The season after Pentecost, often referred to as “ordinary time,” celebrates the reality that God is at work in the world and in the Church even now through the Holy Spirit. And the Episcopal Diocese of the Central Gulf Coast is excited to share the good news of three new missional initiatives of God at work in the world and in the Church right now!
While the news this past week has been celebrating Presiding Bishop Michael Curry’s role in the Royal Wedding, we continue to celebrate the ways people in our diocese are coming together to discover what it means for all of us in our ordinary time, to live lives of meaning and purpose as disciples of Jesus. On March 16th during an innovative gathering called “Evangelism Matters 2018,” as hundreds of Episcopalians celebrated sharing, learning, and growing the Church’s capacity and passion for evangelism, Bishop Russell met with the leadership team of Virginia Theological Seminary’s $1.5 million Lilly Endowment funded “Baptized for Life” (BFL) project. Under the direction of Lisa Kimball, Ph.D., Associate Dean of Lifelong Learning, Baptized for Life will support congregations as they equip individuals of all ages to live into their baptismal vocations with confidence, truly believing that they are loved and made new in Jesus Christ. Kimball and her team believe a commitment to the basics, to active engagement with scripture and worship will shape lives of meaning and purpose while (re)vitalizing congregations. And now the Diocese of the Central Gulf Coast is inaugurating our partnership as one of six dioceses working with the BFL project and celebrates the selection of three congregations who will be working on this 4-year grant to explore discipleship: Christ Church Cathedral, Mobile; Holy Cross Episcopal Church, Pensacola; and Church of the Good Shepherd, Mobile. Using the catechumenate and the Baptismal Covenant as guides, each of these faith communities will discern a ministry project to equip people to claim their vocations as Christian disciples in the world, and has up to $20,000 available from the BFL initiative to support their work. Over a span of three years, participants will explore a variety of spiritual practices and models of ministry to grow in their own faith and engage God’s mission in the world, and the Rev. Kammy Young, the new Canon Missioner for Development for the Diocese of the Central Gulf Coast, will serve as our Diocesan BFL Sponsor.
Then on March 30, 2018, The Episcopal Church’s Province IV Executive Committee announced that they were awarding $10,500 in funds from their 2018 Ministry Grant process for the DataStory Evangelism Project, which is being co-sponsored by the Episcopal Diocese of the Central Gulf Coast and the Episcopal Diocese of Georgia. Noting that our project is “a strong example of the Presiding Bishop’s focus on evangelism and how we can collaborate to spread God’s good news in our communities,” DataStory uses cutting edge on-line demographic tools together with the traditional biblical disciplines of learning to love our neighbors as an essential part of being the church. This project will assist our diocesan churches in learning about the story – the context and culture - of their neighborhoods, train a team of diocesan leaders to engage that story with our story and God’s story more faithfully, and create a model for other dioceses and congregations to do the same. The Rev. Canon Frank Logue on the diocesan staff in Georgia and the Rev. Kammy Young in the Central Gulf Coast will lead this project.
“Engage, Be Visible, Collaborate, Support, Organize, Improve” – these are key words that describe the 2018 Young Adult and Campus Ministry Grant awarded to St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Troy, Alabama for their project to foster a relationship of hospitality and Christian education among the students of Troy University and St. Mark’s parish. The Church has been learning that if we seek to reach young adults, we will need radically new ways of ministry and forms of teaching. Young adults are deeply relational and want to belong, but they want to belong to a community that clearly articulates a purpose. The Rev. Curtis Kennington, rector of St. Mark’s, shares that “we are grateful for The Episcopal Church’s confidence in our engagement with campus ministry and look forward to walking with college students in this season of their lives.” The awarded grant is $4700.
Bishop Russell, in his 2018 Diocesan Convention address, reminded us that “Jesus is not just somewhere, he is everywhere” and that living into our potential to see Christ involves engagement with people that are probably not sitting in church on Sunday. “Engagement can be summed up in the words of Verna Dozier a lay theologian, Episcopalian, and author of The Dream of God. She once remarked, ‘…worshiping is not enough. It is only a beginning. It seems you and I are called to be followers. That is the struggle in being the church. What Jesus asks us to do is follow him. And where Jesus went was out into the world.’” So we do, even now!