First DioCal webinar draws 116 participants

Congregational Vitality Webinar On Tuesday, September 13, 116 clergy, vestry, and bishop’s committee members from congregations in the Diocese of California attended the first diocesan-wide online meeting. The Congregational Vitality Webinar included presentations from Bishop Marc Andrus and members of the Executive Council and Standing Committee, and included other lay and clergy voices. After an opening prayer that framed and focused the work of the webinar (see below), Andrus announced that the goal for this and future diocesan webinars would be “To train, share, and experiment between us, growth strategies for Episcopal churches in the Diocese of California.”

[The webinar can be viewed here.]


[To test your computer to see if you have the appropriate plug-ins to view the webinar, click here.]

He then called on those present to make a commitment to participate in monthly webinars beginning in Advent (December 8, 2011), to share their ideas and collaborate more deeply for the work to come.


After cataloging an extensive list of programs and people that have had a deep, positive impact on the greater Episcopal Church and the world, the bishop asked participants to type ministries that they are involved with that they were thankful for. A fast stream of petitions moved along in a window on the screen.


Andrus then reported statistics of membership decline in the diocese over the last decade followed by a personal story about his experience growing a congregation in Virginia from an average Sunday attendance of less than 50 to over 200. He related how that growth relied on “creative, incredibly committed lay leaders working side by side with [him].” This spirit of collaboration between priest and lay leaders permeated the rest of Andrus’ words in the webinar and pointed to the involvement of diocesan leadership at the Executive Council and Standing Committee levels.


Andrus then highlighted the work of the people of the diocese during his episcopacy by restating the Beloved Community visioning principals passed by special convention in May of 2008. In a discussion of one practical implementation of that vision called Area Ministry, Mr. Davey Gerhard, a member of the Bishop’s Committee at Holy Innocents in San Francisco, and the Rev. Mark Spaulding, Rector of Holy Cross in Castro Valley discussed experiences of area collaboration in each of their contexts.


Diocesan Canon to the Ordinary Michael Barlowe outlined another programmatic response that is a collaboration between his office and lay and ordained members of the diocese, the Mission Effectiveness Review program. Standing Committee member Ms. Mary Vargas followed that with an outline of the process and flow of how the bishop and his staff, working together with the Standing Committee and Executive Council, respond to churches in fragile situations.


Before returning to the bishop’s closing words, the Rev. Dana Corsello and Ms. Brenda Paulin, both members of the Executive Council, shared how the council is launching into an initiative to examine the membership numbers, organization, and funding of the diocese, and to support the greater work of members of the diocese in a growth initiative, and how to do so prayerfully.


Finally, Andrus returned with next steps, calling on congregations to assemble teams and to contribute to future programs (using web technology and in face-to-face gatherings) to creatively do the work of growing the church. Afterward, he responded to questions from participants and the entire group was asked to pray the Lord’s Prayer to close the meeting.


New technology for DioCal


After a period of wide-ranging research and pricing, the diocese purchased a one-year license to use Adobe Connect as its tool to enable online meetings. One of the factors that contributed to the decision was the promise that hosts of meetings using this software would receive free training from a technology educator at Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge, Mass. EDS has received a grant to help enable the use of the technology to bring Episcopalians together in new ways and to help cut costs.


“This was our first attempt to bring people in the diocese together using this technology… and we learned a lot,” said Sean McConnell, diocesan canon for communications. The webinar was not without technical flaws and McConnell stated that technical support would be stepped up for future programs. A survey of participants asked “What was your experience of the webinar technology?” 10% of respondents reported an “excellent” experience, 22% said it was good, 14% said “good enough,” and 21% reported that it was “challenging or not good enough.”


“Our goal is to make sure that the 21% of respondents who found it challenging move up to the good to excellent range,” said McConnell. After calling some who reported difficulty, McConnell said that he would personally make sight visits to help ensure a better connection to future web events.


Some participants had difficulty with the sound as a number of people needed to call a conference line to hear the audio. “We are working with Intesolv (a company that provides support to the diocese for this software) to insure that the audio for future events will be loud and clear,” McConnell said.


Some people using iPhone and iPad apps reported the best experiences saying that they had excellent audio and could even see the slides on their phones.


As this was a first use of the software, not all of the technology was utilized, but future webinars will be more interactive and will incorporate video and other technology.


If you would like to volunteer with the Communications Working Group to test the technology for future events, contact Sean McConnell at DioHouse.

[The webinar can be viewed here.]

[To test your computer to see if you have the appropriate plug-ins to view the webinar, click here.]

 Webinar Gathering Prayer

“God of all, you have given the earth your Church as a gift for its healing, for its deepening life, and all from the depths of your love for all you have created. Help us, we pray, in the Diocese of California, as we seek to discern our path of service for those within our congregations, and those many outside the Church who long for you, who long for the gift of community, and for companionship in their struggles and suffering. In simple gratitude and trust we pray, through Christ, Amen”

Prayer petitions of thanksgivings (this is an unedited, abbreviated list of the prayers as they came in to the webinar’s chat window):

Godly Play
Eucharistic Visitation
Parish Nurse
Elder ministry
Ministering to the wider community 10 years ago on 9/11
Being a safe place to explore spirituality
Vacation Bible School at Holy Cross and others
Sacred Cocktails
Migration and Immigration Task Force
Camp St. Andrew's and Camp St. Francis
Church of the Advent feeds the hungry every Tuesday
Youth Mission trips
Marin Interfaith Chaplaincy wellness dinners
Mass at the Episcopal Sanctuary
Ministry to Oakland's poor.
Founding of the Tri-City Homeless Coalition/Abode Services.
Hosting homeless families through Home and Hope
Traditional worship --high church
St. Bart's Livermore as place of refuge for those from Diocese of San Joaquin
Episcopal Charities
Non-perishible food bags for homeless
Ministry during the AIDS crisis
Church of Our Saviour, Mill Valley Joint hot lunch for the hungry and those in need with Mt. Carmel, Mill Valley.
Food pantry
Youth Ministry
Diamond Heights Food Pantry
Youth Ministry at St. Clare's, Pleasanton!
St. Aidan's, Bolinas outreach to families
Abode Services Feeding team
Hours spent on stewardship, outreach,...
Lunch Bunch
Public Narrative
Deacons Fares
Exito por todos afterschool program
Support to local women's and men's recovery and sheltering programs
Episcopal schools
Legacy/Planned Gifts at Grace Cathedral
Teen Success Breakfast, feedin at-risk kids
Serving homeless families through Greater Richmond Interfaith Project
St. Luke's Hospital
Emergency Preparedness
Shelter, inc.
St. Aidan's, Bolinas True Stories evening
Anti-racism training trainors
Serving homeless in Marin
All Saints SF meal program
Ecumenical relationship with St. Mary's College
Mentoring seminarians.
Hannah Freedom School, Marin City
Mission trips to Mexico and New Orleans to assist rebuilding communities.
The Parsonage in SF
St. Aidan's, Bolinas, Soup Saturday
Grant Street Players
Camp Create
Area Ministry
Mission Trip to New Orleans and El Salvador
Assessment $
Native Ministry in Alaska.
Project Open Hand beginning at Trinity, San Francisco
Joint mission trip to Taos, NM, with Redeemer,San Rafael (Youth group of Our Saviour, Mill Valley)
Youth trip to AIDS orphanage in Uganda
Christ Church-Portola Valley & Woodside-- +50 years of service and witness on the peninsula-- formation for young and old alike, witnesses to Christ's power to love, heal   and change the world.
Exploring relationship with sister school in Haiti.
St. Michaels & All Angles  Our revived preschool
Holding services in skilled nursing and assisted living residences to form praying communities in houses of healing
Global Mission activity
Ministry of Presence Partnership with St. George's Cathedral, Cape Town
Lectio Divina, Mother's Helping Mothers, Youth Group, Area ministry
Trinity-Wed night Taize
30% growth at All Saints last three years
St John's Clayton - Backpack Project
Ministry to frail elderly at St. Paul's Towers and Agesong at Lakeside Park.
St. Bart's home of Livermore Interfaith Sharing Food Pantry serving 800-1000 people per month
St. James SF Strong lay/ordained leadership
Ministry to Death Row
Lay Leadership Development Project at Grace Cathedral
Work with Ritter House in San Rafael
St. John's, Ross: Over $30,000/yr given to charitable organizations serving Marin, Bay Area and World (MDGs)
Helping initiate the 1st relay for life in clayton
Ritter Center, NAMI, Camp Create, Hannah Freedom School, Experience Corps/Tutors
One room school house every Sunday
Marin Interfaith Council/ Street Chaplaincy
9/11 service, sharing, labyrinth walk for the wider community with neighboring Presbyterian cong.
Host a wide variety of neighborhood organizations each week
Companion Diocese of Curitiba, Brazil
Startup of Open Cathedral East Bay (Oakland, Richmond, Pleasanton) St. Clare's
St. Aidan's Bolinas - shared homilies
Weekly art classes for seniors
Teddy bear program for children whose parents are going through the court/criminal justice system
Marin Clericus!!!
Albany/Berkeley parishes Solano Stroll booth
Public Eucharist on the sidewalk with Bishop Gene Robinson at the beginning of the LBGT Pride march
St. Mark's Bible Coffee Klatches in Crockett, Hercules and Martinez
Public Eucharist on the sidewalk with Bishop Gene Robinson at the beginning of the LBGT Pride march
I80 Area Ministry Bi-Lingual Eucharist & Picnic in the Park