Dear Friends in Christ,
For a moment, pretend it’s 2033. How do you see your church thriving?
Perhaps thriving means your church is participating in meaningful community outreach. There could be more families and children on Sunday mornings. Some churches might define thriving as additional Christian formation offerings for all ages, while for others it could mean an enhanced website and social media presence to help newcomers and old friends alike engage with your congregation and grow in the love of Christ.
No matter how you define what it means for your church to thrive, we all want our churches to be vibrant and healthy well into the future.
That’s why the focus of the 2023 Bishop’s Missionary Appeal (BMA) – the Come & See Campaign – is to foster diocesan vitality, viability and sustainability by supporting healthy churches and healthy clergy. The Come & See Campaign invites us into a collaborative model of leadership for strengthening our churches and forming stronger bonds with fellow Episcopalians in West Tennessee.
This important work has already begun. In January 2023, the Diocese hosted a workshop on the characteristics of vital congregations, which took place at Grace-St. Luke’s Church. More than 50 people representing 13 faith communities were in attendance. Later this month, members of Bishop & Council. the Standing Committee, the Finance Committee and other diocesan leaders will meet with a consultant to facilitate a conversation regarding how to coordinate our efforts in supporting churches. This will be the first time these various diocesan groups have convened.
Our youth have not been part of these conversations, but that is changing. At the most recent meeting of Bishop & Council, the Diocesan Youth Council (DYC) was reconstituted after 12 years of inactivity. Ten 10th to 12th graders will be selected to serve on the DYC, and they will periodically meet with me to share their perspectives about what they would like to see from the church. They will also plan several diocesan wide youth events each year. The Diocese will subsidize these events so that they are affordable for participants.
The work of the Come & See Campaign does not exist in a vacuum. The 2022 BMA focused on support for small congregations; diocesan programming for children and youth; and a diocesan racial reconciliation initiative. People were very generous last year, which allowed us to address the first two priorities. Events in Memphis over the past month – including the death of Tyre Nichols – have reiterated the need for a diocesan racial reconciliation initiative. It is my hope that as we gather for conversations about the future of the Diocese, we are laying the groundwork for greater trust and an ability to be honest with one another about our past and where we are headed in the future.
We encourage individuals, congregations and other organizations to contribute to the 2023 BMA. Traditionally, a contribution of at least $1,000 has been requested. If you are able to give at that level, please do so. However, no amount is too small, and any gift is greatly appreciated. You can send a check to the Diocese or give safely and securely on our website.
There are other ways of donating, including gifts of appreciated stock. The Diocese has a brokerage account to which these gifts can be made, so please call our office for that information and let us know the security you intend to give as well as the approximate amount of that gift. Individuals who are currently over the age of 70.5 can make gifts from your IRA required minimum distribution. Before choosing either of these options, PLEASE check with your tax or financial advisor to be sure these methods of giving are appropriate for your current financial situation.
Thank you for considering a donation to this year’s Bishop’s Missionary Appeal.