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.