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 order for congregations 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]

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