Spread the Word…Or at Least Be Willing to Try!
Putting Our Diocesan Convention Lessons in Evangelism into Practice
By Jamison Dunne
As election night 2018 came to a close, at least for me, around three in the morning I was full of anxiety for the future. My social media was on fire, with my more liberal family and my conservative friends going after each other. As I was surveying this scene of division, similar to what had plagued this country for the last two years, I was reminded of a wonderful article from Episcopal News Service covering how Episcopalians from both sides of the aisle use faith while doing their jobs in congress. The article “Episcopalians bring faith perspectives to Congress on both sides of political aisle” was beautiful, and in the early hours of the morning as I read it my mind was put at ease. It was a pertinent reminder that when we look to our Father above in all things, even politics, the differences fade away.
After reading it realized I had to share this article of hope with others on my social media. Yet as I went to post the article, I paused. Was I really about to share something about my faith on social media? Was something so personal to me as faith appropriate to share with my thousand-plus Facebook friends? Would I suddenly become a religious nut? I mean I had shared religious content on social media a few times, mostly articles on Christian persecution in Syria and Iraq, but the thought of sharing something about my church and my faith was suddenly a stumbling block. After a few minutes rewriting the post, and praying the prayer “For Quiet Confidence” in the Book of Common Prayer (p. 832), I finally did post the article and went to bed.
That morning I became more fully an evangelist. It may seem funny to some—as I am a member of Green Mountain Witness and led a workshop at Diocesan Convention about evangelism—that I did not, until recently, consider myself an evangelist. I could share my faith in many other places, from one-on-one conversation to the classroom to sharing my stories with all of you. But to share it with my Facebook friends, where the possibility to be misunderstood is high, and those who are more hostile to faith can critique posts anonymously, was a non-starter. That post though, while not getting much interaction, helped some people. The few messages I received about it were mostly positive, and some people were thrilled to see a post about a church that encompassed all people. If I had not shared the article that night these people may have gone their whole lives never hearing of The Episcopal Church or seeing Jesus named in them. I too may have never overcome the stumbling block of using social media as an evangelistic tool. But I am now more likely to post again. So, on that night, I became more fully an evangelist in all aspects of my life. The energy of Convention was the driving force that allowed me to take a chance with evangelism on social media. Seeing so many folks willing to take a chance with this most important cause was more than enough to give me the courage to try out becoming fully an evangelist.
It may seem funny to some—as I am a member of Green Mountain Witness and led a workshop at Diocesan Convention about evangelism—that I did not, until recently, consider myself an evangelist.
At the close of Green Mountain Witness’s portion of Convention, Lindsey Huddle called on all of us to carry the spirit, energy, and knowledge around evangelism to our parishes and to try to implement what we had learned into our own lives. One may wonder what that might look like a few weeks after Convention. Since Convention, some parishes have expressed some sense that the goal was for them to suddenly become confident evangelists, ready to embody the spirit of the Rev. Canon Stephanie Spellers, the Rev. Dr. Fred Vergara, and Digital Evangelist Jeremy Tackett. That, however, is not what Green Mountain Witness is necessarily aiming to achieve. (Though if post-Convention you find yourself in this place that is something to celebrate!) I myself, though involved with this ministry for many months, am still growing into my own vision of what an evangelist should be.
So, what then are the members of Green Mountain Witness hoping to see when we reach out to parishes? We are hoping to see people trying in small ways to be evangelical. Whether it is in starting to build a social media presence as Trinity in Shelburne has done (be sure to follow @TrinityShel on Twitter), bringing up what you did at church to your neighbor, or simply making a Facebook post that involves your faith, then you are doing exactly as we had hoped. By taking that first step, as I did with my Facebook post, you are allowing God to present more opportunities in this ministry. There are many ways to be evangelical, and we know that many in parishes across our Diocese are in different places regarding evangelism, but if the 6,126 Episcopalians in Vermont are able to trust in God and try evangelism then we at Green Mountain Witness would call that a success. What are we hoping to see post-Convention? In short, we hope that people will be able to say, “I am unsure of evangelism, but I am willing to try it out in my own life.”
Jamison Dunne, an undergraduate student from Hartland at the University of Vermont, is a member of the Green Mountain Witness team, the Diocese of Vermont’s evangelism initiative. He is a member of Trinity Church in Shelburne and in the summer months attends St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Windsor.
In the featured image, Jamison Dunne leads a workshop at the 186th Diocesan Convention of The Episcopal Church in Vermont on “Evangelism with Younger Generations.”