Next Step in Green Mountain Witness: Connecting with Congregations
By Titus Presler
Go, Tell It on the Mountains! Evangelism Vermont-Style was the theme of last fall’s Diocesan Convention, and a lot of enthusiasm was generated by keynoter Canon Stephanie Spellers and the array of workshops that unpacked various aspects of sharing the gospel. The enthusiasm resulted in about thirty people coming forward to be commissioned as Evangelism Catalysts.
It was a departure for Vermont Episcopalians, just as it’s been a departure for the Episcopal Church as a whole as Presiding Bishop Michael Curry has made evangelism a centerpiece of his ministry. And last summer’s General Convention endorsed evangelism in major ways alongside the two other major emphases of reconciliation and creation care.
Vermonters have seemed to enjoy departing from the norm of Anglican reserve as we realize that there is indeed good news at the heart of our faith. It makes sense that often people really won’t know about the good news unless we share it, especially in this least religious affiliated state in the country.
Vermonters have seemed to enjoy departing from the norm of Anglican reserve as we realize that there is indeed good news at the heart of our faith.
The Episcopal Church’s understanding of evangelism has helped people get used to the idea: “Evangelism is the spiritual practice of seeking, naming and celebrating Jesus’ loving presence in everyone’s stories, and then inviting them to more.” This perspective assumes that God in Christ is already there before we arrive, so that we are not bringing Jesus. It emphasizes listening before speaking, seeking rather than concluding, respecting rather than dismissing.
So where does Green Mountain Witness go from here?
We on the Green Mountain Witness Team are now reaching out to the congregations of the diocese to explore next steps. Diocesan Convention was the introduction to evangelism Vermont-style. Now we need to nurture conversation and engagement in congregations in order to help us Episcopalians become more at ease with sharing our faith with people beyond our parish communities who do not have a faith commitment or a spiritual home.
So the nine members of the team have divided up all the congregations of the diocese among ourselves, based on where we’re located geographically and people we happen to know. In these first months of 2019 we’re reaching out to the congregations to begin conversations about evangelism.
In congregations where there is already an Evangelism Catalyst, that person is our first contact, and we work with that person to explore how to get the conversation started in that parish. Otherwise we get in touch with the clergy and/or lay leadership.
Conversation might explore questions like these: How did you feel about the evangelism focus at Diocesan Convention? How do others in your congregation feel about evangelism? What questions and concerns about evangelism do you have? Is there a group in the parish that would be interested in gathering to discuss evangelism – the vestry, an outreach committee, an adult education group? How would you feel about the Green Mountain Witness Team offering an evangelism workshop in your parish?
Then we see where it goes from there – Vermont-style!
Meanwhile please do check out the newly established page for Green Mountain Witness on the diocesan website. It has background for the initiative and various resources you may find helpful.
Who are the “we” of the Green Mountain Team? We’re nine altogether:
Robert Barton | St. Mark’s, Springfield
Tim Daley | St. Mark’s, Newport
Jamison Dunne | Trinity, Shelburne & St. Paul’s, Windsor
Joe Fortner | St. Mary in the Mountains, Wilmington
Lindsey Huddle | St. James, Essex
Kathleen Moore | St. James, Arlington
Jennifer Ogelby | St. James, Essex
Titus Presler | St. Matthew’s, Enosburg Falls
Katie Runde | Christ Church, Bethel
We look forward to being in touch.
We do so prayerfully, as in one of the petitions we offered in the Litany for Evangelism at convention:
Your gospel, God, is the story of your journey with your people, and you have formed a unique story with each one of us. Nurture us in courage and readiness of speech so that we may bear joyful witness to the stories of your transforming presence in our lives.
Priest-in-partnership at St. Matthew’s, Enosburg Falls, Titus Presler is convener of the Green Mountain Witness Team.