Mary Parmer serves as director of Invite Welcome Connect, a transformational ministry housed at the Beecken Center in the School of Theology, University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee. Mary is the past director of the Gathering of Leaders, a national leadership gathering of young Episcopal clergy.
How did the concept of Invite Welcome Connect form and develop?
The concept for the ministry of Invite Welcome Connect was born out of my 10 year experience as director of evangelism and adult ministry at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Beaumont, Texas, and then was further developed through the Newcomer Ministry Project of the Episcopal Diocese of Texas. Invite Welcome Connect is a ministry based on scripture, theology, and experience.
What is your favorite story that has come out of Invite Welcome Connect?
So many amazing stories have come out of Invite Welcome Connect—it would be impossible to say which is my favorite! Invite Welcome Connect has changed my heart, and It was a game-changing moment for our congregation as the fire of the gospel caught us and changed our lives forever. One woman shared that she might never have left the church 30 years ago, had she only heard the message of Invite Welcome Connect. I am humbled and blessed by all these stories—and all the ones yet to be told.
How do you see the book being used?
I pray the book will be used first as a tool for encouragement, giving people hope as they read of the transformation of individual lives and congregations of those who have implemented Invite Welcome Connect. The book includes a Getting Started Guide for those interested in implementing the ministry, and it could also serve as a check-in for those who are currently implementing the ministry.
What is your ultimate goal for this program and book?
My ultimate goal is that the ministry of Invite Welcome Connect will change the narrative of the Episcopal Church to move from maintenance to mission. For our congregations to thrive, spiritually and numerically, we need to equip and empower individuals and congregations to cultivate intentional practices of evangelism, hospitality, and connectedness rooted in the gospel imperative to Go and make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:19).
What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced on this journey?
The biggest challenge I’ve faced on this journey is intensely personal; balancing my personal and working lives, essentially holding down two jobs as Gathering of Leaders director and creating/nurturing the ministry of Invite Welcome Connect.
What’s your favorite prayer?
God grant me the
Serenity to accept the things I cannot change
Courage to change the things I can
And Wisdom to know the difference.
Is there anything else you’d like to share with readers and participants?
Although earlier I named my ultimate goal for the ministry and book, another more personal goal is that individuals who read the book will have the courage to discern the gifts God has placed within them, tapping into the imaginative creative mind God gives them, and then saying Yes to God’s call in their lives.