The Episcopal Diocese   
of Western Massachusetts


21st Century Congregations --  January 2015
Canon for Mission Resources Steve Abdow

New Year's Resolutions for Episcopal Church Leaders in Western and Central Mass. in 2015



1. Begin each meeting with some form of spiritual practice

An easy way to do this is with the daily devotions from the Book of Common Prayer (found starting on pg. 136.) The forms include time for silence, for reflection on scripture, for prayers of intercession and thanksgiving. It may provide people with a rare chance to pray outside of Sunday worship. Whatever the form, be sure to ground your work in God. We begin each of the meetings of Diocesan Council's Budget and Financial Planning Committee with some sort of prayer service like this. The fulfillment of God's will for us is the purpose of our work and can be forgotten. They say the reason for spiritual practice is to remember.


2. Get an energy audit done on your building

There is very likely low hanging fruit (in terms of cost savings) around excess energy usage in your congregations' buildings. Let's make a commitment in 2015 to taking this step as part of our stewardship of our resources and God's creation. Please get in touch with me if you need assistance getting this done. It is important on several levels.


3. Inspect your building and facility with the eyes of a newcomer

Walk through the whole facility as if it's the first time you are seeing it. Use beginners' eyes and take a new look. See what those who haven't become numb to the look, sound and feel of your congregation's environment might notice. Are things clean, fresh, kempt, relevant? Are there worn mats, rusty signs, tattered signs with yellow tape? Does the building look attractive from the curb? What is the message that people are getting from the physical plant? You don't have to act on every item you notice, but you can take inventory and make a start. I don't expect that a congregation will be able to fix every little thing but there are probably many things that could be done quickly and at no expense which would improve the appearance of the property and send a more desirable message to your neighbors and guests about your community.


4. Visit another church

Go to another church some Sunday morning and see what they are doing. It could be a nearby Episcopal church, or a Lutheran church, or any denomination. I keep meaning to get to the church that meets at the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield. I am curious, and I will probably get an idea or two to bring back to the church leadership groups I serve on. Notice the condition of the facility, how you are welcomed (or not), small touches in the service. I'm sure it will be worth the disruption to your Sunday routine.


5. Say hello to someone whose name you don't know at coffee hour each week

I have a tendency to be an introvert. It takes energy for me to engage with people, especially people I don't know. But all of us enjoy relationships and all of us are to some extent uncomfortable meeting new people. What I am challenging myself to do is to go up to at least one person whose name I don't know every time I go to a service and say something like, "Hi, I'm Steve. What is your name?" or "Remind me what your name is?" This feels like it could become a spiritual practice for me.


6. Read a book on Stewardship

Two books I plan to read this year are Ask, Thank, Tell by Charles Lane and Bounty: Ten Ways to Increase Giving at Your Church by Scott McKenzie. A church cannot be vital without healthy stewardship practices


7. Subscribe via email to the Episcopal Church Foundation's Vital Practices newsletter

This is a tremendous resource available at no charge. Through the Vital Practice website you can access the Vestry Resource Guide, a guide on orientation for new vestry members, info on webinars hosted by the ECF, and popular, helpful blogs. Here's a link to their website:


8. Go on a personal retreat

A quick web search for "spiritual retreats" will yield great suggestions for possible retreat centers. I recommend going alone. Silence and solitude are good for the soul and important for spiritual growth. My first suggestion is the Episcopal monastery in Cambridge and Newburyport run by the Society of St. John the Evangelist ( It could be transformational. It has been for me.


9. Do what you say you are going to do

To me, this is the single most important thing a leader can do. Deliver on what you promise. And name it when it is decided to change or forget about a promise. That is not failure; that is being realistic and responsible. It is discouraging to be on a team that doesn't follow through on plans. People lose energy and enthusiasm. Discern and act. I recommend that the minutes of meetings include a list of "next actions" that include what, who, and a date of completion. This is not meant to punish or scold but to build accountability in the leadership team. Leaders make things happen. Let's lead!