Top Ten Ministry Moments 2022
‘There has to be a better way.’ Those were the words I heard in my head on December 31, 2015, when I made the leap to my own ministry – Free Range Priest – the very next day. I could see how churches were struggling, and ministers of all kinds. I knew all about the church decline. I wanted to know how we could find new ways to share the love of God in the digital age, while still bearing the Scripture, sacraments, and traditions of the faith.
I’ve found a few things out in these past 7 years, and I’ve had the joy of meeting so many other ministry innovators on the way. My word for 2021 was ‘arrive’, and in more ways than one I’ve felt gifts at my doorstep. Digital ministry has arrived. New ways of gathering has arrived. Specializing in ‘faith practice’ has arrived.
Here’s the most wonderful ways I’ve seen my own ministry – and others’ – grow this year, and so many better ways to bring hope, peace, love and joy come alive…
10. Free Range Priest headquarters
Free Range Priest has a trademark, an LLC (limited liability company), a tax ID, and an official office space in 2022. The office is still part of my home, but that’s the trend anyway! My ministry is a business, and my business is Good News!
One way I’ve learned to innovate this year is to take advantage of all the new tools, platforms, and resources designed to help small businesses thrive online. So many of these are applicable to congregations and entrepreneurial ministers.
9. Celebrating life in style
I had the privilege of officiating the funeral of Marvin Yost, Assistant Fire Chief in Salisbury, NC for many years, and devoted member of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Salisbury. Marvin was an extraordinary – and extraordinarily loved – man, and we celebrated his 98 years with a firetruck procession – including this one I got to ride in from the 1940s. Marvin himself rode in this truck.
We rejoiced in the promise of Resurrection while finding new places and ways to share God’s love with our neighbors, and remember a beloved part of the community.
Free Range Priest joined Tiktok in March. I’ve been surprised how fun it is!
I’ve also been amazed by all the questions I get from people who are curious about God and the church. Tiktok’s algorithm means you reach lots of strangers – unlike Facebook, where you reach mostly friends.
It reminds me how many people know nothing of how much God loves them – and how important it is to help them know.
Follow me @freerangepriest!
7. Sustainable Part-time
I began my sixth year serving St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Salisbury, NC as their Free Range Priest.
I serve two Sundays a month on an hourly contract, and I’m available for pastoral care, formation, training, and other services – when they want me to do these things. They pay me hourly for my services. I serve about 10 hours a month at St. Paul’s – but I feel very close to them, and they know I’m always a phone call or text away.
It’s sustainable ministry for me (I can serve in other ways as well as with St. Paul’s), and they get the ministry they need and can afford.
6. Virtual Reality
Free Range Priest joined the ranks of virtual church!
So far it is really cool. And … the first thing I did was go to church in the virtual world. And the first thing that happened was a) I was late, b) I couldn’t find the door, and c) everyone turned around and looked at me when I (virtually) walked in!
It seems like if we have the opportunity to reimagine ministry in the virtual space, we should be able to get rid of the awkward and unwelcoming parts of it! (Can’t we just fly to our seats??).
5. Preaching in Guyana
On the other hand, the magic of technology had me preaching to hundreds of people in Guyana via Facebook!
So fun to be part of a lively evening prayer service at St. Simon and St. Jude parish in Guyana, broadcast live via Facebook . My friend Ayobami Ayorinde, an evangelist who now serves a congregation in Trinidad and Tobago, invited me to join and share Good News. He virtually brings in preachers from all over the world and all different Christian traditions. His congregants loved hearing why I go by ‘Father‘!
It reminds me of all the ways technology enables us to create communities of faith online.
4. Free Range Priest on the road
About midyear I reconnected with a seminary friend – Courtney Cowart – who is the executive directory of the Society for the Increase of the Ministry (SIM). SIM provides scholarships for seminarians, and is deeply committed to supporting leadership for the future of the church.
We had a lot to talk about!
I was fortunate enough to be able to travel to Atlanta to meet with Courtney and her staff and start dreaming about how we might put our resources and energy together to support ministry innovation throughout the church.
The whole trip filled me with hope.
3. Podcast guest
Another dear friend and ministry innovator I reconnected with is Arianne Rice. Arianne is an Episcopal priest, spiritual coach, Daring Way facilitator, and podcast host. She is a person who listens deeply and asks exactly the right questions.
I was honored and thrilled to be a guest on Arianne’s podcast – Feeling Beings who Think. There is so much deep theology and amazing ministry in these conversations. Bringing the life of faith outside of church walls and really showing how it changes the world is church reimagined.
You can listen to my conversation with Arianne HERE.
2. Hearts on Fire
Reconnecting with Courtney Cowart allowed me to get to know the Innovative Ministry that she has created. In the midst of terrible tragedy – September 11th, Hurricane Katrina – Courtney helped people listen for God’s voice, and facilitated them offering their own gifts of healing and transformation.
From these experiences, Courtney created Hearts on Fire, a set of spiritual practices for unleashing the passion and purpose we feel to be conduits of God’s love in this time and place.
Hearts on Fire is discernment for lay and ordained ministry, and designed for community. These practices have already transformed my own ministry and led me to offer my own in new ways.
1. Bring Church to People
At the beginning of 2022 I felt called to start a community space for ministry innovators.
I wanted to gather, support, collaborate with, and promote new ways of doing and being church.
Today we have almost 100 members from all over the church and the world, and we’re finding new ways to share God’s love and to make ministry sustainable. We explore four main areas for congregational and entrepreneurial ministry: discern, digitize, monetize, and host.
As we begin 2023, we’re joining with the Hearts on Fire to use these practices to help us all grow in our callings.
Join us HERE.
Community for Ministry Innovators
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Very Nice, Thank you!!
thanks for being part of it, Judy!