Shining the Light of Christ at St. Bart’s in 2018
Have you heard this statistic? The average Episcopalian invites someone to church every 37 years. That line has been repeated so many times I’m not sure anyone knows from where it originally came. But, then I have never had anyone challenge me on it either. In fact, it always gets a big laugh, probably because deep down we know it’s likely very true. Why is that I wonder? Are Episcopalians any different than anyone else who wants to share what we love? Do we not tell our friends or co-workers when we have seen a wonderful new film or finished a great book? Do we not share with all our friends on Facebook a fantastic new recipe or an amazing new restaurant we just discovered?
Why do we treat church differently? Do we feel that somehow this is a personal, private matter? Something akin to sharing the details of our tax return? Or are we not as passionate about church are we are about the latest Star Wars movie?
Personally, I think the problem is that evangelism just isn’t part of our Episcopal tradition. Why? Because for most of the 20th century denominations, like the Episcopal Church, were something that you were ‘born into’ or ‘raised as.’ Evangelizing people born into other denominations didn’t make much sense – they had their church, after all. Besides, we were too busy making sure we passed our traditions down to our children. That generational relationship with the church is rapidly fading away in the 21st century and, as a result, we can no longer rely on people being ‘born into’ the faith. We need to start sharing with people why they should become a part of this movement. We need to start evangelizing again!
Luckily for us, the Episcopal Church is one of the best kept secrets in Christianity! With our blend of reason and tradition, the ancient and the inclusive, the Episcopal Church is just what so many disenchanted ‘post-religious’ Americans would love to find! A church where you don’t have to check your brain at the door - nor any other part of who you are. Where you are not just welcomed, but affirmed and celebrated as the beloved child of God that you are. For many people today, when they hear about the Episcopal Church, it hits them like a revelation - truly Good News! Unfortunately, old habits die hard and we end up keeping the light of both the Gospel and the Episcopal Church under a bushel basket. But, it doesn’t have to be that way. Like any spiritual practice, sharing the light of Christ through our words and actions, can be learned. It requires courage as well as some encouragement. It takes practice - and it takes some guidance.
On February 25 following the 10:15 service, we will have a guide with us. Mary Foster Parmer, creator of Invite Welcome Connect, a national evangelism ministry of the Episcopal Church, will be with us to preach and then offer a special all-parish workshop and luncheon focusing on how we can begin creating a culture of invitation and evangelism to our friends, neighbors and surrounding community. Mary’s program has been offered at hundreds of churches in more than 40 dioceses around the world, and it has been transformative for both participants and their church communities. She focuses on the three basic elements: how we invite people, how we welcome them when they get here, and how we connect them into our community in the weeks and months after their first visit. I have the honor of serving on serve on the Steering Committee of Invite, Welcome, Connect and can assure you this will be a grace-filled and productive afternoon that you don’t want to miss!
Why “Invite"? Why not focus on how we “Welcome” or “Connect” visitors?
Reaching beyond our walls and inviting our friends and neighbors is where we need to grow next as a community. Welcoming and connecting newcomers has been my focus here in my first year of ministry and I am happy with the results at this point. If you visit St. Bart’s, I am confident that you will be warmly welcomed, and we will follow-up and make every effort to connect you into our community in some way. With those pieces in place, we’re ready to start work on the next part of our "Radical Hospitality" puzzle - inviting people to our beloved church!
But I really don’t like people who are so pushy about their faith!
I don’t think anyone does! I assure you, this is not about turning us into door-to-door missionaries or obnoxious know-it-alls who pressure people to come to church. That’s not who we are, and not who we would ever want to be. But, it doesn’t mean we need to be silent either. There are many ways to naturally share our faith without being pushy or weird. It just takes some inspiration and some coaching.
But I am already an evangelist! Should I come?
Absolutely! I know we have many members at St. Bart’s who are already wonderful evangelists - happily inviting friends and neighbors to St. Bart’s whenever the occasion arises. They do it without thinking. It just comes naturally. If that describes you - please come. We need your input and your example as we work on this important part of our life.
Wherever you are on your journey of evangelism, whether it comes naturally to you or if you are scared to death of the idea, join us! This is the beginning of what we hope will be a new emphasis on invitation and evangelism that will not only become part of our strategic plan, but will impact all our ministries and our members. So, join us as we kick off a new season in our life as a faith community and with God’s help, continue to grow into the community we are called to be.
The training and luncheon are FREE - RSVP with Beth Dean at or 858-487-2159.