Religion plays an integral part in any society. It consists of values, beliefs, norms, and even objects that play a vital role in shaping people’s lives and the community. People consult with their religion and act according to the teachings of their faith. However, it is undeniable that modernization has also influenced many aspects of our personal lives and religion.
Religion has the power and influence to mold a community with a set of rules and directives. In medieval times, there used to be small communities and social groups. Nevertheless, the industrial revolution has transformed how we connect and communicate with the world. Never before in the history of humankind has it been so effortless to connect and be in touch.
The Rt. Rev. Henry Knox Sherrill founded the Episcopal Church Foundation (ECF) in 1949, focusing on strengthening congregations and working to build and transform the community. Since its formation, ECF has been working in all capacities, from raising funds and managing finances and assets to providing quality resources to the church and the larger faith community.
When ECF was formed, churches throughout the country were becoming more centralized and adapting to a more corporate governance model. Reverend Sherrill understood the importance of modernization yet kept the core beliefs and practices unblemished.
Initially, resources from ECF were used in the construction and development of the Episcopal Church’s infrastructure across the country and in extending the work globally. Under the leadership of Bishop Sherrill, ECF established a revolving loan fund to construct hundreds of Episcopal churches in the United States and globally. ECF also supported many students in doctoral programs through its Fellows program and funded many local outreach ministries.
As time passed, ECF adapted to new methods and strategies to focus on launching other initiatives and creating a network of individuals and congregations to advance the Church and community. In the late 1980s, ECF transferred the responsibility for construction and church building loans to the Episcopal Church Building Fund and focused on new strategic projects, including a program called CREDO, which is now administered and funded by the Church Pension Group (CPG), to focus on clergy health and wholeness.
Not long after that in the mid-90s, ECF conducted educational and training events, and published papers and research to help the organization grow. As the new century emerged, it brought many technological advances. ECF approached its 60th anniversary by implementing many strategies and ideas. Notably, the original Fellows’ grant became the Fellowship Partners Program, and ECF launched its Vital Practices website and took its popular magazine Vestry Papers online. With this move, the original organization became a major online resource center for the Church.
One of the many reasons why ECF has continued to grow and evolve is the result of the wisdom of leaders like Bishop Henry Knox Sherrill and the current president, Donald V. Romanik.
In an interview, Donald Romanik, reflected on when he joined the organization. Even though he was not actively seeking a new job, he still decided to apply. “And what happened,” he says, “is that during that process, when I sat down and put together a resumé, I felt it was the first time in my vocational/professional life that I was participating in a thoughtful, prayerful process of who I was, what was I passionate about and what was God calling me to do.”
He joined ECF in 2005 and immediately began working on creating new strategies for the future For example, the publication Vestry Papers started in print to help train and provide information to faith communities. Its distribution was just like any other print publication at the time. He anticipated that a switch from print to online would attract more readers, and that ECF would be able to reach a lot more people.
“I know nothing about this online stuff,” he told his team, “but is there any way you could come up with making Vestry Papers kind of virtual?”. Thus, Vital Practices, an award-winning online resource, was launched in 2010.
Over the years, in addition to producing numerous publications, products, and services, ECF has also started such programs as Listening Hearts for adults and Journey to Adulthood for children, helped establish a new bishop search process, helped create the College for Bishops, helped found the Alban Institute, and set up the Revolving (church building) Loan Fund.
The ECF team continues to produce new transformative tools and resources. One of them is ECF360, a new low-cost self-service subscription site for fundraising for the community.
The Latinx community is one of the fastest-growing populations in the Episcopal Church. In response, ECF has curated a number of high-quality Spanish language resources. In 2021 it released the Spanish Finance Resource Guide (GRF), that serves as a handbook for Latinx congregations to better understand and manage financial resources.
The Episcopal Church Foundation has published numerous books such as the Finance Resource Guide in English and Spanish, Vestry Resource Guide, Funding Future Ministry, Writing Your Will, Planned Giving, and Planning for the End of Life.
Donald launched another book in February 2022 called Money Legacies. The book discusses the subject of money, which is still considered somewhat of a taboo in church circles.
Looking back at the last 73 years, the Episcopal Church Foundation now moves forward towards an innovative and creative future.