Congregational Growth Initiative Underway


written by the Rev. Calhoun Wick

An increasing number of rectors and clergy from across the Episcopal Church in Delaware are joining in a congregational growth initiative. The focus will be on increasing numbers and vitality of each parish. The initiative began last September when the Priestly Formation Committee, under the leadership of the Rev. Max Wolf, hosted a clergy gathering at Christ Church, Dover. The energy from this meeting led to a clergy gathering at St. Peter’s Church, Lewes at the invitation of the Rev. Jeff Ross. Our bishop, the Rt. Rev. Kevin S. Brown joined the clergy in Lewes. The clergy agreed to continue the discussions on a quarterly basis. The Rev. Ruth Beresford and the clergy of Christ Church Christiana Hundred, Wilmington hosted the next meeting, of more than 20 clergy, held in early April.

Each gathering has begun with an opening prayer and an inspiring bible study. The focus of each meeting has been on God’s call to congregations to seek out opportunities to invite those who do not have a church or who may have given up on the church. Inviting everyone to join us in worship and discover the good news of Jesus. The discussion at St. Peter’s in Lewes concentrated on why congregational growth is important. The discussion at Christ Church concentrated on the challenges we face as congregations and clergy reaching out to those who are beyond our walls.

The next gathering of clergy will take place on Thursday, June 21 at St. Anne’s Episcopal Church in Middletown, at the invitation of the Rev. Russ Bohner. The focus will be on preparing for an upcoming, two-day conference with Mary Parmer, who created Invite Welcome Connect. The conference is scheduled for Friday and Saturday, October 19 – 20. Mary will prepare congregations to use her Invite Welcome Connect process in their parishes.  Every congregation and their clergy will be invited to send a team to be trained by Mary. Through a thoughtful process, attendees will learn to Invite people to our churches, Welcome them when they come, and Connect them to the life of a parish.

This congregational growth initiative presents amazing, hopeful possibilities for parishes in the Episcopal Church in Delaware. At a time when many churches in mainline denominations and across the Episcopal Church are experiencing decline, it is heartening to know that the leadership in our diocese is hearing God’s call to grow. In this Easter season it means that we will be true to the Great Commission Jesus gave to his Disciples after his resurrection, when he said, in Mathew 28:19, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations”.  In our day this means reaching out to those who might be just outside the doors of each of our churches waiting for a personal invitation to be invited inside.

Click here to view Bishop Brown’s video on Church Growth and Vitality, published April 11, 2018.

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