A communications initiative to tell the Episcopal Church's story was launched on Ash Wednesday at www.episcopalchurch.org where visitors will find a new interactive feature called "I Am Episcopalian."
The so-called "microsite" contains short videos of people "sharing their deep, personal connections to the big, wide, vibrant church that we are," said Anne Rudig, who joined the Episcopal Church Center in New York as communications director on January 5.
Not only will the videos illustrate the diversity of Episcopalians -- "all ages, all walks of life, all ethnicities," said Rudig -- but the site also will let users upload their own videos.
Uploaded videos will be monitored before being posted and should be no longer then 90 seconds, said Rudig. "I am Episcopalian" will be the website homepage throughout Lent, with a link to the rest of the Episcopal Church's web content.
It is part of a renewed communications effort "to tell our own story," Rudig noted. "We are hoping it will grow, and we hope the rest of the world will see what a dynamic church we have."
The microsite also can be reached at www.IamEpiscopalian.org.
In one video, Fran Moneleone from Ocean Grove, New Jersey speaks about the feeling of acceptance and belonging she experiences as an Episcopalian. "Some of us carry burdens with us but we all know that by the time we leave [church] our burdens will be lifted and our hearts will be lighter," she says.
When young adult Malakai Fawll from Asbury Park, New Jersey first attended an Episcopal church service on Easter Sunday five years ago, he found an environment that was "welcoming and everybody was happy," he said. Fawll has been going to church ever since "mostly because of the youth involvement -- it's like we actually have a voice and people listen to the things we say."
He describes the Episcopal Church as "the greatest place in the world" and says the church services are important and "powerful overall because no matter what kind of day you're having ... you will find a way to connect with the sermon and you will be able to take something back from it and use it in everyday life."
Hisako Beasley was raised as an Anglican in Japan before making her home in the Washington-based Diocese of Olympia. She says she is excited about being a part of the Episcopal Church because "everybody is included at the table and it is okay to disagree."
The two things that drew Bishop Stacy Sauls of the Diocese of Lexington to the Episcopal Church are the sense of mystery in worship and the freedom to think for oneself.
Likewise, the Rev. Petero Sabune describes the Episcopal Church as a "thinking church. Jesus died not to take away your brain but to take away your sins."
The introduction on the homepage of the new microsite invites visitors "to see and hear the very personal reasons we choose to be Episcopalians. Our controversies and conversations have been public. Our governance is transparent. You are free to see our imperfections, as well as share our joy in that which unites us -- our openness, honesty and faith."
Rudig says that "with this site we will begin to tell our story as each person relates his or her personal, emotional connection to our church." Ash Wednesday was chosen for the launch of IamEpiscopalian.org "since it is a time for many people to examine their spiritual life and perhaps connect or reconnect with a church," explains Rudig. "IamEpiscopalian.org shows how others have made those connections."