by Mimi Grant
(note from editor: the Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori referenced Grant’s idea in her remarks to General Convention)
Building on a recent bishops and deputies listserve string on sharing “best practices,” which included excellent imput from both Ernie Petry (from Ohio) and Ariel Miller (from Southern Ohio), a fellow Los Angeles Deputy, The Rev. Susan Russell, added: “Ages ago I floated an idea about taking the TED Conference model and creating a TEC version that would give us access to the inspiration and best-practices already in place around the church that we could learn from and adapt to our congregational and community contexts. Still thinking it’s a concept that would be interesting to explore.”
Being a huge fan of the TED Conferences (Technology, Entertainment, Design: where the world’s leading thinkers and doers gather to share ideas worth spreading), and even more the posted videos of each 17 minute presentation, I jumped in to recommend that we create TEDTEC.
One of the advantages of being a first time Deputy is: I don’t know what can’t be done. So why not dream big! And, being active in the healthcare community, I’ve been greatly impressed with the “possibilities” TEDMED speakers have opened up to those who might otherwise find the challenges associated with creating an affordable, quality healthcare system far too overwhelming.
So, with credit to TEDMED, here’s what I think IS possible if we hit “REFRESH” on our thinking about the purpose and possibilities of our tri-annual General Convention (and even in our Provincial meetings between Conventions)…
TEDTEC is a community of people who are passionate about imagining the future of The Episcopal Church.
Every three years, TEDTEC holds a “grand gathering” where leaders – bishops, clergy and laity – come together from across all the Provinces of The Episcopal Church for three and a half days to hear “What’s Working” as they share and explore with each other the ministries, programs, and mechanisms they’re using to achieve the Five Marks of Mission in their dioceses and communities. This unique event combines dazzling celebration, high-powered learning, and is live-streamed so that congregations from throughout The Episcopal Church can “participate remotely,” and become inspired to create and expand their own ministries and missions.
Within each 17 minute TEDTEC presentation – which are also posted on YouTube™ for later viewing, a different example of The Church in Action is showcased, focusing on how they’re achieving one (or more) of the Five Marks of Mission. Here are a few examples, from the Diocese of Los Angeles, I’d nominate to get us started (and I bet you could add hundreds more):
To proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom
Much of this “proclaiming” can be by example, as St. Francis of Assisi said, “preach the gospel at all times; when necessary, use words.” The Church of the Messiah was founded in 1883 and occupies the oldest church structure in Orange County, it also now finds itself in the most densely populated zip code (and one of the poorest) in the country. Messiah teamed with the Sisters of St. Joseph of Orange, to found “Hands Together: A Center for Children” which serves 200 infants to pre-schoolers of the working poor. They also have a Literacy Center to help kids become enthusiastic learners; and Morning Garden, which teaches basic life survival skills, such as financial literacy, to their immigrant familes.
To each, baptize and nurture new believers
In a very different community, about 45 miles up the coast, the Rev. Jimmy Bartz, is the rector of Thad’s in Santa Monica, where he frequently invites seekers to literally experience “church” for the first time. In this excellent overview video – – Jimmy explains how they introduce the unchurched to a contemporary service that speaks to them. And, quoting from their website, “We’re a movement of missionary people who’ve made a choice to leave the relative safety of the established church and take the love of Jesus “to the streets.” Among the “street people” who’ve found a home at Thad’s is the actress Reese Witherspoon.
To respond to human need by loving service
Every week, five congregations meet at St. Paul’s, in Tustin, to serve “Sunday Supper.” The first Sunday, in May of 2011, no one showed up – even after leaving flyers at the Tustin library. Now, since word ultimately gets around in the homeless community, they routinely serve over 100. Each Sunday, a different congregation (St. Paul’s and Trinity Episcopal, in Orange, along with Aldersgate United Methodist, Congregation B’nai Israel, and Serrano Hlls Church in Orange) serve food they prepare that is largely supplied by local food banks, supplemented with vegetables grown in St. Paul’s garden.
To seek to transform unjust structures of society
The Kaleidoscope Institute was originally launched from the Diocesan Center in Los Angeles, but when budgets got tight, its founder and Executive Director, the Rev. Eric H.F. Law, made it into an independent, “sustainable missional ministry. Today, with his roots firmly planted in years of anti-racism training, Eric+ goes around the country sharing his knowledge and skills (using AV and electronic media) training others to enhance interpersonal communication and to build respectful, inclusive communities that transform unjust societal structures. During a recent L.A.Deanery IX event, Eric inspired us to think outside the pews as to how we can use “Holy Currencies” to create our own sustainable ministries to susport and extend the Kingdom of God.
To strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and sustain and renew the life of the earth
At Trinity in Orange, our “Stewardship of All Creation” committee includes Lea, who became a founding committee member, at age nine. Lea and others have led Trinity to switch to ceramic mugs from styrofoam, to decorate with ribbons attached to long sticks instead of helium balloons, and encouraged several Scouts to transplant our garden areas with draught tolerant plants, instead of those requiring water. While we are well on our way to becoming a “green” church, another church in our Deanery is using the “currency” of their place for community benefit. St. Stephen’s is blessed with a large parcel of land, which they’ve opened up to the community to plant herbs, vegetables, and even flowers.
TEDTEC – utilizing the power of inexpensive video cameras, editing software, streaming technology, and YouTube to store the videos online, can provide the entire Church with a rich resource of “demonstrations” as to how Episcopalians are getting out of their pews – leaving their churches in a good way. This resource can lead to religious vibrancy within all of our communities, as we proclaim – through our actions – the Good News, reach out to the unbelieving, lovingly serve those in need and those treated unjustly, and as we renew not just the life of the earth, but the life of our Church.
Together, we can weave a tapestry that combines the best thinking from every diocese and creates infinite new possibilities. In the future, inspired by these shared stories of successful ministries, the “business” of General Convention could follow TEDTEC, bringing together “mission-driven” people to talk, legislate, and “fine tune” the life of The Episcopal Church.
I know, this is the fantasy of someone who hasn’t been through all the anguish of past Conventions, or even the past Budgeting cycle. But if we’re looking to SUSTAIN The Episcopal Church, let alone GROW it, we’re going to need to reach out beyond our current polity, and focus on how we can share what’s working, how we can energize not just the People in the Pews (before we bury ALL of them), but the Clergy, and our Bishops, too.
With an optimistic – and prayerful – heart, Mimi
In Mimi Grant’s “day job” she is the president of the Adaptive Business Leaders Organization, which is composed of over 160 CEOs of Healthcare & Technology companies who meet in nine monthly Round Tables, sharing best practices to help grow successful businesses – and lower the cost of quality care. A passionate convert, she’s also very active in her church, her Deanery, and is now serving as a first time Lay Deputy from the Diocese of Los Angeles.