Means of Grace, Hope of Glory


Loren B. Mead: 1930 - 2018

I've been thinking about Loren all day.

Loren Mead was the primary force behind the creation of congregational development as a field of research and practice in the Episcopal Church and most other American denominations. From 1969 on he was the director of Project Test Pattern (PTP), an Episcopal Church action-research effort to better understand and serve the parish church. At the end of PTP he created Alban Institute which continued PTPs work and expanded it beyond the Episcopal Church. The influence of his work continues in training programs such as the Church Development Institute and the College for Congregational Development, in every diocese that has a staff person and/or a team of consultants with significant training in Organization Development, and in all those parishes that are healthier and more faithful due to his efforts. 


I spent much of the day reading his The Parish is the Issue. And I thought about all the times of connection.


When in therapy Bishop Robert De Witt picked up a way of thinking about relationships that recognized how we see each people through our own lens. He once said to me, "You're my Bob Gallagher." And by that he meant that others had a somewhat different Bob Gallagher.

This is my Loren Mead.

The last time I saw him was at Washington Cathedral. It was during a diocesan convention. I was leading a workshop on "Congregational Development through Spiritual Practices." I'd been doing training and consulting for the diocese for several years at that point. There he was sitting quietly in the rear. I was delighted to see him. And I had a twitch in the back of my head -- "will he approve?" 


I'm using the term "graduation" in its organization development sense. Karl Albrecht says its how an organization identifies and develops its future leaders. It's a key dimension of health. Loren looked for talent to serve the church. And he put those people together with one another. 


At a 1970 meeting in his office he pointed me to Jim Fenhagen. Soon after that I had some time with Jim. Years later Jim and I would work together creating a co-sponsorship arrangement between the Order of the Ascension and General Theological Seminary for the Parish Development Institute (later the Church Development Institute).


Later he put Cal Wick and me together. That lead to several conferences of young clergy and lay leaders exploring the ministry of the laity. The group ended up as an article in "the Episcopalian."

Even then it was rather embarrassing. But it was also challenging, stretching, supportive and great fun.

As he aged he continued to bring people together. There was the Next Hurrah Conference in 1998 at Kanuga where he and Bill Yon brought together lab trainers to create new resources for the church. From that meeting came the use of T-groups in the summer Church Development Institute and Shaping the Parish programs, a restart of Bill Yon's LTI (Leadership Training Institute) that for some years partnered with CDI in conducting training labs, and EQ/HR (The Center for Emotional Intelligence and Human Relations Skills). And less you think it was always work related - when I moved to Seattle he insisted that I get together with Bob Crosby.

One of the readings at Morning Prayer today was from Colossians 1. It reminded me of Loren.

Since the day we heard it, we have not ceased praying for you and asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of God’s will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that you may lead lives worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, as you bear fruit in every good work and as you grow in the knowledge of God. May you be made strong with all the strength that comes from his glorious power, and may you be prepared to endure everything with patience, while joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has enabled you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the light. 

In the course of his life he connected and developed thousands of people.

Hope & Death

Loren and I had many differences. Though I can't think of any occasion when we were disagreeable with one another around those differences.  I see him as more Protestant and me as more Catholic; him as more mainstream, me as on the edge. His systems thinking was more sociological, mine more ascetical. 

We seem to see hope and death in much the same way. We never talked about it but I now wonder if that was part of the connection.

In The Parish is the Issue he writes of hearing Jürgen Moltmann and reading The Theology of Hope. And he goes on to share the impact of the murder of Martin Luther King that took place later on the same day.

Ever since that night I have lived with the contradictory realities that flooded over me that night. The powerful truth that God is a god of hope. But also that we live in a world in which hope can seem to die. It is not possible, but both things are true. The impossibility, the rational contradiction, has lived in me every day since that night in April when Ed Moseley and I drove home from Durham to Chapel Hill. In all my life and work since then, I think those two motifs have been present. The reality of hope. The ever-present possibility of death. They are both enormous truths. As a Christian, I know the ultimacy of hope, but also the ever-present reality of death.

 I imagine that Loren has watched Bobby Kennedy's address on that night -- death and hope.

Parish - Congregation

 Loren Mead in The Parish is the Issue, "I am using the word “parish” here, but I also mean “congregation.” Different religious groups like one word or the other, and there are good reasons for that. “Congregation” puts the emphasis on the people who are members or participants in a particular local church. “Parish,” which I am using, comes out of the usage in Europe and my Episcopal background. It refers to geography and to the total population of that geography (including people who may not associate themselves with that church). But really, the parish includes even more than that—the horses and cattle, the dogs and cats, the fields and woods, the schools and businesses—the whole kit and caboodle. Of course I’m talking mostly about the people, but give me a bit of leeway here. It’s sort of biblical, like Jonah talking about Nineveh: “And should I not be concerned about Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also many animals?” (Jonah 4: 11). 2. Luke 4: 18–19."

Robert Gallagher, OA in Fill All Things: The Spiritual Dynamics of the Parish Church, "In this book I’ll frequently use “parish” and “congregation” in an interchangeable manner. This is primarily as an acknowledgment of what has become common usage in parts of the Episcopal Church. “Parish,” though, is the better word. It’s part of our tradition. It also suggests the mix of congregation(s), institutional life, and relationship with a geography or community of interest beyond itself. Most Episcopal parishes have at least two very distinct congregations with different spiritualities; we call them the 8:00 and 10:00 services."

Lightness of spirit  

His occasional frustration with the ways of parishes came with good humor. He developed a list of myths and norms in parish life back in the early 70s, here are a few of them:


People will do what you tell them to
    Exception #1 If they won't, telling them more loudly helps.
    Exception #2 If they still won't, it helps to get real angry with them.
The minister has been trained to run the parish
The vestry can't fire the minister.
The vestry won't fire the minister.
The new minister will ...
    Completion #1 get back all the lost pledges
    Completion #2 bring in all the people who have left
The minister knows how you feel.
The Treasurer knows what the financial situation is.
The Treasure will tell you what the financial situation is.
Power and control are very, very bad.
      Exception #1 It is okay to exert control through round-about, indirect, or manipulative ways.
      Exception #2 It is okay to exert control by withdrawing (money, self, etc) since that makes others feel              guilty and is really much more effective.
      Exception #3 It is okay to exert control if you say it's the Holy Spirit and not you that's doing it.


Always learning

Loren writes of an early shift in his thinking, "...shift my model of what we were up to from the one-on-one therapeutic model to what I came to call the “systems model.” Whereas I had thought of the parish as a therapeutic center helping people sort out their lives, I began to see the parish as a system—an interactive community within the town and county whose job was to be a center of health and forgiveness in the midst of a death-dealing social system. We needed to be a community whose health was contagiously related to the social ills of the outside world, a place where individuals would be surrounded by a community that helped them find and “catch” wholeness, not disease. Bodily and spiritually.  Jesus put it as “abundant life.”

His openness of mind and heart, and his commitment to the action - research process, kept him looking for better ways to improve parish life and ministry. 


Over the years we spend about 15 days together at one conference or another. We exchanged maybe 10 letters mostly on parish development but a few on the work of MAP (Metropolitan Associates of Philadelphia - an industrial mission) in supporting laity in the workplace. He was a great entrepreneur. His letters would often make a pitch for participant by the diocese or a network I was part of.  

Back to the last time I saw Loren. I had that twitch. I hoped he approved. Of course, he didn't say and I didn't ask. After the session we talked a bit as old collogues do. I was 66, Loren 80. I was embarrassed that I had the "approval" twitch. It seemed silly for someone of my age. At least it seemed so to me then. 

As I read his book I came across a reference to a meeting with him in 1970. We talked about parish development work and training in group and organization development available through MATC (Mid-Atlantic Training Committee) --

Two seminary students came to us to inquire about MATC training, but I dissuaded them—assuming they were too young and inexperienced to take on the consultant role. They persisted, I relented, and Bob Gallagher and Alice Mann went on to become stellar consultants.

I'm thankful for Loren's presence in my life and the wisdom he has offered the church.




 Loren died at his home in Alexandria, Virginia, on May 5, 2018. 

His last interview 

A Passion for the Local Church - James C. Fenhagen

Loren's latest book - The Parish is the Issue  (2015)

Loren's other The Parish is the Issue (1971)  Defining the work of Project Test Pattern

Loren Mead as part of the Episcopal Church's efforts for parish development

      Understanding from Within

      History of Parish Development in the Episcopal Church  


The Episcopal Cafe - on Loren Mead

Hartford Institute - on Loren Mead



Learning how to say the Daily Office

It changes a parish when 20% of the Eucharistic community prays the Daily Office during the week. It changes the Sunday Eucharist. It changes the people. It changes the sense of what we are about and who we are as a parish.

How do you get to that place in a parish? How to you create a critical mass of members who offer the Prayers of the Church each day? What are the steps that can move the parish in that direction? 

I had to write up this material for use by priests in the Order of the Ascension who are about to begin offering the program in their own parishes. It might as well be shared more widely. I hope you find it useful.

Here's an overview with some resources for a parish training/coaching program to help people say the Office on their own. 


The learning objective

For the participants to identify a way of saying the Daily Office on their own, that has a high level of internal commitment, and that fits their temperament and circumstances.

To do that in a process that helps establish internal commitment by providing adequate and useful information and free choice in deciding what to do.

Four phases

Phase One

A one-hour session in which participants learn how to say the Office. They are provided with options about how they might do the Office.

Phase Two

In between sessions they do the Office on their own using the approach they worked out in the first session

Phase Three

A one-hour session in which they assess how it went? What they learned about themselves and saying the Office. How they intend to do it in the coming week and beyond. Discuss Phase 4; especially the availability of guidance as requested. 

Phase Four

The person goes on to say the Office and make such adjustments as seem useful. Makes use of spiritual guidance on the Office from time to time. Could return to participate in the first three phases again as a way of revising and receiving support.


Ascetical/pastoral insights

You get to 20% plus saying the Office on their own over a five-year period by doing training and coaching with small groups along the way. Think of the training and coaching as generally taking place in small groups – five this time, four more in the fall, another 2 people in January. On and on, year after year. In time a critical mass has come into being. Avoid the trap of multitudinism and institutionalism.

You are shaping the parish –nurturing the Apostolic Center, what Martin Thornton called the Remnant. See the Shape of the Parish Model. Also, Longing for holiness.

Use the Threefold Rule of Prayer as part of your introducing the program. You want them to understand the Office as part of a pattern of spiritual practice -- Sunday Eucharist, Daily Office, Reflection/Personal Devotions that fit your temperament and circumstances. A handout.

It doesn’t usually happen spontaneously. You need to offer the training program every year in some form. In the first few years you need to offer it three times/year. After five or six years you’re doing it for new members and the occasional seeker of renewal because of some change within.

Take care to not suggest to people that there is a narrow, correct way. We suggest you focus on the essentials. And for some people simply encouraging them to do an absolute minimum – help them to see themselves as participating in the daily prayers of the church; that can grow over time into something more substantial.     


An outline of the training design for the sessions of phases 1 and 3

You want to have alignment among three elements: the learning objectives, the group gathering for training, and the training design. You are also seeking to maximise the person's internal commitment -- that's most effectively done by building the base of useful information and free choice in the training/coaching process. Here's a PDF on Daily Office: Parish Educational and Training Programs.

Handouts and worksheets: Threefold Rule of Prayer, Daily Office: Spectrum of Use, Saying the Daily Office on Your Own, Daily Office Worksheet, Assessing Your Use of the Daily Office (for the second session, Phase 3)



Training design outline:

In the first session (Phase 1) you want to focus participants on making decisions about how they will do the Office in the coming week. Watch out for your tendency to over-teach. They need enough information to make decisions. They don't need the history of the Office. Walk them through the "Daily Office: Spectrum of Use" worksheet. Explain the options on the sheet and note that these are just examples. Use the other worksheets -- presenting material that explains what's on the sheets. Then allow them to fill out the sheets and discuss what they have recorded. 

In the second session (Phase 3) you want them to share what they have done and what they feel and think about that. Use the worksheet "Assessing Your Use of the Daily Office." Allow time for them to talk. Ask questions. Possible return to the work from the first sessions. Some may want to revisit the spectrum of use.

Materials you'll need: Easel and pad, markers, blue tap, handouts, copies of the Book of Common Prayer, pre-done work on the newsprint of scales you'll want people to make use of.

Alternatives: There are other ways that you can help people connect with the Daily Office. Here are two.

1. Conduct the Anglican Spirituality course designed by Michelle Heyne, OA. It makes use of Michelle's book In Your Holy Spirit: Traditional Spirtual Practices in Today's Christian Life. A PDF of the educational design. The course has been used in many parishes throught the country. A related worksheet. 

2. Conduct a pre-Lent program on Having a Rule of Life. Do it every year. Use worksheets to help people reflect on their current rule and how they live it and to consider ways in which they may want to revise the rule. A second worksheet.

Supplemental approaches: Two ideas. 

1. Exposing members to the possibility of a relationship with one of the church's religious orders can be a compelling step into proficiency in the Christian life. It provides a broader community of prayer within which we say the Daily Office. Many orders have associates or oblates. A program that places in people's hands brochures on having a rule of life based in being an Associate has proven very meaningful for many people.

In the Anglican Communion there are approximately 165 religious orders and communities for men and/or women. Around 35 are in the United States. Some live in residential community as brothers and sisters, others are dispersed communities that gather from time to time for retreat, community life, and learning. Some provide retreat houses and individual spiritual guidance. Each community has a rule of life and is committed to a life of common prayer and service.

If the parish has members who are already associates of a religious order you may want to have them speak briefly about their own experience - no selling of their community though!

Some examples: Order of the Ascension; Order of the Holy Cross; Order of Julian of Norwich; Companions of Saint Luke; Society of Saint John the Evangelist; Community of Saint John Baptist; Society of St Margaret; Saint Gregory's Abbey

2. A panel of parishioners who already say the Office. This could be a helpful feeder into the four-phase training we've suggested. Hearing from others who say the Office can inspire. It's also an appropriate setting for parishioners to ask questions that come prior to participating in a program to actually learn how to do it. You can ask the panel questions like: What is the Daily Office, I've never heard of it? Isn't it a form of prayer appropriate for monks and nuns but not for most Christians? Could you say something about the history of the Office? What are it's Biblical roots? Panels may be useful in addressing what and why question, whereas the training program is addressing "how"?  It's best to give each its space.

A few cautions. Those presenting need to have an openness to ways of doing the Office that differs from their own; a narrow or rigid approach is likely to create an emotional resistance in the group. You may also want to have a panel that has a range of practice. However, you don't want someone who wants to argue against saying the Office. This isn't an academic debate.

Keep in mind -- someone who has said the Office for many years may be right for the panel but tottally inappropriate for training and coaching others in saying the Office. 

Background website resources: Useful for those training and coaching. Some may be useful to share with participants. 








Additional material will be added to this posting in the coming days.



A life


Fr. Richard Norris was one of the great theologians and teachers of the Church. Though his field wasn't parish development he offered one of the most useful and significant insights used by practitioners in that field.

People naturally make the analogy between the Church and other groups with which they are familiar: clubs, corporations, families and so on.  References to "organized religion" or "institutionalized religion" reveal the assumption that the Church is just one more form of human organization.  While the process of making analogies with the club, corporation, etc., is inevitable, it also creates a problem. "People come to the conclusion that the Church is a "society created by human enterprise and designed to serve particular human ends," that it is created by the "agreement of a number of individual persons who presumably define the terms of their association and its goals." …  "Church means, not corporation and not club, but a collection of people who have been called out together by a voice or a word or a summons which comes to them from outside." (Richard Norris, Understanding the Faith of the Church, Seabury Press, NY, 1979)

For some years now the church, maybe especially the Episcopal Church, has lived as though we were justifying our existence on the basis of being a social service agency. The more we served the poor and troubled -- the more value we have. Mostly we don't say that. We still know it's bad theology. But it is how many of us act. 

While being empathetic about the tendency Norris questioned that approach. 

A.M. Allchin understood that our "activity" was to rise from a life grounded in Office and Eucharist -- "a life which overflowed into activity, not an activity supported by a life." We exist to glorify God. We exist to participate in the life of God. And from that participation will flow faithful activity. And that activity will be for almost all of us primarily done in the routines of our daily life -- in family, with friends, at work, and in civic life. 

We need to beware of the tendency of the parish to see itself as the center, as the important thing. A tendency that has too many parishes measuring faithfulness by what you do in and through the parish.  So instead of the organic rhythm of the Body of Christ we get institutionalism.

Evelyn Underhill helps us understand how bad theology, and confused practice, ends up distorting the activity, our service.

 One’s first duty is adoration, and one’s second duty is awe and only one’s third duty is service. And that for those three things and nothing else, addressed to God and no one else, you and I and all other countless human creatures evolved upon the surface of this planet were created. We observe then that two of the three things for which our souls were made are matters of attitude, of relation: adoration and awe. Unless these two are right, the last of the triad, service, won’t be right. Unless the whole of is a movement of praise and adoration, unless it is instinct with awe, the work which the life produces won’t be much good. P 22

For the real saint is neither a special creation nor a spiritual freak. He is just a human being in whom has been fulfilled the great aspiration of St. Augustine – “My life shall be a real life, being wholly full of Thee.” And as that real life, the interior union with God grows, so too does the saints’ self­identification with humanity grow. They do not stand aside wrapped in delightful prayers and feeling pure and agreeable to God. They go right down into the mess; and there, right down in the mess, they are able to radiate God because they possess Him. P 96  Concerning the Inner Life

The icon is from "The Anglo Catholics" an icon series. This one was written by Mary Ellen Watson




Two Schools of Congregational Development

There's an excellent article appearing in the April 8 issue of the Living Church -- "Two Schools of Congregational Development" by Kirk Petersen. It touches on how two congregational development programs were impacted by my divorce in 2008. But in the main its focus is on describing the College for Congregational Development and the Diocesan CDI programs. I hope you'll take a look at the write up on two proven programs. 


Petersen notes "Both organizations draw rave reviews from participants." He goes on to note the many similarities between the programs, e.g., two years, multiple dioceses, lay and clergy teams from parishes, the use of organization development, and each has involved two bishops in the training. Both have a commitment to diocesan based programs. He also wrote about how the people in each program are not very familiar with the other. 


My impression is that the Diocesan CDI program may place more emphasis on pastoral and ascetical theology and practice in its work. But that's just an impression. I'd love to get together with leaders from both programs. We could share what each is doing and take a look at how both might improve. Michelle Heyne and I could offer a few ideas from our work in Shaping the Parish (see three ideas toward the bottom of this page).


There was one error in the story that a former CDI trainer brought to my attention. In the article Kirk Petersen writes:


“Consciously or otherwise, DCDI has also borrowed a page from CCD play book by evolving into a diocesan based organization. It previously had been a national program, first at seminaries and then as a standalone organization. The “Diocesan”was added to convocation development Institute in 2011 to create DCDI.” 


Actually it's the reverse. There were 13 diocesan CDIs years before the College was formed -- CDIs in the dioceses of Atlanta, Connecticut, Milwaukee, Newark, North Carolina, Northern Indiana, Rochester, Southwest Florida, Southwest Virginia, Virginia, Washington, Western New York, and Western Massachusetts. Around the time CCD was being formed there was also a CDI in Utah. The Diocesan CDIs have been in Georgia, Milwaukee, Long Island, Northern Indiana, Western Michigan, Eastern Michican, and Colorado.
We might increase our understanding of the similarities and differences of the programs by looking at their reading lists -- DCDI (Georgia)   CCD   Shaping the Parish   
We'll add the reading list for Associates of the Order of the Ascension.


This is an addition - Apparently there were people associate with CCD who were unhappy with the Living Church article. Melissa Skelton, founder of CCD, wrote a letter to the editor. While there's much in the letter that Michelle Heyne and Bob Gallagher see differently their emphasis moves in another direction. 
We hope the current leadership of the two programs would agree to set aside, place on the shelf, all the old arguments about who did what, which program founder has the superior training and experience, and which program is the best. Maybe it's a time in which the battles might be set aside and the parties spend time with one another focused on their love of God and of the church. More information on the article and dispute.


More background

If you are interested in more background on the history of parish development in the Episcopal Church, here are two sources -

Understanding from Within

Michelle Heyne and I wrote an article for the Organization Development Practitioner in the Winter 2015 edition. Here's a link to that edition.  There's also a posting on this site that adds to the OD Practitioner article.

The article was written for members of the OD Network, the largest professional association of organization development practitioners. That's a largely secular audience and the piece is written in a manner that reflects that.

We also wrote a posting for those OD Practitioners who wanted more information on the models mentioned in the article. It's also a resource for parish development practitioners in the church seeking resources. Here's a link to that article.

That piece notes that people doing parish development need to "understand from within" if their work is to be effective:
1. We are more likely to "understand" and be received if we are proficient Christians grounded in this Anglican way of being a Christian. 
2. Taking an appreciative, curious, open stance toward the parish and the tradition will also help. If we had to chose between a competent secular OD consultant with such appreciation and an Episcopalian taking a dismissive stance toward parishes, with a list of "three things all parishes must do," we'd select the non-religious consultant.
3. Our understand will be richer and deeper if we are familiar with systems oriented pastoral/ascetical theology models of the parish church. Such models are teased out of the actual experience of the parish church in relationship with the church's self understanding of its nature, mission, and inner life.

The History of Parish Development in the Episcopal Church

It provides an overview of the field, the history, and a reflection on the current state of the field (a bit dated). It explains three streams to the field: pastoral and ascetical theology, organization development, and a blending of the two.

There's also a discussion of six ways in which parishes have done parish development: best practices, limited competency development, longer and more intensive leadership training programs, and so on.

As you'd expect there's a good bit on the development and evolution of the Church Development Institute.

We end by offering three suggestions that we think might improve the existing DCDI and CCD programs:

We are offering a few suggestions to DCDI and CCD based on what was learned in Shaping the Parish:

1. Provide developmental interventions (projects) for participants to use that are designed to be truly developmental. Support that with coaching from experienced trainers. Comment - we continue to hear about projects that are designed by participants in the two programs. Most are not really developmental. Of course participants can still learn about the process of change in a parish as well as about their own emotional and spiritual life as they engage the work. Participant skills can be better increased if they are provided with a few well designed developmental initiatives to carry out in the first year of the program. That pattern might be continued or they might then be invited to design their own projects.

2. Begin with a weekend T-group and the use of several instruments (MBTI, FIRO B, and TKI). Information on T-groups -- Crosby  Gallagher.  Our Shaping the Parish experience suggest that doing these activities at the front end of a program creates a more open learning environment that persists, establishes a norm of useful and skilled feedback, and sharpens the emotional intelligence of most participants. A difficulty with this is that it means that the training staff need to have a much higher level of training competence. 

3. We invite the leaders of DCDI and CCD to borrow from what we learned in Shaping the Parish

"The History of Parish Development in the Episcopal Church" -- Here's the link.



The pictures

CDI-Washington (around 2001) - a diocesan program

CDI-Colorado (around 2008) - a diocesan program

CDI-Seattle (2007) - a national program

CDI-General Seminary (early 1990's?) - a national program

CDI Colorado (2008) - a diocesan program


Multitudinism, Institutionalism, and the Conventional 

The awful trinity: multitudinism, institutionalism, and the conventional 

Multitudinism is Martin Thornton's term for when the church focuses on numbers.

Institutionalism is my term for when the church focuses on the institutional needs, demands and pressures that shape the time and energy of leaders and members. A related posting on institutionalism.

The conventional is when the church focuses on the current and popular measure of parish acceptable life.

This destructive trinity, when permitted to be main stage, sucks the life out of our parishes. It tears the heart out of faithful priests and deacons. It causes the Apostolic to seek nurture and growth in places outside the parish church they love.

In multitudinism - “The emphasis is numerical, membership is nominal; which inevitably means convention, respectability, Pelagianism, apathy, and spiritual sterility. The sole pastoral function is ostensibly evangelism which is so frequently reduced to mere 'recruitment'." (Thornton, Pastoral Theology, p. 14)  You end up spending your time on some form of "revival" gatherings. It will wear out the parish priest who must over-function in the hope that the numbers will show themselves. There's little or no long term payoff. In the Episcopal Church this appears every couple of decades as we hope the evangelicals can show us how to increase our numbers. Clergy trot off to places like Saint Paul's, Darian in the 70s and 80s and Willow Creek in the new century. We then try to create a more Anglican version in the hope we can be both prosperous and loyal. It rarely occurs to us that we have a tradition of organic evangelization that works if we use it.

In institutionalism - The emphasis is on the institutional life of the parish -- its roles, authority, power, and needs. Great attention is paid to administration. How might we be more a more successful institution?

The conventional - The parish behaves in accordance with the prevailing set of accepted conventions. It seeks signs from outside itself in the broader culture and becomes the Republican Party at prayer (or the Democratic Party) or how do we conform to being of the South or the Pacific Northwest?

This dreadful trinity is an interdependent system but the elements are not distinct in themselves, they overlap and are ambiguous. Three forces that appear comprehensible yet seem given, irresistible, and eternal. 


A few examples: 

Strengthen the Eucharist

The Eucharist will have a stronger presence in the life of most members when:

-We work at making use of music that people are more familiar with, bulletins in which everything is printed out, rehearsing lectors and the servers. We focus on the majority of people and their existing competence and by


-by improving the congregation's capacity for saying the Office and engaging in reflection & personal devotions and by helping members enter into the Eucharistic action and know Augustine's truth, "It is you who lie upon the altar; it is you, your very life, within the cup" and Underhill's insight, "We are to be transformed, consecrated, made sacred to His creative purpose; and so fulfill the meaning of our life."


Internal communication that builds the Body

We focus our advertising on the events that will have the largest numbers or in which key people have the greatest investment.


We focus on the Threefold Pattern of Prayer and opportunities to live the pattern as well as training and coaching that is available to assist us in running the race. We both do a lot of repetition with this as well as finding new ways to offer a deeper life in Christ. And along the way we advertise to the many.

Also -

Our home page is an entry place allowing the use of a menu. The menu lists "worship" as one of many possible things. 


The home page presents information on both the Sunday Eucharist and the weekday Office and Eucharists. It communicates a cultural density and grounding in regard to worship.


External signage


My concern here isn't with which signs are more attractive. But which focus on the "awful trinity" and which on the core spiritual dynamics of the parish. The second set shows an emphasis on the Prayer Book Pattern of worship and may communicate to those passing by that this is a place of deep prayer.  

It's not an either/or issue. Use the primary church sign to communicate the fullness of the parish's prayer life; the ground of its life. Use other signs to communicate special events or other messages, Though I do wonder about messages intended to insult and diminish others.

It is often a good idea to attend to the fact that there may be a significant number of people in neighborhood that will come to a special liturgy -- Easter, a special evensong. The problem isn't that we promote these things. The problem is that we don't adequately "promote" the core.  

Here's an example of hanging a banner to promote Easter in the neighborhood. Do attend to the multitude but first attend to the core.


A couple of changes we might make

Change what we measure 
The conventional pattern is something like this --Sunday Eucharist at 8:00 and 1030, another on Wednesday. maybe some kind of Taize liturgy or Compline once a week. If you’re a larger parish with an 8:00, 9:00 and 11:00 and nine and 11 with some kind of education or activity squeezed in between the two larger liturgies. 
So Sunday becomes anxious, rushed, and busy. The clergy need to keep moving from one thing to another 
Our excuses are along these lines -- not many people will come to a daily Evening Prayer or to a formation (training and coaching) program during the week. 


Measure differently – Measure the climate on Sunday morning. Measure the formation of the apostolic core and those ready to progress toward the apostolic faith. Measure over seven years instead of this past Sunday or the past month. Accept people at all stages of faith and practice and invite all to move forward AND feed the Apostolic core as that will help you shape a healthy culture. Certainly pay attention to the multitude and pay more attention to the core, your partners in developing a climate of prayer and apostolic ministry.


Change how we include 

Many parishes work at the inclusion of people by offering a session or two oreinting them to the parish and then we look at how to include them in the institutional work of the parish. So we get them on a committee or on the vestry. We give them some institutional role to play.
What we need to be doing - for the sake of the person and for the sake of the Body of Christ – is helping them include themselves in the pathways of grace – to take responsibility for their own spiritual life and of course to learn about the ways of the inner life. 


Understand how this relates to cultural density and the parish's "demand system"


I'll use an example for this. Putting the full parish worship schedule on the home page and the signage - Sunday Eucharists and daily weekday Office and mid week Eucharists - both adds to the parish's healthy cultural density and shapes a useful demand system. It says "worship" is the center and ground of our life. It presents the Prayer Book Pattern and thereby reinforces that in the mind of at least some. It creates an expectation, that having been listed, it will happen. 


Do not become a purist  

There is no avoiding all this. It's basic organizational psychology.  It is the culture we live in. And like all cultures we are so used to it we barely notice - the air we breath.  Members and leaders always get absorbed into the multitudinist - institutionalist - conventional culture. Always. Over time it happens or you are expelled. If it doesn't happen the priest will be unable to be an incarnate presence. We must live in the world.

So, the issue isn't whether we get absorbed into the broader culture but whether we also maintain that other culture -- the culture of the Eucharist - Office - Reflection/Personal Devotions; the culture of Stability - Obedience - Conversion of Life; the culture of losing your life to find it. And whether we maintain it at the heart of the parish's life and work.