st Century Laity

(I am not sure if I had posted this before or not, and it is something that I wrote a few years ago… Hopefully you will enjoy this)

The 21stCentury Laity
In many ways, they Episcopal Church still operates as though it is the 1950s in the ways of what Clergy and Laity do. In the 1950s if you burnt someone out, because the congregations where full so it was easy for someone else to step up.
But over the recent years the numbers sitting in the pews has fallen, the congregations have had to rely on fewer and fewer people, and when people burn out their isn’t a pool of people available to fill in, so those who are brunt out continue to do work that they should of stepped back from.
But is this just an Episcopal Church problem, or a problem in many of the other denominations also? Is this problem even bigger? Are we as a society doing way to much multitasking causing us to burn out much faster? But could also much of this burnout be due to the fact that when many people get a bit of power they have a hard time letting that power go or sharing that power? Are the laity becoming burnt out because they are being asked to do more than they should?
The answer is that in most cases it is a mixture of all of the above, and not just one thing. But what can we as a diocese do to slow the burn that is happening?
  1. Get people to really think about what they really want to do. we spend time working with people prior to Baptism, Confirmation and Marriage getting people to really think about what they are about to do, but not about many of the activities that go on in the churches.
a) One way to to get Congregation Vocation Committees (CVCs) to think about becoming Congregation Discernment Committees (CDCs). With Area Ministry, people would get involved with their CDCs to figure out what their ministry in the church is. Also get people to go through a CDC every few years and rethink about where there ministry is at that time. (The name change was something that the CoM talked about at it’s last retreat.)
b) The Diocese currently does a Vestry Training Day and a couple of other church training things. Maybe the Diocese should find out what committees and commissions that congregations have and do training days for some of the most common ones where possible.
  1. Both the Clergy and Lay Leaders need to speak up and let the congregation understand that in order for the church to survive that it takes all to get involved. By getting more involved, it will mean that the work gets spread out amongst more people instead of just a few causing the few to burn out.
  2. Getting people to think about transferring to another congregation for a “Fresh Start” is something that they could or should do. By changing congregations from time to time, it permits people to renew their spirits, and congregations will be able to renew themselves and not become stuck in the same mold which doesn’t permit it to grow. I am currently seriously discerning how much longer I will remain in the congregation that I am in, and to which congregation I will transfer to once I leave.
  3. The diocese should start encouraging Communities of Lay Leadership. For example, get the Lay leaders from St. James, St. Paul’s, St. Augustine’s and Our Saviour to sit and have a meal together every few months to talk about what is going on in each of the congregations. this would be something that would travel from congregation to congregation with the meal. I have seen some interesting ideas that I have tried to bring back to St. James. Maybe in each month that has a 5th Sunday,a couple of the leaders from each congregation would go to the service of one of the churches in the group and have this meal after the service. Yes part of the role of Deaneries should be people connecting and having these conversations in my opinion, but in the deanery that I am in, I didn’t see that happening much when I was attending deanery meetings, but it has been a while since I have been onto the Deanery. At our last Annual Meeting I was elected onto the deanery as a Delegate, so I will get to see what is going on, but I don’t expect to see any changes.
  4. Better times need to be chosen for meetings. One of the complaints the Laity has are meeting times. For most of the working members in the diocese, they have jobs during the day and are not able to attend meetings that occur in this diocese for the different committees and commissions that exist. Because of this, those who are able to attend these meeting tend to be retired and/or in a situation where they can attend, and they end up on so many that they become easily burnt out. Here is what I would suggest:
a) Establish certain days when these groups would meet. Let’s say the 1stand 3rd Thursdays
during the evening, and the 2nd and 4th Saturdays during the day.
b) Get people to really think about which and how many commissions and committees, and
which ones that they truly feel called to be on with the maximum being three.
What these will also do will get younger people involved and they will feel apart of the church
in more than just going to church on Sundays. By getting younger folks involved, it means that
those with children will be examples that their kids may follow.
With the clergy, especially those who have congregations, by having them limit the amount of
things on a diocesan level means that they can concentrate more on their congregation, and it
will also give those who aren’t doing something on a diocesan level a chance to get involved.
    1. With Area Ministry, encourage Lay Leaders in these clusters to have a meeting with a meal every 2 or 3 months. This meeting would rotate amongst the congregations in the clusters. The meetings would be about what is going on in the cluster.
    1. Get congregations to establish term/time limits with different the different commissions and committees that they have where possible. This will allow for new ideas to be brought into the group(s) and all of those who would like to do things within the congregation to have a chance. It will also get those who are burnt out because they have been doing so much to actually have a chance to become refreshed.
    2. If term/time limits are established, the diocese should designate a Sunday where the those who are dropping out of these committees and commissions are thanked and applauded and those coming on are welcomed. This service would happen in each congregation.
    3. The Diocese and Congregations should take advantage of not only DioBytes, but our Facebook group and other resources available in promoting events. The people of the Diocese need to take advantage of these sources also in finding out what is going on. Sometimes I am really frustrated with the congregation that I am in and want to leave the Episcopal Church totally, but I will go to an event at another congregation and become renewed and refreshed knowing that great things are actually happening here. I am currently going to a four week event at St. Paul’s Oakland because of an invite sent to me via Facebook.
    4. With Area Ministry, let’s take advantage of clergy in this diocese who are not in a congregation. With the ones who are willing, let them be kind of a “Arch Layperson” (I really can’t think of a good term to use at the moment,) but for like the Advent Series and Lent Series they would have a list of Lay Leaders in an area that they would contact to get them to announce and gather people to come to these events. If it would be possible to move the event around to different congregations, this person would work with these leaders on arranging space and such. These clergy people start off by leading these events, but as they get to know people, they could get them to lead a portion or all of an event.
    5. We must have people who know Tai Chi, Meditation Techniques, and other things who would be willing to lead an hour or two a month where lay leaders would gather to do some of these things together. This could be one form of Health and/or Spiritual renewal.
There are many things that the diocese could do that will help to stem the burnout that occurs within the Laity, to renew the laity, but as long as the church continues to think in the 1950s mentality and not really moving truly into a 21st century thinking and ways, where the clergy realize that they don’t have to lead things in the church outside of the service, and the people realize that in order for the church to really survive it must take the lead and the responsibility in a healthy way, burnout will continue.
I would love to know what ideas you have to help in the growth of church congregations and Christianity as a whole…
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God’s Music

 I was sitting in a church last night for a service which was mostly sung by a choir. Now the service was nice, as it was one that isn’t done much. It was some men and boys choir, and was disappointed that the boys didn’t do much singing, and even at one point began to wonder why they even had the boys there.
As I was sitting there listening to them sing, I suddenly began to wonder about something and began to laugh about it more inside as I thought about it. Now I won’t say that I know what God likes as far as music is concerned, but it became a question and a thought in my head.
Now in the congregation that I am in, we have no playing organist. We do have someone with the title of Organist, but he only has it in order to do some work to repair our organ. For some things he is really good and I enjoy his playing, but as far as being a Church Organist, I have had people inform me that if I am not going to be there, and he will be playing the organ, to inform them so that they could go elsewhere for service. Sadly he just doesn’t have the skills that a Church Organist needs, but I have heard him play other things, and he is really good.
As I sat there I really began to wonder what God really likes as far as music goes. The choir was singing this traditional old Latin song, then suddenly I looked up at the priest who was sitting there meditating and picturing him as if he was God. Then Family Radio came to mind when it was suppose to be the rapture and the music that they were playing on the station. I then began to think about things like Gregorian Chants and other types of religious music. Oh I do love religious music, but I also love other types of music.
One of the nice things about the congregation that I am in and using the computer to do the music is the fact that we get to hear a variety of different different styles of Christian music. Some times I will play traditional stuff, and at other times I will play some Country, some Rap, Jazz, Blues, Blue Grass and other types of music. Our former Bishop used to enjoy coming to our congregation because I would play Gospel. He would be in the church while nobody else was, and I would have some Gospel playing and he would be dancing up and down the aisles. The first time that it happened, it shocked me, as I didn’t realize that he was even in the church and I was just playing some music for myself until the people started coming in. I happen to look up to see him in the aisle just dancing away. After service was over and the people where in the Parish Hall, I needed to check on the music for the following Sunday, so I put some Gospel on only to look up a little bit later to see him dancing again.
With the way that the priest sits in the congregation that I was in, his chair is against the wall facing the congregation. Now I know that this priest wouldn’t do it, but I suddenly imagined him as God and turning to the choir after they had finished one of the songs and turning in a booming voice and telling them thanks, he had heard enough, then picking up a phone and saying that he wanted James Brown to come in and give a concert, followed by the Rolling Stones, the Sex Pistols, then George Clinton.
I don’t know why all of this came to mind, but it was like the thing about eating the same thing everyday at every meal. I mean that at a point it gets tiresome and you need a change. Is God sitting there when his desire to hear music with like a radio and he turns the dial to something that he wants to hear at the moment. Oh I am sure that some will say that he will love hearing song giving him praise, but wouldn’t get tired of hearing just music praising him after a point? I mean wouldn’t God want to hear some Tupac, Biggie Smalls, Madonna, Elton John, Wayne Newton, Sammy Davis, Jr., Cab Calaway, etc at some point just for something different?
Now I could be totally wrong about this, but think about it. If you were God, would you really want to hear the music that is done in the Christian churches all of the time?
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The Middle Ground

Yes I know that it has been a while since I last wrote anything in this blog, but I have been busy with a bunch of things and when I have had time to wrote something, this blog hasn’t been on my mind. Hopefully I will get back into the habit of writing something more often from this point on.
Over the last few weeks, I have been attending a “Soup Lenten Series” being held at one of the local congregations (St. Paul’s Oakland,) and the series has been about contemporary Saints. The series has been really interesting, as we watch a video, after which we discuss what was on the video and the things in the world. I have really enjoyed it, and wish that we would have a series about something at the congregation that I am at, but sadly we couldn’t get people to attend. I know that my Pastor would enjoy doing a such thing, but the congregation wouldn’t show up for it.
At the recent one, as we watched the video, I suddenly began to wonder about something. I would really love to read your thoughts about it in the comment box below this blog. The discussion also went into this area and I what I wrote down began to hit me hard, as it was so much related.
What I wrote down was something to the effect of “Is there any real difference between the Taliban and the Conservative in this country?” Now my original thought was really related to the roles of women in the world. If you really look at both and what they are trying to do, it seems as though the aim is to put women into a lower class than men. In both cases it seems as though one of the aims is to control females so that they are basically put into the role of slaves. Now I am sure that some will say that the Taliban are much crueler than what the conservatives of this country are trying to do, and yes that is true, but to a point.
From what gets reported in this country, it seems as though females are basically treated like a piece of property. Females are expected to remain virgins until they marry, which is something that the Conservatives of this country seem to want to push also. With the Taliban, if a woman becomes pregnant she can’t get an abortion even if it would mean saving her life, which is also another thing that the Conservatives seem to be pushing. With the Taliban the males are the rulers of the home, which is something that the Conservatives desire. If a female is a single mother, under the Taliban these females have little to no support, and if you look at the cuts that the Conservatives want to make, many of those cuts would leave single mothers with little to know support.
But I also must say that the liberals are like the Taliban also in that like them, they have there agenda which they seem to be stuck on and trying to force down everybody’s throat without wanting to here and really pay attention to the other side…
How do I come upon this conclusion about the all of them. Watch tv’s “Talking Pundits” over the week and weekend. All that they all seem to want to do is to battle with each other and really not try to reach the middle ground on any topics. With both sides it’s about what they want and nothing less, and from what gets reported on tv about the Taliban, they are doing the same thing.
But the same thing can be found in the Holy Bible also if you just really look and think about it. People seem to forget that Jesus gathered people from all spectrums of life and was really the person in the middle ground. Look at Moses and the things that he had to go through both before and after Egypt. You can look all through the Bible and find plenty of examples of it being one side against the other, and if you think about it, in many cases it was the ones in the middle who really got anything done. Those in the middle seem to be the Peace Makers on many things.
I have no “ill will” against the Taliban, the Conservatives or the Liberals. I just wish that someone would come along who was the Peace Maker and stood in the middle ground…
Please post your comments and thoughts in the box below this blog…
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I’m Published

 I had thought about putting this into my last blog, but figured that it would be better if I did this separate.

 As I have mentioned in the past, my favorite “service” is “The Stations Of The Cross”… Over a bit of time I actually created 9 that can be used which consist of different themes and have published them in a book. The themes range from Racism, Forgiveness, Alzheimers, Immigration and more. If you would be interested in buying a copy, then here is the link…

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Wish Upon A Star

 I was sitting at a table not long ago before a meeting and a discussion was going on with a few of us, when somehow one of the people said something that I found interesting and it made me wonder how well people really understand and think about the words that they use and what we are taught in the Bible. The person had what they said was a bad upbringing by there mother and that their mother was going to Hell for the way that she is/was. I found this remark to be very interesting in that it is so against the teachings of the Bible and the words of Jesus.
In the Bible Jesus says that we should Love Our Neighbors As Ourselves. Many people just think of physical actions when it comes to this statement, but this statement is also true of our words. Now I will admit that I have done this, and most likely will in the future, but I really do try my best not to wish ill upon someone else.
I was listening to someone a number of year ago talk about wishing ill upon someone else, and it made me think about the words that we use when it comes to stuff. The example that the person used was about cars. They said that there are some cars on the road today that seem to have a common thing where something will break down after so many miles. But he pointed out that this wasn’t true of all the cars within the different makes and models, in that for many of the cars the part(s) will last a number of times longer than people are saying. The ill will comes when someone says to the owner that the car after so long their car will have this certain problem, instead of saying something to the effect that they had heard about the problem, but that we happy to see that the person bought a car that they were happy with and liked. Would you want for someone to tell you that you are going to have problems with a vehicle that you are happy with and most likely won’t happen for years, if it even happens?
Now think about the times that you either thought or told someone that you wish that they would go to Hell. Now do you want for someone to say that to you and for their words to come true? Would you feel guilty if you were to go to Heaven and you by that time you had a developed a great relationship with the person, and when you asked where they were, God looked at you and reminded you that you wished that they went to Hell, so he granted your request? What if the person that you wished would just simply die, and they then dropped dead right in front of you? How would you feel?
I was talking with a friend of mine, and our discussion was about some of the things in the Bible. Somehow we got to talking about the parting of the seas so that the Jews could cross with Moses, and he said that it is sad that we celebrate the passage, but yet don’t mourn for the loss of these soldiers who died. I really hadn’t thought about it. Then he said something to the effect of “Since God created us all, wasn’t those his creations that died?” The more that I thought about what he said, the more that I really began to rethink that story.
Late last year a scandal broke at Penn State University. One of the assistant football coaches was accused of sexually abusing some young boys. One of the results of the whole thing was that the head coach, Joe Paterno was fired. When things initially broke, Paterno said that he would retire at the end of the season. Now even though he wasn’t the one abusing the young boys, and when an accusation had been brought to him he did what he felt he had to do, when the story broke people wanted him fired and some wished that he would die. Companies backed away from him, the the College system removed his name from an award. When he died, I suddenly began to wonder how many of those people who vilified him where now giving nothing but high praises about him? I also wonder how many of the people who vilified him and wanted to see him die now regret the words they used?
I had lunch not to long ago with someone who did something wrong in not giving me the credit due because of some work that I did. They had been told that they need to apologize for there actions, but they have done whatever they could do avoid saying the words “I’m sorry.” They have laid blame on so much other stuff, even on their upbring and on their own mother. When I mentioned to them at lunch what was due to me by them, they had even more excuses. One of the excuses I found really disturbing and realized how they really enjoy damaging others. The person started talking about how it should be done in private so that the person giving the apology isn’t embarrassed, but thinking upon what was said is so wrong. I began to wonder how many of the people who bullied someone thought that they should apologize to whom they bullied, but were going to wait until they were alone with the person, now regret it even more because the person killed themselves because of the bullying that happened? How many lives could have been saved if a simple apology had been made? I wonder how many of those bullies will now end up in Hell because God granted the wish of the one who killed themselves even though the bully changed their life around and actually brought people to the teachings of the Bible?
Oh I forgive the person who did me wrong, but I feel sad for them, as no matter how hard they try to justify to themselves as to how right they are, they will have to answer to God for there actions. I am sure that they will try and come up with excuses, but for all of us our excuses won’t work, as God knows us better than we know ourself. We aren’t going to be judged just on the Good that we have done in life, but also up on the bad that we have done, and that bad also includes the words that we use.
Words are a powerful thing, and the way that they are used are even more powerful. Can you honestly look in the mirror and say that you don’t regret anything that you have said? I know that I can’t.
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The True Meaning Of Christmas?

 Now I am sure that I will get comments on this post, but I want for you to think about it for a bit. I could be right, or I could be wrong.
 I find Christmas not to be a time of joy, but a time of sadness. We go out and spend so much money buying presents and other stuff over an event that in reality is a very sad event. Billions of dollars are spent every year over this season, but in reality none of the presents or trees, etc really have nothing to do with what we celebrate. 
 Imagine being a parent who’s child says to you that they will go someplace to give their life in order to die for the sins of the people of the planet. We are brought up thinking that we will outlive our children, but here is one who will die before us.
 What would be even worse is knowing that your child will dies not only for the people, but the people that you yourself created ever so long ago. A place where very few of those that you created would actually give you the honor and praise that you ever so deserve by creating there life in the first place. The ones that you gave the commandment to Honor Your Mother & Father, but yet they choose not to honor you as their parent. Oh sure, some will honor you in a way that you deserve, but most will basically spit upon you. 
 Then you have a child who says to you that they will die for all of the sins of the people. You child who could of simply stayed in your place with all of the comforts that you have, but yet they choose to surrender all of that in order to get people to start paying attention and thinking about the way they do and honor you in there lives.
 You child goes and doesn’t become a Priest, but a Deacon to the world. You child goes out among the rich and poor and speaks of the love that you have for each and every one, and that the rules that you should follow are really simple, that being to love your neighbor as yourself, and to love you with all of there being. You know the future in that they will nail your child to a cross where he shall die.
 You watch over time as they create a day to celebrate the day that your son arrived, but instead of spending time thanking you and your child for coming and reminding us what happened, and that your sins were and are forgiven, they spend there time in ways that will cause them to continue to sin, and in some cases those sins will be even higher than before.
  You also realize that when they celebrate the birth of your child really isn’t on the day that he came upon this earth as it is told in your Holy Book, but then again you do like the fact that they are celebrating it. But then you sit and think about it and begin to under why they don’t celebrate it everyday? Why aren’t they celebrating the life of your child each and every day. Oh they do celebrate it on Sundays, but then they turn around and  as soon as they leave the temples that they have built to honor you, they go out and commit more sins like they really didn’t take what they experienced really seriously.
 But then you sit back and smile, as you realize that even with all of the wrong that they have and are doing, there are many of your creatures who try and honor you in all that they do each and every second of there life. 
 Now I ask, which are you? What is the true meaning of Christmas to you?
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Prayer Life

So tell me abut your pray life?
One the questions that comes up with the Commission on Ministry has to do with ones Prayer Life. This is a question that is put to most all of the people who desire to become ordained into one of the orders, and I figures that since I ask the question of those that I am Shepard to and interview on there pathway, I should answer the question myself.
As it would be seen in the eyes of most people, they would say that my prayer life sucks, because I don’t get up early, or go to bed early, nor do I have a regular routine that most people would recognize. For me, setting aside a time and place for regular pray would only be empty and wasted time. I am not saying that it is what is do is truly 100% right, but it is what I find that works well for me.
I will admit that at times when I am in a church service, I really can’t get into the prayers that are going on, and will even think about other stuff. But there are times when I am in a service and I am really moved by the prayers that are occurring at the moment. I am sure that there are some who are reading this who feel that I am wrong for this, but really think about the time that you are spending in church and what you really are doing is just saying the words from your mouth, but not really saying them from your heart. What is so different about it? I am being open and honest about it.
But don’t get me wrong, as there are many a time when I am really praying through my heart as we say prayers during service, but I also recognize that there are times when I am just having the words come out of my mouth.
My prayer life is something that I don’t confine to just certain times and/or days, but something that I try and do at all times. Some people will look up on what I am doing as meditation in the way that that they may see me doing it, and at other times they will not even realize that I am praying. I will spend time praying at all kinds of times. You may not see my mouth moving, but I feel that prayer is something that you can do through your mind without opening your lips.
There are times that I am traveling from one place to another and am in a conversation with someone, and while we are conversing with each other I am praying in my head. Now this doesn’t mean that I am not paying attention to the other person, it means that I am expanding my mind and heart to allow it to happen. I am taking those feelings of anger and pushing them aside.
Many people have written books and given lectures and sermons on what they call the proper way to pray, but to me the proper way to pray many times is just between yourself and God. What works best for people is an individual thing, not something that can really be put down on paper or spoken. Yes those books, sermons and etc can help you find what works for you, but you can’t put limits upon the way that ones prays.
I really don’t think that God will reject your prayers if you are sitting on an airplane looking out the window and saying thanks for the beauty of the earth. I don’t think that God is going to reject your prayers if you take a quick second and ask God to forgive someone that you have heard about on the news who has done wrong. You must remember that we are ALL God Children, and wouldn’t you want for that person to pray for you when you have done something wrong?
So what is my prayer life like? I pray as I travel around from one place to another. I pray as I sit and watch TV. I pray as I do stuff on the Internet. I pray at all kinds of times and in all kinds of places. Am I in constant prayer. I can honestly say that I am not. I can honestly say that I should pray more than I do. I can honestly say that I try to pray as much as I can.
So sit and think about it, what is your prayer life like?


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It’s That Time Of The Year

 Well it is coming up that time of year for most churches, that being doing the annual Pledge Drive/Stewardship Campaign, in other words, it’s that time of year for the churches to start asking its members to let it know how much money that it plans to give so that the churches can pan for the next year.

 But there will be some congregations were this won’t happen, which is sad. Oh excuses will be given in many of them as to why they don’t, which in the long run is going to not only hurt that congregation, but it will reflect on the leaders of that congregation. Should that congregation close, in the end the people who it will reflect upon the most will be the ordained of that congregation. I know of an ordained person who told his congregation that Stewardship had nothing to do with money. I feel really sad for that person, as I know of people in that congregation who want to pledge and be good stewards who want to pledge and be good stewards, but they spend the money on other things instead.

 I was brought up in a family where being apart of the church in different ways is a tradition that goes back many generations. We have not only given our dollars to the church, but our time in other areas of the church also. They have ranged from being both Laity to ordained. They have served on Vestries, Altar Guilds, Acolytes, Sunday School Teachers, Maintenance people, and so many other things. I myself has served as an acolyte, been a thurifer, lay reader, cup bearer, provide music for services, been in the choirs, sung in folk groups, intercessor, usher, served on committees and commissions, along with a number of other things.

 Why have I been involved in so many things? Because I was brought up to believe that pledging and stewardship is also more than giving money. But that without giving money to the church by pledging, the church cannot survive. How is the church suppose to pay people? How is the church suppose to pay the electric, water, gas and/or oil bills? How is the church suppose to be able to pay for the things that it uses during services? How is the church suppose to be able to pay for the buildings so that programs and events can happen? How is the church suppose to be able to even plan for the future if it doesn’t know if it will have money in the future?

 If you think about it, you will also realize that doing such things like sending Missionaries out to spread the Great News of the Gospels couldn’t happen. Oh I am sure that some would be happy because radio and television evangelist would vanish, but as much as one may dislike them, they are able to bring the Great News to those who are homebound, and with some people they record them because they have to work, so they watch them later.

 For some, going to church is a family event that brings the family together. We live in a world where there are so many distractions that going to church is the only family event that happens. The church is a place where many children learn discipline from others besides their parents. Church is the place where people make friends and find relationships with people who are similar in many ways to themselves. The church is the place where people come to celebrate the life of a Great person. But without money, these things can’t happen, because the church would not exist.

 With some churches, they tell you how much you should pledge, and that amount is usually 10% of your income. But the truth is that the amount of money that you pledge is really between you and the Holy Trinity. I am sure that some will be told that they can’t afford to pledge, or will be discouraged from pledging, but my hope is that they don’t listen to the people telling them that, as that is the Devil speaking, and we all know that the Devil doesn’t want the Great News to be spread out.

 But also pledge things that you will do in the church, being you join and sing in the choir, serve on the altar, host “coffee hour”, teach Sunday School, help to clean up around the place, or something of many other things that you could be doing. The church needs you involved in many ways in order to continue to spread the Great News of the Gospels to the world.

 There is a phrase that is said in different ways through most religions, that phrase being “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” I was to change that praise into something that I want for you to think about. “Give Unto The Church As You Would Have It Give Unto You”

 Think about how your life would be if the church didn’t exist. Would you be like you are if it didn’t exist, or would you be worse off? How important is the church to you? Do you desire that the church and its people continue to spread the Great News of the Gospels to others?

 When the pledging starts, do and give what you feel is best for you and for the church in both money and time.

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It’s Time To Celebrate

Been trying to figure out why people are going to the Evangelic and other churches over some other denominations? What is it that they are doing that we aren’t doing. I mean mainly, for the most part we are all spreading the Good News about Jesus, but why are some growing while others aren’t?
This past Sunday I didn’t go to my congregation, but headed out to another one to see a friend installed as the Deacon for that congregation. It was a wonderful and joyous service, and I felt really good when I left. It felt so good to sit in a congregation where I could really feel the Spirit. As I walked back to BART, I began to wonder what it was that they have that my congregation doesn’t? I began to think about the other congregations that I had been in not only in this diocese, but in others, along with the non-Episcopal churches that I have been it. Suddenly it hit me earlier today.
At one time the congregation that I am in was actually growing. As I think back about it, it was doing something that it is no longer doing, and even though I an others have tried to bring it back, the big “We Can’t ….” has gotten in the way and I sit and watch as those who want to either give up or simply leave.
What I had realized what the other congregation and the growing congregations are going is bring Excitement into the services. They are celebrating themselves and just sticking with the way things were. Think about it with the denominations that are growing throughout the world. We often say that we can’t get the young adults into the churches, but think about the our services.
What is the first thing that we should do? Get rid of the organs. My congregation decided that the future of the music in the church would be done through a computer. When we moved over to using a computer, and even still to this day, people tell me how they are so happy to hear modern music and not the old classical stuff. That the modern stuff makes them feel closer to the Holy Trinity, where the classical bores them in many ways. If the congregation that I am in were to hold a concert that contained just classical music, only a couple of people from the congregation would show up. I find it interesting to listen as I play something modern and hear people singing along, where if I play something from the classical style they will ignore what is being played and will talk with each other. It’s time to dump the organs and bring in not just computers, but guitars and instruments to put into peoples hands, with modern music that will cause them to clap and dance. Last night I did the music for a memorial service playing some songs that are somewhat modern, but still has been around for a while, and I was amazed at the number of people who sang along without using anything that had words on them. I find that happening many Sundays. When it comes to the older stuff, people need to look at the words, but not with the newer stuff. In a way it is telling me that the newer stuff is actually touching people’s hearts, where the older stuff doesn’t.
We need sermons that really reach into peoples hearts, gets them excited, uplifts them, makes them feel as those they have been touched, makes them want to jump up and down. Time to put an end to these really drab sermons that so many give. Time to put an end to the sermons where one has to tell stories about ones self, which many times are really unrelated to the any of the lessons of the day. The second that you realized that you have used a story many times, we frankly it is time to put that story away, as when you start to tell it people no longer paying attention to the rest that you have to say. It comes across as Boasting when one has to repeatedly talk about ones self. One of the things that I notice with the denominations that are growing and with the tv and radio people is that they bring excitement into their sermons. Their sermons excite people and reach into the hearts of people. That spend time talking about the Good News and the excitement of it. They bring something that seems to touch each and every one listening.
Here is an idea that I have mentioned before, but am changing it just a little. I say that once every 3 months that it is mandatory for a priest from elsewhere comes and does the service at each of our congregations. This would all happen on the same Sunday, and I am not talking about just the one service that Sunday, but ALL of the services that Sunday. No excuses are acceptable for it not happening at a congregation, and if it does happen, the clergy of that congregation are not permitted to do another service there until after the next shift happens.
Celebrate the people in the congregation, even better yet, celebrate the congregation. I know that there are congregations in the world that celebrate their founders on a special day. If you look on Youtube, there is a great video that I saw a few years ago of a church that held a Founders Day Celebration where they used music from different eras of the members of the congregation. As they played music from each era, the people of that era would stand up and dance the dance of that song. I wish that I could find it again, and I will have to take a look for it.
Another thing that needs to happen is that the elders of congregations are going to have to step back and let the younger folks run the church. The elders are going to have to look at themselves as advisers to then, and also not get in the way of progress. Churches need to come up to the modern times and need to be relate-able to those that the congregations are desiring to have in them.
But the churches also need to get outside of the doors. The churches need to push such ideas as Home Eucharist among members of different congregations. What this will do is to get people from different congregations to meet and talk with each other, sharing ideas and activities that each other are having. One of the sad things that seems to be going on are Control issues that some have. Some seem to want so badly to control the things that members of their congregations know that they are driving people away, not only from the congregations, but from the church itself.
One of our weaknesses is that we in the Episcopal/Anglican Church is that we don’t have Bibles in the pews of our church. We have a hymnal, the Book Of Common Prayer, but it is rare that you walk into one of our congregations and actually find Bibles in the pews. I walked into St. Paul’s, San Rafael, Ca, and not only was a amazed by the beauty of the place, but smiled more when I saw that they actually had Bibles in the pews. But also walk into the homes of most within the Episcopal/Anglican Church and see if you spot a Bible. Then actually open it up and try and figure out if it is one that is being used. I will admit that if you come into my place you will find a shelf full of Bibles, but one thing that you will notice if you walk into my bedroom is that I have one on my bed. You will also find a couple of that are well used sitting on a shelf next to my bed. There are many things within the Bible that are exciting, and we need to take that excitement out into the streets and into our congregations.
But the one thing that we each need to do is to bring excitement into our churches also. We can’t just rely on the clergy to bring it, but we must also bring it. If some music is being played that just makes you want to clap, then clap. If it makes you want to dance, then dance. If whomever is giving the sermon says something that excites you, then give an Amen. If that sermon was great, applaud. did the choir sing something really exceptional, applaud. Let’s get some life into the church.
If the churches don’t start making changes and bringing excitement, the pews will continue to become more and more empty. So in the comments below, tell me, what do you think that we can do to help not only build the sizes of our congregations, but to bring excitement into the churches?
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An Idea For Church Growth

The diocese that I live had a webinar last night and something came up that peeked my mind. It was something that was so simple for congregations to do that I am surprised that many of them don’t do it. Now I don’t know how well it would work, but it is something that we need to do.
The webinar dealt with a number of different topics, but the topic that interest me the most had to do with something that I have been trying to figure out how to do and to do over the last decade, that being the growth of congregations, not just in the Episcopal Church, but in all churches that serve the Holy Triune.
About 6 weeks ago, my pastor (my congregation doesn’t have a rector/Vicar/Priest In Charge) said that he and I needed to sit and talk, as he feels that I hate him. I have no clue as to where that came from, as it is so far from the truth that it isn’t funny. Yes I do dislike ad disagree with man of his actions, but hate him I do not do. Why do I mention this, because in at times he will do something that I notice in so many congregations and people (including myself) do, and that is to make excuses as to why something can’t/isn’t happening. Many congregations do this when it comes to growth and looking for new members. Now some congregations are good at it and are active in trying to get people into the pews each Sunday, but I think that many find excuse after excuse not to really try. Let’s go through some of them.
“But if we get more people, it will mean that the leaders of the congregation will have a lot more work to do, and they don’t have the time now.” – It could be that some of those new people that you gain will be leaders and make things easier for everybody.
“But we have tried in the past, even bringing people to help us.” – So I am guessing that you don’t mind watching the congregation just vanish into history over time. Why not just shut the doors now?
“People come, but they don’t come back.” – Next time that someone comes and visits, watch who welcomes them during the Peace and after the service. Was it someone other than a clergy person who approached them after the service? Were they invited to “Coffee Hour” and then just stood there alone while the “cliques” gathered to gossip? Walk up to them and introduce yourself, then engage with them in conversation and listen to them as they speak, as they may be looking for something in a congregation which your congregation currently doesn’t have, but is something that you want to do. They could be the person to help in that area.
“But the area doesn’t have that many people of my denomination living in it?” – Are you really sure? Have you talked with each and every person who lives within 25 square blocks? It is not unusual for congregations to have people drive by other congregations to go to the one that they attend. Despite what fiction television wants to tell us, many people don’t know who the person is who lives right next door to me.
Oh I could go on and on with the excuses that I have heard, but let me mention the idea that came to mind while I was listening to the webinar, and some of the other ideas that have come into my mind.
“The congregation has shrunk because people have moved away.” – You know, there is a very simple thing that you can do when it comes to this. Why not create a “Welcome to the Neighborhood” letter that you send to the former address to the person that has moved? Now you should send it 10 minutes after “Bob” has moved, but give it a month. In this letter, you inform them about your congregation and the things that it has to offer. Now “Joe” may not come for service, but you may have some activities that “Joe” might be interested in getting involved in or might become the oh so well loved Sr. Warden in 5 years.
“We have a lot of renters in our area, and people are always moving in an out.” – Craigslist and other sites are great for finding out what is available in your area. Now it would be easier with houses, but why not send that letter to those addresses also. No don’t do it the day that you see the advertisement, but keep a listing of those addresses and on the last Saturday or Sunday of each month, you send that letter out to the addresses of the previous month. Now some of those places will still be empty, but a lot of them will have someone living in them now.
 But we must also do more than get people into the pews, as we must teach and work with them to become apart of the family of the Holy Trinity. We must help each other remember that we too are also amongst the family of the Holy Trinity. We each must remember that in the things that we represent and live in the family of the Holy Trinity. Remember that the Holy Trinity loves you.
 So what ideas do you have for church growth?
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