The Rt. Rev. Kevin S. Brown, XI Bishop of Delaware
"Invite Welcome Connect is a godsend, literally, in that every single bit of this work is rooted in the God-sent good news of Jesus Christ. Mary Parmer’s brilliance here is not that she has concocted a miracle cure for what ails the church. Rather, she refocuses our vision to the evangelistic roots of the faith: proclaim the Good News (invite) with intentional hospitality (welcome) and genuine affection for every human being (connect). This is biblical discipleship that strengthens the spirit and feeds the soul. We in Delaware have embraced Invite Welcome Connect wholeheartedly, and it shapes a great deal of the language and direction of our collective work. It has sparked renewed zeal for our proclamation of God’s love and reminded us again that the church, at its humble best, really can be the living, breathing body of Christ. Time and again, in this good work we are pointed back to Jesus."
In the Diocese of Georgia, Bishop Benhase has made checking in on how a congregation’s leadership are engaging with Invite Welcome Connect a part of every visitation. As I work in teaching practices of congregational vitality, I also find the ethos of Invite Welcome Connect to be invaluable. This work is core to being the Body of Christ as hospitality was an expectation of Jesus’ followers. Any parish can focus on cultivating that culture of hospitality in a way that fits their needs and matches their abilities. The Diocese of Georgia has been richly blessed in our ongoing teaching of Invite Welcome Connect year after year rather than as a one-time engagement before moving on to the next idea. This work is a gift to the church. The Rev. Canon Frank Logue, Episcopal Diocese of Georgia
“A Day of Learning How to Invite Welcome & Connect” recent article by The Rev. Brian Winter, Rector, Christ Episcopal Church, Castle Rock, Colorado - posted on The Episcopal Church in Colorado website
For many, talking about our faith and our church is one of the most difficult things we can do. But what if there is a way to learn and practice in a supportive, non-threatening environment? This is what Invite Welcome Connect does. Mary Parmer has created this extraordinary ministry combined of her ideas and life experience. What comes through so clearly is Mary’s passion for helping congregations understand the importance of personal invitation, welcoming folks, hearing their stories, recognizing their gifts, and connecting them to ministry. This is the essence of living into our Baptismal Covenant. Invite Welcome Connect is not a program, but a ministry, based in scripture, theology, and experience. It is comprehensive and incredibly well thought out, but perhaps most importantly, exciting! Mary’s ministry encourages intentional listening by both the congregation and its individual members. She invites us to hear the story each person carries, and in listening, acknowledge a deeper bond in ministry. When I came to Christ Church Cathedral 5 1/2 years ago we began implementing the amazing ethos of Invite Welcome Connect in the congregation and with the clergy and staff. Then in the Spring of 2015 we invited Mary to present Invite Welcome Connect at Christ Church Cathedral. During the past 5 1/2 years we have created a comprehensive system to bring visitors into full membership following Invite Welcome Connect concepts with the following results over 6 years: 22% increase (1,168 from 957) of communicants in good standing; 60% increase (542 from 337) of ASA. But the numbers are only a very small part of this Invite Welcome Connect story. Instead, it has been about lives changed, one person at a time, and the transformational power of the Holy Spirit's action in the lives of every person who calls Christ Church Cathedral their church home. The Rev. Brent Owens, Associate Dean, Christ Church Cathedral, Lexington, Kentucky.
I wanted to thank you for serving as the keynote speaker for the Diocese of Pennsylvania's Clergy Conference. More than a few people have expressed how much they appreciated the ideas you brought to the table and your willingness to share your story. Moreover, a number of people intimated that they had never experienced such a focused introduction to the practice of evangelism and welcoming newcomers. As helpful as the concrete suggestions are, however, I think that the best thing about Invite Welcome Connect is that it provides a wonderfully helpful framework for engaging in and thinking about the all-important discipline of Christian hospitality. The Rev. David Romanik, Church of the Redeemer, Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania
Since Mary Parmer presented Invite Welcome Connect to the Diocese of Western New York, people have been talking…A LOT…about being inviting, about offering genuine welcome and about focusing on ways to help people connect to their faith through our parishes and among all who walk into our doors… and stay! What was presented at Invite Welcome Connect is marinating among our people! And that is good news, indeed. The Rev’d Cathy Dempesy-Sims, Canon for Connections, Episcopal Diocese of Western New York
One of the great joys of my job is traveling around the diocese and meeting with congregations of all shapes and sizes. Although each of these churches possess unique gifts and face distinct challenges, one comment that I hear over and over again is the same: our congregation wants to grow. During the course of her excellent Invite Welcome Connect workshops, Mary Parmer explores how churches can implement practices and strategies that lead to growth. Mary's presentations are practical, thorough and thought-provoking. Her teaching style is relevant and compelling. Perhaps most importantly, however, Mary’s guidance has the potential to transform your congregation. I highly recommend attending one (or several) of Mary Parmer’s Invite Welcome Connect workshops. You will leave feeling inspired and prepared to lead your congregation with renewed energy. It is absolutely essential that our congregations learn how to effectively invite, welcome and connect newcomers into our communities. Mary has a unique gift for exploring these concepts with both a sense of depth and approachability. She is a visionary leader in the Episcopal Church and her teaching is not to be missed. The Rev’d Canon John A. Kellogg, Canon Missioner, The Episcopal Diocese of Louisiana
Mary Parmer brought her gifts, enthusiasm, wisdom, and Invite Welcome Connect into the life of St. David's Church and School at an ideal time. We were having new people come through our doors every Sunday, which we were very excited about, but we did not have a clear pathway through which to truly welcome and engage them in the life of the congregation. Mary was able to help our leadership hold a mirror up to our current way of hospitality and incorporation of people into ministries so that we could see more clearly and honestly. She was able to facilitate our ability to name and celebrate the things we were doing well and what we had to offer as the church, but also name the "growing edges" we needed to address and improve in order to become a "stickier" place and people through which to encounter the life- saving love and hope of Jesus Christ. The Rev. Lisa Mason, St. David's Episcopal Church & School, San Antonio, Texas
We here at the Episcopal Church of the Messiah in Rhinebeck. New York, invited Mary to bring Invite Welcome Connect to us over a weekend last November. I had first met Mary at the CEEP Conference earlier in the year and was bowled over by what I heard. Having been a priest for almost 30 years I thought I had heard every possible church growth program there is. But Mary's workshop took me completely by surprise. It is not a program, but a ministry, based in scripture, theology, and experience. It is comprehensive and incredibly well thought out, but perhaps most importantly, exciting! Mary's ministry encourages intentional listening by both the congregation and its individual members. She invites us to hear the story that each person carries and in listening acknowledge a deeper bond in ministry. I can tell a story that for me sums up everything about Mary. ~~~~ As Mary was staying outside of town in the country, we decided to rent a car for her. As I stood at the counter of the rental agency which is across the street from our church, Mary asked the young woman, who I had met several times before when I had rented a car previously, what her name was and if she had ever come over to church. Answering no, Mary said to the woman, ”You ought to go over, it's beautiful and a really friendly place.” When I saw the look on the young woman's face, which showed how moved she was to be invited, I knew Messiah would never be the same once Mary spoke to us. And it hasn't been. We have been changed by her words and ministry and for that we are deeply grateful. Mary and her ministry are a blessing that everyone should experience for themselves. The Rev. Richard McKeon, Episcopal Church of the Messiah, Rhinebeck, NY
The Invite Welcome Connect ministry is a theological and practical initiative, which goes beyond making “The Episcopal Church Welcomes You” a reality, but also insures those who do come to faith in our churches do not leave by the back door. It provides a theological rationale for outreach to the spiritually hungry, a means of engaging those who come into our places of worship, and a way to engage those who become a part of our community of faith. If an Altar Guild can beautifully and habitually attract a dedicated core of hard working volunteers to tend the sanctuary, similarly organized teams of well trained laity can welcome seekers and incorporate the newly initiated into our faith communities. Simultaneously the vision of an outward focus can be preached as central to the gospel to encourage congregations to be welcoming and inviting. The Episcopal Church will continue to wallow in a high maintenance mode until it takes its outreach to seekers as seriously and happily as it does tending the Altar. Invite Welcome Connect is a super working model that makes “The Episcopal Church Welcomes You” a reality and not an oxymoron. Like the Altar Guild, choir, Christian formation ministry, youth ministry, acolytes, Lay Eucharistic ministers, etc. Invite Welcome Connect is a crucial and exciting vehicle for the faithful to fulfill their ministries of being the church. The Rt. Rev. Claude E. Payne, 7th Bishop of Texas, Pensioned
After a year it is clear to me that Invite Welcome Connect is only partly about evangelism. Its primary outcome here has been transformation. St. Peter's has become a different parish. Long time members talk to each other more. People linger longer after church. More people stay for breakfast and participate in adult formation. We are having an adult Confirmation program for the first time in years. To my surprise, almost everyone wears a name tag! And as I talk with others in our neighborhood or in the diocese, more and more people refer to St. Peter's as "the welcoming church." I believe the best of the good news in this initiative is proclaimed anytime a new member tells a long-time member, "I joined this church because you all have been so welcoming." Anytime someone hears that it dispels the myth that "The Rector" draws people to the church and reinforces the truth that we all participate in the ministry of evangelism. The Rev. Luke Jernagan, St. Peter’s, St. Louis, Missouri
I often hear people say when they finally find their way into the church, 'I’ve been looking for this all my life.' Sadly, part of the responsibility for that statement resides with our church because we have always struggled with the invitation and incorporation of new members. Mary Parmer has developed a comprehensive process that is easily understood, adaptable and produces results. Mary not only provides the direction but also the tools necessary for any size congregation to participate in the fundamental and critical ministry of hospitality. Her Invite Welcome Connect work is the best evangelism resource I have ever seen in my years as a parish priest! The Rev. Paul G. Pradat, St. Thomas, Huntsville, AL