Authored by: The Rev. Sara Phillips
Evangelism…The Jesus Movement…Witness to Christ our Lord…Testimonies…Prayer Teams.
Many of us can remember when such words were not a normal part of an Episcopalian’s lexicon. In 2018, the House of Bishops recognized the need for proclaiming the Gospel and declared evangelism to be a key in our church-wide mission. In response to this and at the direction of Bishop Russell Kendrick, our diocese formed an Evangelism Task Force in May of 2018 under the leadership of the Rev. Kammy Young and the Rev. Lydia Johnson. Their mission: “…to engage spiritual practices that seek, name, and celebrate Jesus’ loving presence in the stories of all people and then invite everyone to MORE with God.”
The leadership of our diocese realizes that the younger generations are more relational than territorial, or, more about communication than actual buildings. Many learn theology better through technology. Thus, on-line activities and conversations are important in ministering to them and inviting them to more.
The task force organized under the guidance of TryTank, an arm of Virginia Theological Seminary. TryTank offered a number of ideas for evangelism in this age of technology. One suggestion that the task force put into place was a Prayer Hotline during our Jubilee Celebration. We realize that asking for specific prayer is still “cutting edge” for many Episcopalians, yet we believe that as we grow in ministry this discomfort will abate. While the Hotline received only a few calls during the Jubilee Celebration, they were significant and allowed the clergy staffing the Hotline to minister to the callers. Each need was addressed in conversation and prayer, and, when appropriate, suggestions were made on moving forward.
Also in place now are on-line Go Forward Groups for those who seek a way to go forward from the Jubilee in their walks with God. Storytelling is an on-line tutorial in helping each participant to reflect on their own experiences of God’s presence in the context of the family gathered at table, and to develop these reflections into a personal story of faith. Crowded Table offers a virtual space to which people can come and join in conversation with others who desire more in their spiritual lives. And of course there is a ministry of texting. In Simple Texting people can join in conversations with others who seek more using text messaging.
The lay and ordained members of this task force are known as “Evangelism Catalysts.” To a scientist, a catalyst is an agent that drives a reaction forward, creating change, making a difference. As evangelism catalysts, we are called to move forward in mission and, led by the Holy Spirit, to make a difference in our world as we work for the building of the Kingdom of God on earth. We are passionate about spreading the Good News of Jesus Christ and passionate about inviting people to MORE.
We pray that all will accept this invitation and join us in evangelism.