In Christ Jesus the whole structure is joined together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord; in whom you also are built together spiritually into a dwelling-place for God.
It’s long been a dream of mine to better align the structures of our diocese with the ministry of our congregations. All church structures are meant to serve the mission of Christ, but they can easily become ends in themselves, mistaken as the ministry rather than in service to it.
This week, in the region of South D.C., we took a small but significant step in the work of adapting our diocesan structures to serve the mission of our congregations. In the annual regional meeting typically dedicated to issues of diocesan governance, we turned our focus toward the congregations and convened three groups. It felt as if I were seeing a glimpse of what our diocese is at its best and could be more of in the future.
Over lunch, we invited elders from the South D.C. congregations to reflect on the spiritual terrain of their lives. The Rev. Susan Walker, one of our EDOW deacons, facilitated the conversation and those present talked openly and courageously about the challenges they face. With the blessing of long life also comes the reality of loss and the need to let go. With the gift of more free time can come the feeling of being invisible. Susan encouraged all to trust God’s presence and to listen for God’s invitation to experience a different kind of fruitfulness in life.
Later that evening, vestry members of all nine South D.C. congregations gathered for prayer and song, and an honest conversation of the varied demands on vestry members and the spiritual terrain of leadership. We reflected on what it means to be entrusted with leadership, and how to grow in our capacity to discern God’s will for our faith communities. It was also a wonderful time of sharing experiences, resources, ideas.
Meanwhile a small gathering of young professionals met to reflect on The Way of Love and how to live and grow as followers of Jesus in Washington, D.C. From their conversation, and others with young adults throughout the diocese, plans are emerging for a diocesan wide young adult retreat in 2019.
How did this change in regional meetings come about?
First, Diocesan Convention last year voted to allow a change in governance, so that we might disseminate electronically all the vital information diocesan delegates and clergy need prior to Diocesan Convention in January. Diocesan wide elections will also take place using an online portal. That freed us to shift the focus of mandatory regional gatherings toward the congregations.
Then members of the Diocesan staff and I met with regional clergy this fall, and we asked them to help us set the agenda for this first round of regional gatherings. With their guidance, we’ve planned four regional gatherings for the fall and we’ll hold the remaining four in the spring.
These efforts are but a few of the ways we are learning how to be the church in our time, how to prayerfully seek God’s preferred future for the Episcopal Church within the geographic bounds entrusted to us. My heartfelt thanks to all who are actively engaged in this work.
The poet Antonio Machado once wrote that pilgrims make the road by walking it. In that same spirit, I pray that we together we will create the structures we need by faithful efforts, one small step at a time.