The Power of Small Churches: May 2021 Vestry Papers

May 5, 2021

Dear Friends,

What has the experience of small churches been like during this past year? The answer may surprise you. Small churches across the country have responded to the pandemic and other setbacks with resilience, pivoting quickly and embodying grace and love for their communities in unique ways. In this issue, we bring you inspirational ideas from a group of small churches, showcasing how small can indeed be mighty.

More and bigger is not everyone’s goal, nor should it be. In The Small Church as Icon, Jen Fulton explains how small and healthy congregations occupy a vital place in our Church and world and stand as icons of ‘Godly counter-culturalism’.

In small churches with a single clergy person, there is often a need for more caregivers to support the community. In One Body, Many Caring Hearts, Tricia Jones shares the story of St. Francis by the Lake, an Episcopal Church in Canyon Lake, Texas, and their work with Community of Hope International in building up equipped lay pastoral caregivers in their church.

What does it look like to prioritize relationships and community in a pandemic? In Pandemic Learnings, Audra Abt shares the experience of her congregation and its multi-racial, multi-ethnic community, their struggle and response to a stark digital divide and their focus on relationship-driven mission during COVID-19.

The hardest part of the pandemic for many has been the inability to physically gather. In A Small Congregation Confronts COVID, Gary Cox describes his experience as Vicar of Santa Teresa de Avila Episcopal Church and Pastor of Calvary Lutheran Church (ELCA) in Chicago, sharing the challenges and joys of these small congregations during this difficult time. This article is available in English and Spanish.

In a rapidly changing worship landscape, what patterns can data on attendance and pledging reveal about what we can expect in the future? In Not Filled Seats but People Served, Ken Kroohs analyzes the numbers and examines the implications of his findings, raising questions to consider for our post-COVID future as Church.

The President and Board of Directors of the Episcopal Church Foundation invite you to an evening of learning and reflection in conversation with the Rev. Stephanie Spellers, Canon to the Presiding Bishop for Evangelism, Reconciliation and Stewardship of Creation on May 6, 2021 at 7pm Eastern Time. Canon Spellers will introduce ideas from her latest book – The Church Cracked Open: Disruption, Decline, and New Hope for Beloved Community. Church Publishing Incorporated describes “in this critical yet loving book, the author explores the American story and the Episcopal story in order to find out how communities steeped in racism, establishment and privilege can at last fall in love with Jesus, walk humbly with the most vulnerable and embody beloved community in our own broken but beautiful way. “The Church Cracked Open invites us to surrender privilege and redefine church, not just for the sake of others, but for our own salvation and liberation.” Please join us by registering here.

To learn more about ECF and our programs, please visit our website.

Faithfully,

Charis Bhagianathan
Editor, ECF Vital Practices