Update from the Ministry Discernment Committee

On October 5th, the Vestry and the Ministry Discernment Committee (MDC) met with Bishop Ely and Lynn Bates (Canon to the Ordinary) to review the narratives prepared for the Portfolio to seek potential rector candidates.  During the course of that meeting some recommendations were offered for clarity and improvement of the Portfolio responses.  Those revisions will be made by the MDC at its meeting on October 16th, after which the final Portfolio will be submitted to the Bishop’s office and posted online early in November.

The parish discernment phase will then conclude and the MDC will move onward to the next stage of preparing to receive names of interested candidates, getting to know them and them to know us.  To mark this transition and entry into the next step of the process, the MDC plans on revising and sharing with the Parish a new discernment prayer.  While awaiting responses from candidates, over the next two months Lynn Bates will work with the MDC on the conduct of the interview process with the anticipation that names of potential candidates will begin to be received after the first of the year.

The Vestry has allocated funds for use by the MDC to bring candidates here for interviews and introduction to St. James and the Arlington area.   After deliberating the outcome of all interviews, the MDC will present a ‘short list’ of candidates to the Vestry and the Vestry will make the final decision as to our new rector.

Ministry Discernment Committee Update: We Invite Your Responses

1. Changing the Conversation is the title of the book by Anthony Robinson that has become one of the significant resources the MDC is using as it proceeds to its final objectives. Copies of the book are available for you to borrow. Please see Eileen Rice to get a copy. Parishioners are active participants in the discernment process as you have seen in the two parish meetings we have had to date. As we move forward to a third general meeting on June 26, you may find it helpful to
be familiar with the book and its concepts. 

In the very first pages, Robinson states that “congregations are often engaged in conversations that don’t go anywhere...they are not discerning reality accurately and are not framing new challenges adequately...in order for congregations ...to make progress on significant challenges, the movement toward making progress will involve changing the conversation. It will mean discovering new language or perhaps recovering older words and concepts from the living tradition of our faith. New vitality will mean a fresh agenda of subjects; renewal will mean framing our reality more accurately. And vitality and renewal together will mean reframing our present and future in ways that move beyond the predictable but nonproductive conversations.” (p.2)  

In this book, and in other published works, Robinson contends that “making progress on the challenges before us in the mainline Protestant churches in North America is about changing the conversation. Moreover, it is about “having and sustaining ten crucial conversations [the chapters of his book]...that constitute an agenda” for these conversations.

The conversations/chapters are:

1. It’s Not About You
2. And Yet...It Is About You
3. A New Heart
4. Who Shall Lead Them?
5. Why Are We Here?
6. Write the Vision
7. Let’s Get (Less) Organized!
8. The Church and the Public Square
9. Death and Resurrection
10. Where Do We Start?

In one sense we have begun at the end – we are starting: Starting the realigning of our lives as a community with the guidance and assistance of our Interim Pastor; starting the process of discernment in a formal way; identifying resources; asking questions among ourselves and now extending them to you.  The MDC cannot “change the conversation” by itself; this is an inclusive and participatory process. We invite you - we urge you - to take this opportunity to help create the true profile of the St. James’ community and not only change the conversation about the present but help to shape the future. We will continue to print excerpts from the book over the next four weeks. [Anthony Robinson is an ordained minister of the United Church of Christ. For more information about him visit http://www.anthonybrobinson.com.]

2. Calling New Clergy Partnership in a Congregation is a 2015 publication of The Episcopal Church in Vermont. It was created to be a “guide to the multi-dimensional and many-faceted process of the discernment of ministries and the calling of a new clergy partner to be with you in congregational ministry.”  

The material in the guide is based on more than 30 years’ experience of “churches calling clergy partners in ministry; congregations of differing sizes, with a variety of gifts and skills needed, and a commitment to calling the clergyperson who best matches the expressed needs of the congregation.... This process of faithful discernment is done in partnership among the people in the congregation, the Bishop, and the clergyperson. The best relationships among God’s people – the Church – are formed when all involved work with each other, listen to the Spirit, and minister side-by-side.” 

As the MDC works to compile the necessary information and to create the narrative that will help a potential candidate to understand St. James’ and its people, we have specific tasks to do as well. One of them is for each of us to answer, individually, 12 questions that will help shape the narrative. But we aren’t the only ones who will be answering these questions. We want YOU to start thinking about them too. The responses will be collated, studied, organized and then shaped into the narrative of the community of St. James that will be posted on our website for prospective candidates to see. 

We invite your responses to these questions in written form. You may choose not to respond to all of them but we do urge you to read each one and think about it. You need not submit your responses all at one time either. Your responses need not be signed although if you choose to use email, it is hard to protect anonymity. You may send your responses to Eileen Rice, the chair of the Committee, either by email, in person, or via the parish office. If you choose other than email, please enclose your responses in an envelope. Eileen will circulate the responses to the other people involved. 

You have four weeks to work on your responses. June 26 is the day we will meet as a group following the 10AM liturgy to review the responses and discuss them.  Canon Lynn Bates will join us for that session.  We will include the questions in the next three issues of the newsletter.
So here goes:

“In our baptism we promise to proclaim by work and example the Good News of God in Christ, seeking and serving Christ in all persons. You are invited here to reflect on your ministry by responding to the following questions using approximately 1200 characters [not words] each.”
1. Describe a moment in your worshipping community’s recent ministry that you recognize as one of success and fulfillment.
2. How are you preparing yourselves for the Church of the future?
3. Please provide words describing the gifts and skills essential to the future leaders of your worshipping community.
4. Describe your liturgical style and practice for all types of worship in your community. 
5. How do you practice incorporating others in ministry?
6. As a worshipping community, how do you care for your spiritual, emotional and physical well-being?
7. How do you engage in pastoral care for those beyond your worshipping community?
8. Describe your worshipping community’s involvement in either the wider Church or geographical community.
9. Tell about a ministry that your worshipping community has initiated in the past 5 years? Who can be contacted about this project? 
10. What is your practice of stewardship and how does it shape the life of your worshipping community?
11. What is your worshipping community’s experience of conflict? And how have you addressed it?
12. What is your experience leading/addressing change in the church? When has it gone well? When has it gone poorly? And what did you learn?

We look forward to hearing from you. Feel free to call, e-mail, or write each, any or all of us if you have any questions or if you need additional information. We welcome your ideas, your thoughts, your counsel and your prayers. We are all in this together: Changing the conversation and shaping the future! 

Ministry Discernment Committee
    Eileen Rice, Chair  
    Christine Meyer
    Susan Gratz
    Garry Roosma
    Patricia Gordon Michael

A Report and an Invitation from the Ministry Discernment Committee

Dear St. James Parishioner:

When we were commissioned as members of the Ministry Discernment Committee (MDC), we promised to keep you up-to-date on our activities and our progress; this letter is intended to do that. We begin however, by extending a cordial invitation to you to participate in the Congregational Discernment Meeting on April 17, 2016 following the liturgy at 9AM. (Please note that there will be only one service on that day.) The work of discernment is the responsibility of the Committee in an organizational sense but it is also entrusted to the entire congregation. We encourage and urge you to make a special effort to be present.

One of the major responsibilities for the MDC is to answer the questions posed in the Office of Transition Ministry Community Portfolio Information Worksheet. At the appropriate time in the process, these questions, and their answers, will be posted on our website so that potential candidates for our new rector can gather the information they need initially to discern their own interest in being part of the vision and ministry of St. James’. Answering the questions so that we may present an accurate picture of St. James’, its people, its community and its vision and ministry is not a task that MDC can complete without your participation. April 17 will be an exciting day because it is an opportunity for you to contribute your thoughts about where St. James’ is now and where we are headed in the future. We cannot move forward without your help because you are St. James’ Church. 

What will we do as a congregation on April 17? We will be collecting your thoughts about three very important questions:

  1. Who are we now?
  2. Who is God calling us to be?
  3. What gifts and skills do we need, both from ourselves and from clergy leadership, to get there?

We ask that you come on April 17 with your ideas about these questions written on three separate pieces of paper – any kind of paper. At the meeting, we will collect your written thoughts and put them into three baskets. During our gathering, we will read the submissions, one by one, for consideration and reflection. Please do not put your names on the papers or identify your answers on that day. We want the discussion to be about our purpose as a church, not about things that may have happened in the past. If you have additional thoughts and ideas on that day, there will be paper and pen to capture these as well.

Here’s what we will NOT be doing on April 17: We will not be judging anyone’s ideas or thoughts nor the level of their commitment to St. James’.  We will not be investigating reasons why some people no longer attend worship every Sunday. We will also not be discussing the potential salary and benefits package for a new rector as that is up to the Vestry to decide.  

The MDC has been reading Changing the Conversation: A Third Way for Congregations by Anthony B. Robinson. We invite you to do the same. There are copies on the table at the back of the church. Please take one and read it. We ask you to return them as soon as possible so that others may read the book also. You might wish to purchase one for yourself. It is excellent reading.  

Robinson says that “the vision statement should reflect the contributions of 1) the congregation; 2) the governing board (vestry); 3) the pastor; 4) analysis of the external environment (the larger community in which the church exists); and 5) an outside perspective.”  For that outside perspective, the MDC has chosen the Reverend Jean Smith whom some of you met on March 13 when she attended worship with us and then met with MDC following the service. Mother Smith

is a Priest Associate at St. Michael’s Church in Brattleboro. Before retiring to Vermont, she served for 10 years as the priest at Trinity Church, Princeton, New Jersey and also as President and Executive Director of the Seaman’s Church Institute of New York and New Jersey. She will be with us again on April 17 to assist us with the important conversation among us about our way to the future.  

Once again, we look forward to seeing you on April 17. We promise that we will keep the meeting focused and moving forward. We value your participation and your input more than we can say adequately. If you are unable to be present on April 17, we hope very much that you will send us your responses either by e-mail, by the postal service or by hand in an envelope to the church office. Although such delivery negates anonymity, we will be sure that your comments are not identified as coming from you when they are placed in the gathering baskets on the day of the meeting.  

We thank you for the confidence you have placed in us and we ask for your help and for your prayers.

Sincerely yours, 

Eileen Rice, Chair

Susan Gratz; Chris Meyer; Patricia Michael and Garry Roosma, members of the Ministry Discernment Committee   

For further information:

                1. An explanation of the discernment and transition process is available on the website ofthe Episcopal Church Office of Transition Ministry at http://www,episcopalchurch.org/page/transition-ministry. If you are not web-enabled, please see Eileen Rice for a paper copy of the information available on that site.]

                2. Visit the Diocese of Vermont website at http://diovermont.org/resources-links/for-congregations. Scroll down to “Congregations in Transition” for detailed information about the process and also for a listing of other congregations in transition in the state.

                3. Copies of Changing the Conversation: A Third Way for Congregations by Anthony B. Robinson are available on the table behind the last row of pews on the Epistle side. 

Update from the Ministry Discernment Committee

The Ministry Discernment Committee is charged by resolution of the Vestry “to recommend to us a leadership model; and if the model will include the calling of a priest from outside the congregation, the recommendation from the MDC will be a priest who best demonstrates the gifts and skills needed by this congregation as reflected in our Profile.” At the solemn commissioning of MDC, in front of the congregation, we promised to perform the work with which we are charged with “diligence, love, and patience.”

As we look to the future, we – all of us, committee and congregation, will engage in the necessary processes of self-study, research, information gathering and prayerful contemplation that will lead us to the successful conclusion of the discernment process and the beginning of the next chapter of life at St. James’ Church, Arlington. 

Ever mindful of our need for spiritual guidance and strength, the MDC has adopted a prayer in which we seek God’s wisdom, love and light as we move forward. Click here to see the prayer. We ask that you pray that prayer for us and with us. Please keep a copy of the prayer near you and take a few moments in your schedule to pray it. We are grateful for your help and support.

Eileen Rice, Chair
Susan Gratz
Chris Meyer
Patricia Michael
Garry Roosma