Diocesan ministry networks will be facilitating online book discussions in January, February and March, each inspired by diocesan mission strategy themes of reimagining congregations, building relationships and engaging the world.
All are welcome to join one or more of the three Wednesday evening discussions via the online video conferencing platform, Zoom. Find the full schedule and Zoom links here.
"Since our mission strategy is fundamentally a document to guide us as congregations and as members of Christ’s body, we wanted to provide an opportunity for all of us to engage the strategy more deeply. Through our upcoming book groups, we can read a book together focusing on one particular aspect of our mission, and then learn from others with conversation about that particular goal," the Rev. Phil LaBelle said in an e-mail. He is the rector of St. Mark's Church in Southborough and co-chairs the Mission Strategy Committee with Claudette Hunt of St. Andrew's Church in Ayer.
"We hope that people will meet new members of our diocese and find ways to incorporate some new ideas into the life of their worshiping community, while also growing deeper in their individual faith," LaBelle said.
First up for discussion, on Wednesday, Jan. 29, from 7 to 8 p.m., is Transforming Evangelism by David Gortner. The book is part of Church Publishing Inc.'s "Transformation: The Episcopal Church of the 21st Century" series, and it approaches the topic of evangelism in the Episcopal Church by examining how Episcopalians can reclaim evangelism as an enriching spiritual practice.
Billy Boyce of Grace Church in New Bedford and the Rev. Debbie Phillips, the rector of Grace Church in Salem, will lead the online discussion. Both are participants in the emerging Evangelism Network in the diocese.
"Debbie and I are incredibly excited about the upcoming book study on David Gortner's Transforming Evangelism," Boyce said by e-mail. "As we, the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts, reimagine our congregations, Gortner asks insightful questions to make God's work in our own context relevant and full of good news. As noted in the book, 'Evangelism is every Christian's response to God. It does not require verbal gymnastics, flawless theological knowledge, great acts of philanthropy or seamless strategies for incorporating new members. It requires you to listen to others, attentive to signs of God’s presence.'”
"We hope [the Jan. 29 session] will include some discussion about the book and follow with some brainstorming for how individuals and worshiping communities will take on the spiritual discipline of 'Episcopal evangelism' in authentic, loving, liberating and life-giving ways," Boyce said.
Several copies of Transforming Evangelism are available for borrowing from Martha Gardner, Missioner for Networking and Formation. She can be reached at email@example.com or 617-482-4826, ext. 403. Questions about the Jan. 29 book session can be directed to Billy Boyce at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The mission strategy book series will also include online discussions of How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi, on Wednesday, Feb. 19, and Climate Church, Climate World by Jim Antal, on Wednesday, March 25. Each runs from 7 to 8 p.m. More information, including Zoom links, is available here.