I spent last week at the Virginia Seminary for some continuing education. A lot of my buddies from seminary were there, so it was a great time. Some of the workshops and classes were helpful, some were not. But hey, that’s how conferences usually shake out.
One of the workshops was led by the Episcopal Church Foundation. ECF is an organization whose purpose is to help promote healthy cultures and stable leadership in Episcopal congregations. Through some connections and a survey that I completed, ECF asked me to give a presentation about what’s going on at Holy Comforter.
The big focus of my presentation was on joy and enthusiasm. So often I see clergy who go about their jobs as if it’s drudgery rather than laboring for the Lord of the harvest. I talked about how attitude and behavior is contagious from the top down.
If you have clergy and lay leaders who are miserable and dreary, then guess what? Your congregation will be miserable and dreary. If you have clergy and lay leaders who are joyful and enthusiastic, then guess what? Your congregation will be joyful and enthusiastic.
I also talked about the self-fulfilling prophecy. If you speak it, it will happen. How many times have we heard something along these lines: “the Episcopal Church is headed downhill.” Or, “we’re just a little church that can’t do anything right.” If your leadership is saying those things, then it will trickle down to the rest of the congregation.
For me, at Holy Comforter, I believe in the self-fulfilling prophecy. If I and our leaders talk about how wonderful and happy our church is, then I believe that’s what we will become.
Sure, this will cause some dissonance. Sometimes we are not the most wonderful or happiest church in the world. That’s just reality. But if we focus on the negative, then the whole attitude of the church will become negative. And who wants to go to a miserable, depressed church? I’m willing to put up with a little dissonance in order to create a more joyful, generous, and grateful environment.
The response to my presentation was great. If you are a parishioner of Holy Comforter, be proud of your work.