There is a new Facebook forum for musicians in the Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta—a way to keep us connected, allow us to share events, ideas, advice, wisdom, anecdotes, and perhaps even goods and services with each other. Our Facebook group is "Episcopal DioATL Musicians' Forum." Find us! Join us!
The following resolution was unanimously passed at the Diocese of Atlanta’s Annual Council which met in Gainesville, GA on November 10-11, 2017:
Resolved, that the Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta enter into a Companion Diocese Relationship with the Anglican Diocese of Cape Coast in Ghana in West Africa, and that the relationship last for three years, commencing with the approval of such a relationship by the Standing Committee of the Diocese of Cape Coast at their quarterly meeting in December 2017.
Subsequently, on Monday, December 4, 2017, we received this notice from the Bishop of Cape Coast, The Right Rev. Victor Atta-Baffoe:
I am pleased to inform you that your [resolution] was read to the Standing Committee at its meeting on November 30, and was received with great joy and affection. We are so grateful. We will hold you in prayer as we journey together in Christian faith and charity. Please be assured that we are holding you all in our prayers and remembering you in our celebration of the Eucharist.
We are delighted in the good work God is up to among us!
2018 Pilgrimage to Cape Coast
We are planning the next pilgrimage of members of the Diocese of Atlanta to Cape Coast. The dates will be May 18-25, 2018. Please click here to be considered for this year’s trip. Deadline for applications is January 31, 2018.
Contact The Rev. Dr. Sharon Hiers (firstname.lastname@example.org) if you have any questions or would like to receive more information.
The Rev. Dr. Sharon Hiers
Canon C. John Thompson-Quartey
The Vocational Vestry
When we think of vestry service as a vocation, we transform ourselves from a group of leaders performing important tasks to an invigorated, fulfilled and transformed group that in turn enlivens the congregation and the community at large. In The Vocational Vestry, Alissa Newton provides three ways to start this process.
Five Things Every Vestry Member Should Know
Are you a new vestry member or a long-time veteran? In Five Things Every Vestry Member Should Know, ECF President Donald Romanik shares ideas based on his experience and observations as a vestry member and warden that will speak to you, no matter where you are on your vestry journey.
Does your church leadership team have a vestrycovenant? In Vestry Covenants, Susan Pinkerton explains why a covenant, created and implemented together, is an essential tool for building trust and fostering community among team members.
In Top Ten Resources for Vestry Members, Brendon Hunter lists foundational tools and resources that will greatly benefit any new or returning vestry member, and serve as a handy reference while learning about church leadership and serving on the vestry.
If you find this issue of Vestry Papers helpful to your work and ministry, please subscribe to ECF Vital Practices for upcoming issues, blogs and more. We look to you all for new ideas and stories so we can continue to offer church leaders practical resources and tools to respond to the changing needs of the Church. If you have a story to share, please get in touch. We would love to hear from you.
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2018 Church Leadership Conference - Register now!
Are you a congregational leader? Register now for the 2018 Church Leadership Conference taking place March 2 - 4, 2018 at Kanuga in Hendsersonville, NC.
What We Need Today
Alan Bentrup was asked to share what qualities he thinks priests need to have today and shares what he thinks is true for all Christians, not just those ordained.
Annette Buchanan explores six ideas for a follow-up on the stewardship season.
5 Vestry Retreat Resources
Five resources to help your vestry, bishop’s committee, or other leadership group take a productive and life-giving retreat.
Church-Think About Technology, part 1
Greg Syler, a fellow technological late-adapter, reflects on how the use of technology in the Church straddles that of the old and the new, between the inherited tradition and an emerging culture.
Upcoming Free Webinars
Register now for free upcoming webinars on vestry basics, food and housing justice, and grant writing for faith-based organizations.
Unique small-ratio mentoring and tutoring ministry, Path To Shine announces the kick-off of its 2nd Annual Share the Love awareness and fundraising campaign.
Supporting this fast-paced, 28-day effort to celebrate February 2018 as the “Month of Love” is quick and easy. You can help in two simple ways.
1. Share by making a quirky donation of $28 ($1 for each day in February).
2. Share again by following Path To Shine on Facebook and Twitter and “liking and sharing” their daily campaign posts. Not on social media? Share Connecting via email with family and friends.
Each week, over 170 elementary students burst through the doors of Path To Shine programs in 14 diocesan locations, eager to reconnect with their volunteer mentors and share stories from the past week. Path To Shine’s desire to draw its circle wide with the Share the Love campaign is rooted in the ministry’s founding belief that elementary school children living in poverty need caring, committed mentors and tutors who encourage them to see their own paths to becoming successful adults.
The ministry strives to inspire underserved children to achieve hope-filled dreams, while motivating adults to volunteer and make a difference in a child’s life. Since launching its first program in 2010, Path To Shine has trained 300 volunteer mentors and provided more than 26,000 hours of caring, adult mentorship.
“We’ve read hundreds of books, tackled countless pages of math, and shared thousands of healthy after-school snacks,” said Deacon Lesley-Ann Drake, Path To Shine’s executive director. “We’ve giggled, played games, told stories, and witnessed the immense inner pride that shines from within when a child’s lightbulb flickers on and a new understanding is achieved.”
Path To Shine’s Two-Pronged Focus Benefits Children and Volunteers Alike
With an intentional 2:1 ratio of children to adults, PTS’s programs are focused on creating significant impacts by matching children with volunteers whose mentorship becomes a steady and trusted presence in their lives.
“The positive impacts of our mentors’ service are reflected in the actions of the children themselves,” said Deacon Lesley-Ann Drake, Path To Shine’s executive director. “Many of our students join Path To Shine as kindergartners, remain committed and involved throughout their elementary years, and graduate from the program in fifth grade as self-confident, capable young leaders.”
Path To Shine’s innovative approach places great importance on the volunteer experience. With mentors ranging from high school students and retired teachers to working adults across the wide range of industries, many of the ministry’s volunteers have faithfully served as Path To Shine mentors for three, five, even seven years. PTS provides multi-faceted training for all volunteers, covering topics such as mentoring, effective listening, diversity, and methods for helping children improve their reading skills.
“This past year, we expanded our programming and trained dozens of new volunteer mentors. One of the things that we learned very early on with Path To Shine is that volunteers need training. Anyone who is going to volunteer for anything needs tools and needs to feel safe and competent,” explained Drake. Deacon Edith W. Woodling, a retired educator, helps PTS with mentor training and program curriculum.
Path To Shine’s Approach to Whole-Child and Individualized Mentorship
Genuine, effective mentorship of children requires a blend of individualized elements—it’s a web of personal attention, friendly engagement, educational focus and patience, consistency, safe surroundings, and sometimes, gentle encouragement during challenging moments and even failure.
“Predictability is critical to fostering a sense of trust and safety. For many of our young Path To Shine students, their daily experiences involve very grown-up worries like poverty, hunger, and uncertainty, said Drake. “Through dedicated mentors and thoughtful programming, Path To Shine provides children an opportunity to build the skills, self-confidence, and resiliency needed to chase their dreams.”
A typical PTS afternoon includes quiet time for volunteers to work one-on-one or in small groups. Mentors work with the same students each week, helping with homework, reading together, or catching up on the week's events. Snack and playtime are also valuable parts of the program. Another key element of PTS is structured group time. Through stories told using books or guest speakers, group time is an opportunity to practice attentive listening and comprehension and learn valuable life skills.
Finally, there is only so much a child can learn in the classroom. A lot of what we learn is outside the school building – experiences and adventures many people take for granted. For Path To Shine children, an outing to a fire station, a museum, or a Braves game offers a rare opportunity to experience something new. Financial support from campaigns like Share the Love enables the ministry to support the local programs to allow enrichment of kids’ lives with fun and educational excursions.
The following camps are now open for registration:
Mini Camp: May 18-20, Rising 1st and 2nd Graders
Youth Camp: May 27-June 2, Rising 10th-Just Graduated
Performing Arts Camp: June 3-June 9, Rising 4th-9th Graders
Intermediate Camp: June 17-June 23, Rising 8th and 9th Graders
Junior Camp: June 24-June 30, Rising 6th and 7th Graders
Kid Camp: July 8-July 13, Rising 3rd-5th Graders
Work Camp: July 16-July 21, Rising 10th Graders-Just Graduated
Guest Camp: August 31- September 3, Children, Adults, and Families
Outdoor Junior: June 3-June 9, Rising 6th and 7th Graders
Outdoor Intermediate: June 3- June 9, Rising 8th and 9th Graders
Outdoor Youth: June 10-June 16, Rising 10th Graders - Just Graduated
For more information and registration details, go to http://campmikell.com/summer-camp/
If the old Diocesan Ministry Fair and the annual Global Mission Conference had a baby, it would be the Go Summit: Local and Global Mission in the Diocese of Atlanta. This conference will be held February 10 at the Cathedral of St. Philip. Collaborate with Bishop Robert C. Wright, Toxic Charity author Robert Lupton, and those in our diocese working on innovations in both local and global ministries. Please encourage those in your ministry with big ideas, dreams, frustrations, and questions to register and attend. Click here to learn more.
Afternoon breakout panel sessions will include:
- Congregational Connections in Cuba
- Partnership with Cape Coast, Ghana
- Freedom School 101
- Path to Shine 101
- Stories of Successful Community Ministries
- Local Ministry Innovations Showcase
- Identifying Assets for Racial Healing
- Addressing Immigration Issues in Your Worshipping Community
- Collaborating with the Community You Serve for Sustainability
You can make others aware of your ministry, organization, or idea by setting up a display at no charge on the tables provided in the Cathedral atrium. (Please indicate when you register if you'd like to have a display.) Advance registration is $30 per person and includes lunch and a printed copy of The Go Guide: 10 Steps for Innovations in Ministry from Luke 10 in your choice of English or Spanish.
- 8:30 – 9 a.m. Registration
- 9 – 9:15 a.m. Welcome and introductions
- 9:15 – 9:45 a.m. “Why GO!” with Bishop Robert Wright
- 9:45 – 10 a.m. Break
- 10 – 12:00 p.m. Toxic Charity author Robert Lupton
- 12 – 12:45 p.m. Lunch
- 12:45 – 1 p.m. Break
- 1 – 1:55 p.m. First-afternoon session
- 2:05 – 3 p.m. Second-afternoon session
Please contact the Reverend Donna S. Mote, Missioner for Engagement and Innovation, with any questions at email@example.com or 770-833-2899.
The Beecken Center of the School of Theology is partnering with Listening Hearts Ministries to offer an intensive, four-day retreat to train participants in the art of facilitating and mentoring spiritual discernment groups using the Listening Hearts approach. Held at the DuBose Conference Center, the retreat will include communal meditation activities; workshops that teach the practical aspects of teaching spiritual discernment; and a series of discernment sessions, each of which is followed by a reflective review to gain insight into the elements that bring forth fruitful discernment.
This Listening Hearts retreat can count as Alternate Mentor Training for Education for Ministry (EfM) mentors. Requirements for Alternate Mentor Training include having completed two Foundations Trainings, being "Formation ready," not having completed another Alternate Training within the last three trainings, and not needing to go back to Foundations after three Formations. Contact Elsa Bakkum, EfM Associate Director for Training, at firstname.lastname@example.org for Alternate Training credit.
The program has an “at home” component: for five weeks prior to the retreat (the weeks of Jan. 28; Feb. 5, 12, 19, & 26), participants will engage in short readings, creative meditation exercises, and online sharing of reflections. The assignments will require an average of two hours of work a week, which can usually be broken into several chunks, and include online sharing with a mentor and other members of the group.
- Tuition: $750
- Lodging not included. Lodging reservations may be made directly with the DuBose Conference Center using this form.
- CEUs are available.
- Registration closes Thurs. Jan. 11.
- The workshop begins with an informal opening Eucharist at 5:00 p.m., CST, on Tuesday, March 6, and ends at 10:00 a.m. on Saturday, March 10.
- Register here >>
This retreat is geared to spiritually mature leaders of all ages who are committed to the principles set forth in Listening Hearts, and affords each participant the opportunity to enter into discernment in relation to his or her own life while also learning to train and mentor discernment groups. Participants will work in small groups, each with its own mentor. Silence, song, imaginative engagement with Scripture, creative meditation activities, and contemplative sharing of reflections combine to draw each group into the flow of the Spirit.
Don't miss this wonderful opportunity!
Called to Lead is a day of lay leadership development. Bishop Wright teaches the model of Adaptive Leadership to parish vestries, wardens and treasurers. All lay leaders, including members of finance and stewardship committees, are invited to this workshop.
There will be two opportunities for Called to Lead; the first will be on Saturday, January 20th at St. Teresa’s, Acworth from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Click here to register.
St. Teresa's Episcopal Church
5725 Fords Rd NW
Acworth, GA 30101
The second opportunity will be on Saturday, March 17 at St. Andrew's in the Pines, Peachtree City from 9 am to 3 pm. Click here to register.
St. Andrew's in the Pines
316 N Peachtree Pkwy
Peachtree City, GA 30269
Bishop Wright ordained six individuals to the Sacred Order of Deacons. Being ordained as a Transitional Deacon is the initial step toward ordination as a priest, usually about six months later. The ordination service was held at the Cathedral of St. Philip on December 16, 2017.
The following people were ordained to the Sacred Order of Deacons:
Irma Nohemi Guerra
Kyle Christopher Mackey
Melanie Gibson Rowell
Kenya Angela Thompson
Two of the new transitional deacons, Gregoria Betances and Irma Nohemi Guerra, are “home grown,” the first to be educated in the Diocese Centro de Educación Teológica para Latinos (CETLA), the Theological Education Center for Latinos. The CETLA program provides foundational education for lay leaders in our Hispanic worshiping communities. Further information on the Diocese's Hispanic Ministries can be found here.
Much attention has been rightly focused on providing relief to residents on Caribbean islands wrecked by this year’s hurricanes, but there are many less well-known victims of these storms closer to home.
Hundreds of residents from the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico living with chronic illnesses were evacuated to U.S. cities for treatment. About 280 were flown to Atlanta for dialysis and cancer treatments.
After learning that her brother was among the evacuees, Mary Abbot, a member of St. Teresa’s Episcopal Church in Acworth, GA alerted other parishioners to their presence.
Abbot, the wife of a retired Episcopal Priest from St. Croix, teamed up with two other women of the parish to provide culturally appropriate meals to those being housed at metro area hotels. “They are getting the care they need, but miss the foods they are used to,” Abbott said. As they delivered the meals and visited with the evacuees the women soon became aware of another need - sweat suits.
The food was a welcome reminder of home, but these medically fragile islanders are not use to sub-70s temperatures.
They provided sweat suits to as many as the parish desperate needs fund could afford, but there were still many others in need of easy-to-wear warm clothing.
So, Abbott’s small team alerted other parishes in the diocese to the clothing need. Several responded with generous checks. Moreover, priests and parishioners from Episcopal churches near the evacuees began making visits and providing Eucharist.
Armed with the added cash-in-hand the sweat suit brigade kicked back into action. With the help of Public Health Service nurses assigned to the hotels where evacuees are being housed they gathered a list of sizes. Soon, more sweat suits were being bought and delivered.
This improvised personal response to the needs of others is a reminder that there are many ways each of us is called to be the hands and feet of Christ in this world.
Caribbean medical evacuees relocated throughout the nation will be with us for months as island medical facilities are restored. That means there are still plenty of opportunities to meet their need for comfort and care – maybe right in your community. For current needs, email email@example.com.
The Daughters of the King (DOK) of St. Timothy’s Episcopal Church in Decatur, spearheaded our partnership with Samaritan’s Purse’s “Operation Christmas Child” project which provides shoe box gifts to boys and girls overseas.
Seventy-six shoe boxes, each filled with toys, toiletries, and school supplies, were donated by members of the Parish for boys and girls between the ages of two and fourteen years old.
We are grateful for the opportunity to serve and to partner with Samaritan’s Purse to spread Christmas cheer to children overseas.
Thank you, St. Timothy’s, for your support of the work of the Daughters of the King.
Since 1964 ECF has awarded 223 Fellowships to individuals pursuing advanced academic studies and special ministries with the aim of educating and equipping future clergy and lay leaders.
ECF is pleased to announce that the application for the 2018 Fellowship is now open.
Please share this post with an emerging scholar or ministry leader who you think would benefit from ECF’s support. We believe that by supporting individuals at an early stage in their ministries, scholars and ministry leaders can make a lasting impact on the wider Church.
All applicants to the Fellowship Partners Program should bear the following in mind:
- ECF is committed to strengthening the leadership capability of the Episcopal Church. Applicants to the academic and ministry tracks are asked to describe how they will be developing the next generation of leaders for the Episcopal Church, whether in the context of academia, a local congregation, through a church-wide initiative, or in another setting.
- An ECF Fellowship provides both financial support and networking opportunities. ECF has typically awarded three to four Fellowships per year. New awards range up to $15,000 for the first year and are renewable for an additional two years. In addition to this financial support, new Fellows join a wide network of past Fellows and ECF partners with them so that they may share their knowledge, experience, and best practices with the wider Church.
- The selection process for an ECF Fellowship is highly competitive. A strong application requires a significant investment of time and effort and ECF encourages all applicants to begin this process early. Applications are due on March 16, 2018. ECF will announce the 2018 Fellows in late May of 2018.
Please visit the ECF website to learn more about the Fellowship Partners Program, the application process, and be sure to review our list of Frequently Asked Questions. You will find profiles of the 2017 Fellows here and our complete list of all ECF Fellows here. Please contact Brendon Hunter, Program Director, if you have any questions about this program or the application process.
ECF announces one Small Acts of Charity grant for its fourth quarter cycle:
FOCUS (Fellowship of Christians United for Service) will receive a grant of $4,325 for their partnership with St. Nicholas’s Episcopal Church (Hamilton) to expand their food delivery service for shut-ins.
ECF is currently accepting applications for our 2018 Q1 Small Acts of Charity Grants. The deadline is December 15, 2017! Each quarter, requests of no more than $5,000 are considered, and we will fund 1-2 Small Acts of Charity in any given quarter. Those interested in applying for funding should visit ECFimpact.org/grants for instructions and to apply. Applicants are encouraged to contact Executive Director Lindsey Hardegree (firstname.lastname@example.org) with any questions they may have regarding eligibility or their applications.
The Diocese of Atlanta is proud to be home to a new resource for the worldwide Episcopal Church. Located at the Atlanta University Center among Morehouse, Spelman and Clark Atlanta campuses on the Westside of Atlanta, the Absalom Jones Center for Racial Healing will provide parishes and dioceses around the world with the support to address racism head-on through racial reconciliation and healing. The resource and training center is housed in what was known as the historic Absalom Jones Episcopal Center and Chapel building. The creation of the Center aligns with The Episcopal Church and our Diocese’s commitment to reach across the borders and boundaries that divide the human family of God.
Learn more at http://www.centerforracialhealing.org/
How will you challenge yourself to love like Jesus? Representatives from our diocese’s 114 worshiping communities were asked that at the 111th Annual Council, hosted by the Northeast Georgia Convocation, Nov. 10-11 at First Baptist Church in Gainesville. In his speech to attendees, our bishop, the Rt. Rev. Robert C. Wright, put forth ideas for how to go about living into this part of our diocesan purpose statement.
“We must look at every tradition and convention we have adopted as ministry groups, vestries, individual churches and clergy and ask ourselves and one another, does our current practice and reality square with what Jesus actually said? What he taught? How he loved?” Bishop Wright said.
Council began with Holy Eucharist. The Rt. Rev. Daniel G.P. Gutiérrez, bishop of the Diocese of Pennsylvania, was guest preacher and the Rt. Rev. Robert C. Wright celebrated. After the service, the 111th Annual Council convened to determine new members of diocesan leadership groups and consider four resolutions to help establish and strengthen partnerships and raise awareness about important issues.
Lay: Tracie Jenkins
Clergy: Lauren Holder
Mikell Board of Governors
- R17-1 Establish a Companion Diocese relationship with the Anglican Diocese of Cape Coast, Ghana
R17-2 Reunification of the Episcopal Church in Cuba with the Episcopal Church
R17-3 HIV/AIDS Prevention and Education
R17-4 Strong recommendation parishes and worshiping communities of the Diocese of Atlanta post the Georgia Anti-Trafficking Poster
After Council, activities concluded for the day, and attendees had the opportunity to participate in a service project. Partnering with Rise Against Hunger, our Council delegates worked together with a goal to feed 30,000 people.
Attendees also had the opportunity to sample BBQ from around our diocese at the Episcopal Community Foundation’s BBQ Competition. The winning teams won cash prizes for parish outreach. The winners included the following:
- First place: The St. Elizabeth Holy Smokers, winning $5,000
- Second place: The Smokin' Cats from St. Catherine's, winning $2,500
- Third place: BBQ Is A Noun from St. Bartholomew's, winning $1,500
This year’s Council theme echos our diocesan purpose statement, “We challenge ourselves…” Attendees reflected on the ways in which we challenge ourselves in our daily lives. Bishop Wright challenged attendees to find new ways to love like Jesus.
“If we’re going to love like Jesus, we’re going to have to tell our real stories. Be curious rather than defensive. Forget perfection. Try new things. Acknowledge loss. Be more courageous. Reach deeper. Laugh from our bellies. Talk less. Sing louder. And trust God more. So there it is, “nos desafiamos a amar como Jesús.” We challenge ourselves to love like Jesus.” Bishop Wright said.
Bishop’s Cross Recipients
The first Bishop’s Crosses were awarded to two members of each convocation - one lay and one clergy - who embody the diocesan purpose statement. Recipients were nominated and recommended to the Bishop. The crosses were made from the Dogwood tree by Andy Schuyler, a member of St. Patrick’s parish.
NE Georgia Convocation
Lay nominee: John Andrews
Clergy nominee: Mary Demmler
Chattahoochee Valley Convocation:
Lay nominee: Martin McCann
Clergy nominee: Sandy McCann
North Atlanta Convocation
Lay nominee: Dr. May C. Brown
Clergy nominee: Ruth Pattison
Lay nominee: Angela Mankin
Clergy nominee: Hazel Glover
Lay nominee: Tahir Murray
Clergy nominee: Mary Wetzel
East Atlanta Convocation:
Lay nominee: Claudia Fedarko
Clergy nominee: Jenna Strizak
NW GA Convocation
Lay nominee: Lola Thomas
Clergy nominee: Janice Bracken Wright
Middle Georgia Convocation
Lay nominee: Julie Groce
Clergy nominee: Ben Wells
Northeast Metro Convocation
Lay nominee: Luis Ramos
Clergy nominee Nancy Yancey
Lay nominee: Stephanie Timm
Clergy nominee: Lesley Ann Drake
The Rev. Herschel Atkinson Honored
The Rev. Herschel Atkinson received a standing ovation from Council as Bishop Wright thanked him for his many years of service as Secretary of Council and announced that a scholarship at the Sewanee School of Theology is being created in his honor.
Contribution made payable to The School of Theology with a notation "Herschel Atkinson Scholarship" should be sent to:
The School of Theology
335 Tennessee Ave
Sewanee, TN 37383
Donations may also be made through the Sewanee website. Be sure to complete the In Honor Of line near the bottom of the On-Line Giving Form.
Annual Council Photos
View the photo slideshow to see more photos and highlights from the 111th Annual Council.
Malachi’s Storehouse, Food Pantry of St. Patrick’s, Dunwoody, is participating in a $5,000 charity giveaway with other Atlanta nonprofits. They are in the final round and need your vote to win!
Malachi’s has been faithfully serving the community for 25 years and has provided groceries to 32,000 clients so far in 2017. The grand prize of $5,000 is a lot of money for Malachi’s, almost 25% of their annual budget. Winning this giveaway will allow them to provide groceries for 5,050 more people! Please take a moment and vote for Malachi’s Storehouse.
They are currently in the top 3 remaining nonprofits and they need your vote! Voting ends on November 27 at midnight.
With grateful hearts and hope for the future, Church of the Common Ground parishioners are giving special thanks for the faithful leadership and dedicated pastoral care of Vicar Mary Wetzel, who will retire at the end of November. The search for a new vicar has been in progress.
Church of the Common Ground is a church community on the streets of Atlanta and a worshipping community of the Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta. Its members are people who have no permanent place to live, and who struggle at the margins of urban life. Common Ground ministries—weekly worship, Morning Prayer, Bible study, and a foot clinic—depend on contributions and volunteers from Episcopal churches throughout Middle and North Georgia. Worship with Holy Eucharist takes place every Sunday at 1:00 PM in Woodruff Park in downtown Atlanta. All are welcome.
Reverend Wetzel came to Church of the Common Ground in 2010 as an assistant priest; she became vicar in 2011.
"I have seen up-close the joy of acceptance, love, and connection on the faces of the faithful at Church of the Common Ground,” said Bishop Robert C. Wright. “We thank and commend Mary for sharing her gifts and passion with our Diocese, and for showing what it looks like to love like Jesus and serve compassionately on the streets of Atlanta. Common Ground lives the Good News that we are all God’s beloved children."
To volunteer at Church of the Common Ground, or to make a contribution, please visit www.churchofthecommonground.org.
Our shared purpose in the Diocese of Atlanta, as agreed upon at Annual Council 2015 is:
We challenge ourselves and the world to love like Jesus as we worship joyfully, serve compassionately and grow spiritually.
Nos desafiamos a nosotros mismos y al mundo para amar como Jesús: mientras adoramos con alegría, servimos con compasión, y crecemos espiritualmente.
Last year, we explored the first word in our purpose statement, “We.” We considered what “We” means and could mean as people convened by faith in Jesus of Nazareth, through the Episcopal Church in Middle and North Georgia. Using “We” as our theme last year was trying and yet providential, given the political climate last year and ever since. My prayer is that some new clarity and commitment to what it means to be a Christian community in the world, but not of the world, was gained. And, that maybe we might see that the church is a trans-political organization, in politics but beyond politics. When we say “We,” part of what we are saying is that our primary citizenship is in the Kingdom of God and that this vision of citizenship informs our citizenship in this world. So then, we are a "We” imagined, authored, guided and sustained by God in all of our glorious messiness. “Es bueno que Dios sea un genio paciente.” It’s a good thing that God is a patient genius.
This year, we return to our purpose statement for the theme of this Annual Council and beyond. You could say this year we have come to the heart of our purpose statement. What purpose does Jesus hold out for His followers?
“This is my commandment, that you love one another, as I have loved you." John 15:12
“By this everyone will know that you are my disciples if you have love for one another.” John 13:35
Love your enemies and do good to them….” Luke 6:35
These and countless quotables from Jesus give us a glimpse of the love Jesus taught and lived. The purpose He holds out for His friends/followers. And so, as His people, “We challenge ourselves… to love like Jesus.” “nos desafiamos a amar como Jesús.” As you know, the first part of our actual statement says, “We challenge ourselves and the world to love like Jesus….” But, before we challenge the world to love like Jesus, it seems right to challenge ourselves first. So here are a few thoughts.
Challenge is at the very heart of a life with God. Some folks prefer the word invitation rather than challenge, but invitation, to my ear, doesn’t adequately name or account for the sacrifice necessary to make one’s life even vaguely resemble Jesus’ life. We remember here that the symbol of our faith is the challenge represented by the Cross. Challenge speaks to the work of the piercing personal reflection necessary to acknowledge the ways in which our lips and our lives betray the words we pray. Challenge is what leads us to accept our shared responsibility for the world and the church as it is. Challenge better speaks to the daily worshipful exertion required to be neighbor-centered, when self-centered is the status quo. Why challenge ourselves to love like Jesus? Because our Love is not God’s love. Examples abound. The uncomfortable truth is many of us don’t love well. It’s not entirely our fault. We haven’t been loved well, and so we don’t love well. There are holes in how we love. The good news is at the center of this challenge is Jesus who yearns to teach us to how to love through a life lived.
Because of the quality of the love Jesus embodies and teaches and the love we have received at the hands of those who love Jesus, we desire to replicate Jesus’ love, not simply to venerate it. The love we experience in Jesus and His friends inspires, heals, humbles, compels, penetrates, buoys, changes, encourages, instructs and gently corrects us. A love whose height, depth, length, relevance, efficacy, and durability exceeds our expectations, confounds and compels us. Jesus’ love maps the convenient and sad boundaries we’ve inherited, established and regularly maintained. His love cajoles us out of our socially acceptable commitments to smallness, separateness, and superiority. And coaxes us away from euphemism, denial, and despair. Jesus’ love is courageous. Candid and still kind. Bold and not arrogant. His love teaches but doesn’t infantilize. Pioneers but values partnership. Is a ringing alarm for our selfish sleep. His love democratizes leadership and prioritizes just behavior over title, station, gender, pedigree, religious tradition, age or ethnicity. Jesus’ love has the capacity to embrace the bloody babies of Sutherland Springs, Texas, the broken man who murdered them, and the shoulder-shrugging policymakers equally! That we are being loved in this extravagant way right now, individually and as members of Jesus’ church, pleads to us to increase our capacity to love. Doesn’t it?
While there is no quid pro quo in God’s love, Jesus invites us to join Him as partners in His love enterprise. And so if you and I will accept this challenge we can face the question that is implicit in all that I have said so far: What if any, resistance or reluctance do we harbor to new or deeper expressions of Jesus’ love in our lives? To love like Jesus may be first to discover and name the impediment to His love within us.
While challenging ourselves to love like Jesus is a deeply personal journey, we remember it’s an individual challenge with institutional impact! The institution of the church cannot be more like Jesus than the individuals that comprise the institution aspire to be. Therefore, we challenge ourselves to love like Jesus because we want Jesus’ church to accurately reflect His message and nature.
"Nos desafiamos a amar como Jesús porque queremos que la iglesia de Jesús refleje con precisión Su mensaje y naturaleza.
So then we challenge every community and system that bears His name in our diocese to better reflect His essence. What that means practically is we must look at every tradition and convention we have adopted as ministry groups, vestries, individual churches and clergy and ask ourselves and one another, does our current practice and reality square with what Jesus actually said? What He taught? How He loved? We are called to be and bear God’s incandescence in the world, and this is how we do it! We are hewn from a love shaped pattern, and we are not ourselves until we give love the space it demands in our lives, our families, our endeavors and our churches. If we have anything to say to the world about love, let it at least be, God has come near to us in the person of Jesus, and we in turn must draw nearer to the world.
How might we challenge ourselves to love like Jesus in the days and months ahead? Two words: be proximate. Individually and collectively. That was Bryan Stevenson’s challenge to us some months ago. And that is what God did two millennia ago and ever since. Draw near. To love like Jesus is to reject separateness in the forms of fear, indifference or contempt. To love like Jesus is to love how, what and those that Jesus loved and loves. Remember, “the precondition to contact is vulnerability.” Another way to say that is “For God so loved the world, God gave His Son.” If the church is unwilling to be this presence in the world, then let her die, and let us have a glorious funeral! But, I have to say, that there are enough spiritual adventurers in the Diocese of Atlanta that encourage me to believe that we are up for Jesus’ challenge to love! Yes, this is about spiritual maturity. And yes, this is about living into the purpose Jesus holds out for us. Because of the presence and assurance of this love we can boldly face every challenge understanding “Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.”
With all that said, you might be asking, what do we do now? Where do we go from here? Good questions! If we’re going to love like Jesus, we’re going to have to tell our real stories. Be curious rather than defensive. Forget perfection. Try new things. Acknowledge loss. Be more courageous. Reach deeper. Laugh from our bellies. Talk less. Sing louder. And trust God more. So there it is: “nos desafiamos a amar como Jesús.” We challenge ourselves to love like Jesus…
This is my sixth Annual Council as the bishop of the Diocese of Atlanta, and I remain encouraged!
Thanks be to God.
Today the Episcopal Community Foundation for Middle and North Georgia (ECF) announces it will grant $88,600 to eight organizations that are lifting people from poverty and oppression in the Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta. The grants – which go into effect this month – will be made to Calvary Refuge, Inc.; the Cathedral of St. Philip; Central Outreach and Advocacy Center; Church of the Ascension; Macon Volunteer Clinic; New American Pathways, Inc.; Nicholas House, Inc.; and Sandy Springs Mission, Inc.
“With this current round of grants, ECF continues to support strong parish ministries throughout the Diocese of Atlanta that work to combat issues related to poverty and oppression,” said the Right Rev. Robert C. Wright, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta. “These programs exemplify work that demonstrates and encourages Episcopalians to compassionately serve the community and grow spiritually.”
ECF’s fall 2017 general grant recipients:
• Calvary Refuge, Inc. has received a grant of $8,000 to provide mattresses and a washer and dryer for its new facility which will allow Calvary Refuge to serve an additional 44 clients each night at their homeless shelter. The new facility was built to address the specific need of bed space for males 11-17 accompanied by their mother, fathers with children, and married couples. Calvary Refuge has a close to 25-year partnership with the Episcopal parish of St. Augustine of Canterbury in Morrow. The parish continues to provide financial support, in-kind donations, evening meals for clients, volunteer labor, and has engaged Calvary Refuge’s executive director, Tawana Tarno, in several education series at the parish.
• Central Outreach and Advocacy Center (Central OAC) has received a grant of $10,000 to provide ID services in partnership with Church of the Common Ground. Central OAC works with men and women who do not have identification when they are released from prison; identification is required for employment and housing, and without these critical components the risk of recidivism is significantly increased. The unique partnership between Central OAC and Common Ground provides an opportunity for people recently released from prison to receive both vital services as well as pastoral care that acknowledges the specific needs and challenges of this community.
• Church of the Ascension in Cartersville has received a grant of $30,000, one of the largest ECF has ever granted, to expand the reach of their Red Door Food Panty with mobile pantry service to the Allatoona area. Through newly created partnerships with BLESS (a faith-based volunteer organization in Cartersville) and the Allatoona Resource Center (an organization managed by Bartow County Government), Red Door Food Pantry has made a ten-year commitment to provide resources, education, and information to the Allatoona community in south Bartow County (32% living below poverty level) in addition to Red Door’s services already provided in downtown Cartersville.
• New American Pathways, Inc. has received a grant of $10,000 to expand their vocational counseling program for refugees. This program offers clients career counseling, workshops, professional mentoring, school/training program enrollment assistance, and advanced skill job placement services. Since starting this program in 2014, New American Pathways has noticed a higher-than-anticipated demand among refugees who received employment services as new arrivals and are ready to pursue higher career goals. New American Pathways has partnered with the Refugee Ministries Program at All Saints Episcopal Church in Atlanta for over a decade, which not only co-sponsors refugee families, but also mentors parishes new to co-sponsoring.
• Nicholas House, Inc. has received a grant of $15,000 for case management services at their housing programs. These case management services will be provided alongside funding from the City of Atlanta for rental support, providing services for homeless families and children to obtain housing and support over the next year. Nicholas House was founded as a mission of St. Bartholomew’s Episcopal Church in Atlanta, and the parish continues to be deeply involved with Nicholas House through financial support and significant volunteer opportunities, including providing meals and tutoring for the families at Nicholas House.
• Sandy Springs Mission, Inc. has received a grant of $7,000 to implement a new program which provides ESL and computer training courses to parents of low-income Hispanic students, specifically with the goal of helping the parents better communicate with their children’s schools and assist with homework. Our Lady of Guadalupe, the Hispanic mission of Highpoint Episcopal Community Church (HECC), was founded out of the community brought together by Sandy Springs Mission, which was a longtime ministry partner of Church of the Atonement (precursor to HECC).
ECF’s Q3 2017 Small Acts of Charity recipients:
• The Cathedral of St. Philip in Atlanta has received a grant of $4,500 to fund transportation costs related to the 2017 Homeless Requiem which took place on November 1, 2017. The Cathedral’s Homeless Requiem and Dinner remembers those who have died while homeless in Atlanta; the event offers hospitality to and builds bridges with neighbors who are homeless and the organizations who serve them. With recent changes regarding the Peachtree-Pine shelter in downtown Atlanta, which previously funded transportation, ECF’s funding provided bus transportation to the Cathedral’s homeless guests, creating an opportunity for even more organizations to partner with the Cathedral than in years past.
• Macon Volunteer Clinic has received a grant of $4,175 to cover diagnostic services for its patients, particularly Hepatitis C patients who have received donated medication and require extensive testing over the 12-week treatment period. The Macon Volunteer clinic provides free primary medical and dental care, as well as medication assistance, to uninsured, working adult residents of Bibb county. The clinic has a robust partnership with St. Francis Episcopal Church in Macon which supports the clinic financially and provides many volunteers to both work with clients at the clinic and serve as ambassadors at events around Macon.
About ECF’s Grant Programs:
ECF awards General Grants twice a year and Small Acts of Charity (capped at $5,000) quarterly. Applications for the Q4 Small Acts of Charity are dueNovember 15, 2017, and LOIs for Fall 2018 General Grants are due March 31, 2018. Those interested in applying for funding should visit ECFimpact.org/grants for information regarding both funding opportunities as well as links to the applications. Applicants are encouraged to contact Lindsey Hardegree with any questions they may have regarding eligibility or their applications.
About Episcopal Community Foundation for Middle and North Georgia
Founded in 1982 as the Episcopal Charities Foundation, the Episcopal Community Foundation for Middle and North Georgia (ECF) provides funding, leadership, and resources to enable Episcopal parishes and nonprofit partners to lift up people facing poverty and oppression and to achieve significant, long-lasting impact in the Diocese of Atlanta. Since its inception, ECF has donated more than $4.4 million to promote thriving and spiritually strong individuals, families, and communities locally. Learn more at ECFimpact.org.
About The Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta
The Diocese of Atlanta was created in 1907 and serves the cities, towns, and communities in Middle and North Georgia. Led by the Right Rev. Robert C. Wright, it is comprised of 114 welcoming worship communities. Our purpose is to challenge ourselves and the world to love like Jesus as we worship joyfully, serve compassionately, and grow spiritually. Learn more at episcopalatlanta.org.