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November 7, 2022 News

ECF Launches the New Diocesan Vitality Initiative (DVI)

The Episcopal Church Foundation (ECF) launched the Diocesan Vitality Initiative (DVI) at a luncheon in New York City on October 12, 2022. “In my 17 years at ECF, I think DVI is one of the most exciting initiatives that we’re launching,” said ECF President Donald Romanik.

Eighty Episcopal leaders and ECF supporters from the Tri-State area were invited to help launch DVI at the luncheon, chaired by the Rev. Dick Schell, former Head of the Kent School and an early and ardent supporter of DVI. “The Spirit of God is moving and calling us to new life… The launch of the Diocesan Vitality Initiative is very exciting. It is edifying, meaningful, and an inspiration,” said Reverend Schell, who has made DVI his “top charitable priority”.

Four dioceses (Missouri, Oregon, Rio Grande and West Tennessee) will embark on the Pilot Phase of DVI, engaging in its signature “Define-Disrupt-Develop” process for adaptive change. The Rt. Rev. Brian N. Prior, Senior Consultant for DVI and Bishop-in-Residence for ECF, elaborated on DVI saying, "Part of the first work we’ll do with the dioceses is to help them define where they are and discern where they believe the Spirit is leading them… The second thing we’re going to do is disrupt… turning in a new and different direction… What things do we need to let go?...This is structural. This is systemic. This is adaptive. This is generative… so that we can re-develop so that we’re not just sustainable, but thinking forward, thinking forward, thinking forward, thinking forward.”

Three ministry innovators set the tone for the luncheon, bringing to life the purpose, hope and power of diocesan vitality – resourcing congregational renewal that creates steadfast followers of Jesus.

The Rev. Kirk Berlenbach, Canon for Growth and Support with the Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania, described how diocesan Bishop Daniel Gutierrez “…inverted the (diocesan) pyramid, allowing the staff and structures to better serve the people and clergy… so that they might be transformed and find vitality.” As a result, “In the past four years we have re-opened three churches that had been closed and slated for sale.

The Rev. Kate Wesch, rector of St. John’s Episcopal Church in Essex, CT, described how vitality came to her congregation through an unusual and unlikely new convert who grew from a curious passerby to a baptized committed core member, transforming the entire congregation in the process: “He wore work boots and cargo pants stained with grease and… stuck out a little bit among the tourists on Main Street… The third time that I invited him into the church he decided to try it, walking through doors of the church for the first time in his 68 years of life … the Sunday after Easter… Ernie is changing all of us. Since he walked through the doors… I have seen this congregation soften; I have seen them respond to someone who is different with hospitality and grace, and we have learned to stretch and grow to receive [him].”

The Rev. Landon Moore, Vicar for Vocation with the Episcopal Diocese of Long Island, sent those gathered to launch DVI with a prayer to follow the Spirit’s leading: “Good and Gracious God, we know that you are good all the time. We know that you are doing a new thing and you don’t need us, but have invited us to be vessels of your love to this world through The Episcopal Church… May we be open to the ways the Spirit is leading us and moving us through Christ our Lord. Amen.”