Spread the Word: Evangelism the Theme of Diocesan Convention
By Titus Presler
“Go, Tell It on the Mountains! Evangelism Vermont-Style” is the theme of this year’s Diocesan Convention, to be held in Burlington on Friday and Saturday, October 26-27. That theme is now familiar to many from publicity in the runup to convention.
But: Episcopalians into evangelism?! Not only are many people surprised by the theme, but reservations abound because of the many stereotypes of evangelism people have from experiences with other churches and other kinds of Christians.
Episcopalians into evangelism?! Not only are many people surprised by the theme, but reservations abound…
Over the past months The Mountain has been publishing articles about evangelism written by members of the Green Mountain Witness Team, which is the group of eight gifted Vermont Episcopalians who are committed to catalyzing witness to the triune God. None of us knows exactly what “Evangelism Vermont-Style” is, for that’s something for all of us in the diocese to work out. But we hope that the articles have given some sense of what evangelism by Episcopalians in Vermont might look like.
Meanwhile, here are some ways to prepare for the evangelism emphasis at convention:
Read. Get the book, Speaking Our Faith: Equipping the Next Generations to Tell the Old, Old Story, by Kit Carlson, rector of All Saints’ Church in East Lansing, Michigan. Hopkins Bookshop is stocking the book. Carlson discusses why it’s difficult but also important for us as Christians to bear witness, and she provides a helpful model in the Speaking Our Faith groups that she has convened in congregations. Think about convening a small group in your congregation to read and discuss the book together.
Talk. Be open to discussing evangelism with a member of the Green Mountain Witness Team who will be in touch with your congregation before Convention. Each of us has committed to making contact with a number of congregations around the diocese to start a conversation about evangelism before Convention. We’d like to hear about your interest in evangelism and your concerns about evangelism.
Yes, clergy and delegates will be at Convention, but we’d also like others from your congregation to come…
Recruit. Yes, clergy and delegates will be at Convention, but we’d also like others from your congregation to come in order to hear about evangelism from keynoter Stephanie Spellers, canon to the presiding bishop, attend the various workshops that will be held on Friday and, if possible, attend the Eucharist on Saturday. There’s financial assistance available to help with registration for others to attend. And free home stays are being arranged with Burlington-area congregations for those who want to stay over Friday night.
Listen. In addition to Stephanie Spellers’ two plenary talks on Friday and her preaching on Saturday, the workshops on Friday will cover various topics in evangelism: Evangelism 101, Sharing My Faith, Telling My Story, Evangelism for Shy People, Biblical Bases for Evangelism, Theological Perspectives on Evangelism, Digital Evangelism, Contemplation and Evangelism – and more. So there will be lots to choose from and lots to learn.
In all this, it’s good to keep in mind The Episcopal Church’s very Episcopalian understanding of evangelism: “Evangelism is the spiritual practice of seeking, naming and celebrating the presence of Jesus in people’s stories, and then inviting them to form or deepen their relationship with God in Christ.”
Priest-in-Partnership at St. Matthew’s Church in Enosburg Falls, Titus Presler is coordinator of the Green Mountain Witness, the evangelism initiative of the Diocese of Vermont and convener of the initiative’s planning team.