by Janis Greenbaum, Director of Christian Formation & Communications

Thank you all for the opportunity to represent Grace Church at the 2014 Conference for Endowed Episcopal Parishes (CEEP).  The Rev. Doris Westfall and I were among more than 500 Episcopalians who gathered in Atlanta February 26 through March 1. The experience for me was so very rewarding – I brought back many new ideas for our communications and Christian formation ministries, I experienced wonderful worship services and fellowship events, I heard several moving and inspirational speakers and I networked with many amazing people from around the country.

Communications & Christian Formation:

The conference offered several different “tracks,” including one specifically for communicators. I am happy to report that these sessions were much more than teaching the basics of using Facebook or Twitter… the workshops focused on building communications strategies and sharing best-practices techniques. We discussed the cultural and missional roles communications play in our faith community.

I attended sessions led by communications coordinators at large, successful churches in Atlanta, Texas and Sewanee School of Theology.  The workshops focused on using communications to create community, communications tools in the 21st century, website design, and using social media for Christian formation.

Along with the workshops, I visited many of the vendors exhibiting their goods and services at the conference. I brought home information to use and/or learn more about for our children’s and adult Christian formation ministries along with ideas to share with other staff and ministry leaders.

Worship and Fellowship:

The main conference was held at the Hilton Hotel in downtown Atlanta, but we had two fabulous trips off-site that were real highlights of the conference.

Holy Innocents' Atlanta

The first trip was to Holy Innocents’ Episcopal Church in a beautiful suburb of Atlanta. The church has served that community for many years, but recently built a fabulous new facility. It is bright and modern… designed to let sunshine and light fill their spaces. It is highly functional… offering a beautiful quiet prayer room, a sacristy you’d have to see to believe, office space that allows you to write on the walls during your meetings and community space for art shows and dinners hosted by famous Atlanta chefs.  This church hosted communications workshops along with dinner and compline for the conference on Wednesday.

St. Phillip's AtlantaOur next trip was to the beautiful St. Philip’s Cathedral in midtown Atlanta. The gorgeous stained glass windows and gothic ceilings set the tone for Holy Eucharist Thursday afternoon. An amazing choir and an even more amazing sermon by the Rt. Rev. Robert Wright, Bishop of Atlanta, made this quite a memorable worship experience. After the service, we shared a fabulous fellowship experience, as the Cathedral hosted a “marketplace” dinner, offering a variety of delicious fresh foods prepared and presented by vendors from the Cathedral’s farmers’ market. It was a delightful evening in a beautiful setting.

Speakers:

CEEP featured several motivational and inspirational speakers. It was a blessing to hear each of their stories:

  • Philanthropist Bill Bolling, who described how he started with nothing but an idea and created the hugely successful Atlanta Community Food Bank, which helps feed hundreds of thousands of people in need;
  • Author Matthew Sleeth, who addressed the importance of keeping the Sabbath (I’ve also read many of his books on creation care);
  • The Rev. Becca Stevens, who gave the homily during evening prayer on Friday, and brought us all to tears with stories of her work with women at Magdalene House and Thistle Farms;
  • Dancer Judith Jamison, who discussed how faith played (and continues to play) an unmistakable role in her life as a dancer with the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater.

Networking:

I was fortunate to meet and make connections with people from around the country at this conference. I swapped ideas with communicators from Knoxville, Denver, Cincinnati, Kansas City, Dallas, Baltimore, Atlanta and other cities. We’ve decided to build a collaborative network to share resources and ideas for all of us to use in the future. It’s fabulous to see how other churches communicate… and we all agreed that we should be working together to make all our jobs easier and more effective as one Church.

As I mentioned, I brought back many ideas that I’m excited to begin putting in to practice here at Grace Church. I would be more than happy to discuss details with any and all of you at your convenience. Hopefully you’ll be noticing some of those ideas in our ministries in the very near future.

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