Spring 2017 Forums

By David Romanik

Spring Forums

Being the Church: Reclaiming the Heart of our Faith

Those who follow sociological trends closely know that the last few decades have been difficult for the Church. The statistical benchmarks are alarming enough: Congregations are aging rapidly and average Sunday attendance is declining in almost every Christian denomination. Moreover, the Church’s cultural preeminence has eroded appreciably in recent years. The Church as we know it is undergoing significant, and in many cases, destabilizing change. In some ways, however, the most worrisome change is how impoverished our ecclesiology has become. We have spent so much time and energy either fiercely protecting our traditions or struggling to remain “relevant” that we have misunderstood the truth of the Gospel. In other words, we have, quite simply, forgotten what it means to “be the Church.” This year, our Spring Forum Series will explore this urgent topic. We will hear from several faith leaders who are experimenting with new models of ministry and Christian community. We will also consider how the more traditional aspects of our identity help and hinder how we understand the purpose of the Church. Throughout this series, we will strive to discover those features of our common life that are non-negotiable as we remember what it means to be the Church.

April 23
Nourishing Body and Spirit at The Abbey

The Abbey is a neighborhood coffee shop in Birmingham, Alabama. As a project of the Episcopal Diocese of Alabama, the Abbey’s mission is to offer a place of hospitality and conversation to the community. In addition to selling house-made baked goods and locally sourced coffee and tea, however, The Abbey is home to an Episcopal worshipping community. Join the Reverend Katie Nakamura Rengers, the founder and director of The Abbey, as she discusses the joys and challenges of this innovative ministry.

May 7
Making Room for the Sacred through the Interfaith Hospitality Network

We often assume that practicing hospitality essentially comes down to inviting people into our homes or preparing them meals. At its most basic, however, hospitality is about making room in our lives for others. Indeed, hospitality is one of the essential tasks of the Church: Christians are meant to create space in their lives, not only for other people, but for God. For many years, The Redeemer has been involved in the Interfaith Hospitality Network (IHN), an organization committed to helping homeless families and single women in our area achieve lasting independence. While Redeemer parishioners have prepared many meals and hosted many families in our Parish House, our work with IHN has ultimately been about making room in our lives for people we would not normally encounter. Join David Romanik as he facilitates a panel discussion with Jennifer Doyle, the Executive Director of IHN, and several volunteers from Redeemer as they share the joys and challenges of practicing sacred hospitality.

May 14
Rediscovering the Church’s Mission

One does not have to spend much time with Peter Vanderveen to hear him proclaim, “The mission of the Church is to be the Church.” While there is a self-evident quality to this statement, one could argue that the sentiment is not universally appreciated. Many of the initiatives the Church has focused on in recent years, while worthy, have not necessarily been expressions of its core identity. Indeed, some churches have a sense that their primary responsibility is to work for social justice; others see their role as providing political direction to their congregations. Join Peter as he articulates his sense of what it means to “be the Church,” and how that can inform our life both as a faith community and as people in the world.

May 21
Future Shock: Is the Episcopal Church Destined for Extinction?

The Pew Research reports that “the Christian share of the U.S. population is declining, while the number of U.S. adults who do not identify with any organized religion is growing.” Similarly, over the last ten years, average Sunday attendance throughout the Episcopal Church has declined by 26%. Join Donald V. Romanik, President of the Episcopal Church Foundation (ECF) for a lively and provocative conversation on current and future trends in the Episcopal Church as well as some creative and innovative ideas for a revitalized church that could become a  model in reversing this national decline. ECF is an independent, lay-led organization that helps congregations, dioceses and other Episcopal communities of faith engage in visioning and develop leadership and raise resources for ministry. Donald has been President of the Episcopal Church Foundation (ECF) since 2005. 

Last Published: May 18, 2017 2:39 PM