by the Rev. Christopher Capaldo, Church of the Holy Communion, Plaquemine
I was absolutely blessed to have the opportunity to help represent the Diocese of Louisiana at the 2018 Evangelism Matters conference at St. Paul’s in Cleveland Ohio. It was an opportunity to gather for three days with other evangelists from all over the Episcopal Church, to hear how the Holy Spirit is working in our local communities and churches, and to empower us to bring back to them the message that evangelism matters!
The conference kicked off with a training day for the Evangelism 101 program, attended by “Diocesan Catalysts” from many areas of the church. We learned about becoming a Beloved Community. That is, how to proclaim a practice of evangelism, by deepening our relationship with Christ, finding his story in the midst of our lives, and then inviting others to find Christ in their stories as well. We shared our stories, the strengths, weaknesses, and ministries of our local communities, and how to proclaim Jesus within them.
The next two days were a mix of plenary sessions and workshops. One of the highlights of the trip was the Community Eucharist, where we heard Presiding Bishop Michael Curry preach about sharing the “loving, liberating, life-giving” message of Jesus Christ. We also sat in on a number of talks dealing with evangelism in specific areas of the church, such as youth, Native American ministries, religious life, etc.
The workshops I attended were insightful and useful and covered a wide variety of topics. The first was called, “Mapping Your Context” and discussed that part of effective evangelism is knowing who is around us in our community, the story that they tell, and then knowing what piece of that story we add as the church. The next workshop was on leading a local revival, as told by the Episcopal Diocese of Iowa. I found this particularly helpful as it talked about how to have a revival in a variety of locations, from large urban parishes to smaller rural ones. They had a revival in the classroom, with music, meditation, and people sharing their testimony of how a relationship with Christ has changed their life. The last workshop was entitled, “The Gospel according to Harry Potter.” As you walked into the classroom, you were greeted by robed instructors who gave you a chocolate frog and sorted you into a house. (I got Hufflepuff!) They then discussed how various parts of the book can be used as metaphors of the gospel message, such as the invitations to Hogwarts representing God’s invitation to a life in Christ.
Returning home, the conference was a great opportunity to get together with other like-minded Episcopalians with a passion for evangelism. We were able to be exposed to a trove of new ideas to bring back to Louisiana, and inspire others to share, learn, and grow our diocese’s passion for sharing the Good News. After all, we wouldn’t be here to share this story without the life and love of Jesus Christ, so Evangelism Matters!