The Convocation of Episcopal Churches in Europe has just been awarded a seed grant at the June Executive Council meeting. This was one of thirty grants awarded at that meeting. See what is planned with this exciting venture!
Virtual to Vital
New Episcopal Communities in Europe:
Case Statement and Vision
The Setting. Like churches everywhere, the year of pandemic—”Covidtide”—has dramatically affected the European part of the Episcopal Church. At the same time, we have recognized both opportunity and blessing in the creativity, innovation, and resilience of our communities. The emergence of the virtual church has for us not only been risky experiment—it has been a liberation from the usual, iron-clad limitations of geography on the possibility of ministry.
The Convocation of Episcopal Churches is a gathering of 21 Episcopal communities spread out over a space equaling the distance between Boston and Phoenix. Across the years from our beginnings in 1814 to the moment before Covid arrived, the single most powerful limiting factor on our growth was locating a sufficient number of interested people in a given geographic location to gather for worship and fellowship. The “opening of the virtual door” has broken down that fundamental barrier to growth—and fostered the emergence of new Episcopal communities, gathered around different organizing principles.
The Opportunity. Over the past year we have witnessed, and then encouraged, the emergence of new communities gathered around ideas other than geography—notably, a shared language or a shared experience, especially experiences that have limited participation in the life of the church (caring for a spouse or partner at home, being a refugee in a major European city, being a member of a group historically unwelcome and disenfranchised in a church of first faith). With support from a grant focused on the development of Virtual Missions, the Convocation’s Committee on Mission Congregations has undertaken an initiative to foster the intentional planting of “virtual missions” with a European base and identity, focusing in the first instance on language-area communities.
The Vision. On the horizon we see the moment of emergence from the limitations and lockdowns of Covidtide, and the challenge of regathering the physical church. In the Convocation, we are speaking of this as our “Third Isaiah Moment”—a time to bestir ourselves from the routines and comforts we have developed in this time of exile, and to return to the task of rebuilding the (metaphorical) temple.
There is a parallel to this work in the virtual missions we’ve nurtured. In a reverse of the pattern of established congregations, our virtual missions now face the challenge of inventing a path from the virtual to the physical. We are blessed that in this moment we have identified a leadership team and of both ordained and lay folks in three of our language-area missions. Now is the moment in which we need to provide these teams with the resources and support they need to lead their communities on a path that will link virtual beginnings with physical gatherings, establishing a model of hybridity that we believe future missions will follow
This is a three year program with the intent of settiung up six mssions. The Francophone Mission is planned for two communities, the German Mission is planned for three and the Hispanophone Mission is planned for one community. Each community will have its own missioner as well as a Zoom and OneL license. In addition to the grant funding received from the Episcopal Church, the Convocation will be providing more than matching funds to make this work. It is, of course, hoped that there will be volunteer contributions. This project began in April of 2021 is is slated to be completed im March of 2024. Way to go, Convocation of Episcopal Churches in Europe!