Episcopal Village brings mission shaped church to Baltimore

October 7, 2010

Editor's note: This piece was updated Oct. 21.

As I reported in Religion Dispatches, in recent years, one can find an increasing number of Anglicans, Catholic and other mainline church leaders, who are rethinking how they "do church." The reasons for this shift in thinking are myriad and have only intensified since 2008 according to a study released by the Barna Group in January 2009. Fifty percent of the adults interviewed agreed that Christianity is no longer the faith that Americans automatically accept as their personal faith.

In 2010, the Rev. Karen Ward, co-founder of Anglimergent, a social networking site that links Anglicans globally, responded to this shift by co-founding Episcopal Village (EPV) with Jon Myers, a postulant in the Diocese of Olympia, who planted Beacon Hill Church in south Seattle.

EPV is a grassroots community and initiative, resourcing Episcopal dioceses, parishes and leaders for emerging and fresh expression mission with an Anglican ethos and "village," or diocesan approach.

As part EPV's goal to serve as a grassroots resource, it has begun to launch a series of regional events. "Episcopal Village events provide a new way for dioceses and parishes to receive training and resources for emerging and fresh expression mission, that is geared to their local contexts, grounded in Anglican tradition, and with an ethos that is 'of, by and for' the Episcopal Church engaging evangelism, outreach and mission in 'great emergence' culture," said Ward.

On the heels of a regional gathering in Portland, Oregon, that attracted over 140 clergy and lay leaders, EPV launched a similar event in Baltimore which was hosted by the Dioceses of Maryland and held in the Cathedral of the Incarnation.

The late September East Coast gathering, co-sponsored by the dioceses of Long Island, Southern Virginia and Virginia, as well as Berkeley Divinity School at Yale, attracted over 280 religious leaders, including 48 seminarians. The Rev. Canon Dan Webster, canon for evangelism and ministry development for the Diocese of Maryland reflected on the inclusion of young adults into these meetings:

"Our congregations, like most of the Episcopal Church, are graying and nearly every congregation I visit the leaders lament the absence of 20s and 30s among them. Bishop [Eugene] Sutton, in his remarks at the opening of the event, cited research where young adults described Christianity as hypocritical, judgmental and anti-gay. Our job is to find ways to reach young people and show them a Christianity that truly wants to follow Jesus, to be open and inclusive, to be serious about doing gospel work."

Next on the EPV schedule will be the so-called "Opiate Mass," described as an "art installation and concert for fans of ambient, trip-hop and post-rock" will be held in Trinity Episcopal Cathedral Portland, Oregon. Ticket information is here.

Those interested in connecting to this conversation can participate in the EPV event in New England on March 3-5 at St. Paul's Episcopal Cathedral in Boston, Massachusetts.

Among the resources available to people interested in this work are:

  • Episcopal Evangelism episcopalevangelism@gmail.com or Facebook group "Episcopal Evangelism Network."
  • EPV Baltimore meeting presentation by author and former pastor Brian McLaren citing the contributions Anglicanism can bring to this emerging discussion.
  • Podcast of EPV Baltimore panel discussion titled "Challenges and Opportunities for Village Mission" is available here.
  • Dioceses and seminaries interested in hosting an EPV event should contact Karen Ward, EPV director at Karen@episopalvillage.org.