On the Easter People faith and culture podcast, we talk a lot—but hopefully not exclusively—about the Episcopal Church. And we end each episode by naming Green Shoots, the signs of new life we’re seeing in the world around us.
So when I heard about the Acts 8 Moment’s most recent Blogforce Challenge (“What are the top ten signs of resurrection you see in the Episcopal Church?”) , I knew the Easter People archive was the place to begin. (Read our last Acts 8 Blogforce entry here.)
Without further ado, here are my ten signs, all of which appeared as Green Shoots or standalone segments in the first thirteen episodes of Easter People. Happy Easter!
Our pal Jason oversees Fresh Expressions in the Diocese of Washington, so we get to hear a lot about new approaches to following the Way of Jesus. And we know this movement is taking root all over the Episcopal Church. Seeing old forms of worship, fellowship, and formation popping up in unexpected ways and places? Sounds like new life to me.
Need the Fresh Expressions backstory? Start here.
I’m a bit biased here, of course, but I think faith podcasts have huge potential for reaching people we know and people we don’t yet. The Easter People love getting together every couple of weeks to laugh, think, and learn, and we’re grateful for the companionship of other colleagues taking to the online airwaves.
Our children and teenagers spend more time thinking about God and living in intentional community during one week at camp than they do all year in Sunday school or youth group. Camping ministry is faith formation in excelsis. It continues to be a perennial source of transformation in the life of the Episcopal Church. And don’t even get me started on the importance of the church’s ministry to all those young-adult counselors, many of whom see camp as their primary place of religious affiliation.
For one of the best celebrations of the power of this ministry, check out Connor Gwin’s terrific piece on his high camp-ology.
The Supreme Executive Committee and their coterie of Celebrity Bloggers obviously don’t need any promotional help from us—in fact, their site passed one million page views before this year’s Saintly Smackdown was even up and running. But an obvious answer is still a good one, and I remain stoked that this bit of stealth Christian formation continues its runaway popularity.
At the opposite end of the silly-to-serious spectrum (but every bit as tech-savvy), is the vibrant and growing online ministry of the Society of St. John the Evangelist in Cambridge, MA. There’s nothing tired or irrelevant about brothers whose daily meditations inspire a hip Tumblr remix and whose YouTube views have well exceeded the 100,000 mark. What’s remarkable (at least until you think about it for a while) is that they’re doing it simply by sharing the ancient wisdom of the Christian church, of which religious orders have long been primary stewards.
If you missed the brothers’ Love Life Lenten study, you may just have missed the Episcopal Church’s second-most-popular Lenten program (see #7, though I suspect Episcopal Relief and Development’s Lenten meditations would be very high on the list as well).
A couple years back, the National Association of Episcopal Christian Education Directors got a makeover. The new look reflects the changing realities facing faith formation ministries all over the country. One of the largest grassroots organizations in the Episcopal Church, Forma has a growing membership and renewed vision for serving young and old alike. Change is good. And under the leadership of president—and fellow Easter Person—Randall Curtis, I dare say Forma is well on its way to very good. (Full disclosure: I’m on the board.) Certainly that was true of this year’s conference. (Full disclosure: my boss and her wife were the keynoters. Look, it’s a small church.)
Forma’s Facebook Group is a truly inspiring collection of incarnate practical ministry wisdom. You should ask them questions.
Let me continue to throw around anecdotal numbers with reckless abandon and relay that EYE is the second-largest gathering of Episcopalians after General Convention. (“What else would it be?” is the question that gives me some confidence.) That’s a lot of teenagers plotting their own course toward the Episcopal Church of the future.
And it looks to me like EYE ’14 is in good hands.
Randall called Ashes to Go the “annual coming out party for the Episcopal Church.” And the Easter People had some ideas about how to keep the party going throughout the year. The only thing more exciting than getting outside the doors of our churches is being met there by crowds of people telling us very clearly that they value what we’re bringing.
If you’re not yet tired of hearing me go on about this outreach effort, here’s my piece on Ashes to Go as a faith formation activity.
I’m lucky enough to be married to a twice-over ESC alum, and what this program is doing never ceases to amaze me. It’s true that lots of participants are going on to seminary. But more exciting still are the ranks of those who have gone on to other kinds of careers—having been shaped by a gospel vision for transforming the world they serve, one life at a time.
The Round 3 deadline for 2014–2015 service corps applications is June 2.
Our pal Mike Angell joined the Easter People for a conversation about discipleship, and I dare say it was one of our most hopeful. You don’t have to look hard in the Episcopal Church to find disciples reading the Bible, partnering for ministry, and sharing the good news.
Want to catch that Spirit in your congregation? A good place to start is RenewalWorks, a spiritual growth ministry of Forward Movement.
Phew, after all that, I can understand the popularity of the top five list. It’s a good thing that these days in the Episcopal Church, our cup runneth over.
We’re sipping from our saucers as well at the Center for the Ministry of Teaching at Virginia Theological Seminary. And we wish you a joyous and formative Eastertide. Thanks for all you’re doing to live the resurrection in your communities.
Kyle Matthew Oliver (@kmoliver) is the digital missioner and learning lab coordinator in the Center for the Ministry of Teaching, a contributor at Faith Formation Learning Exchange, and a panelist on the Easter People podcast—where we do this twice a month.