‘Listen!” Jesus said. “A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seed fell on the path, and the birds came and ate it up. . . Other seed fell into good soil and brought forth grain, growing up and increasing and yielding thirty and sixty and a hundredfold.’ And Jesus said, ‘Let anyone with ears to hear listen!’
Many thanks to all who were present at Diocesan Convention. In my address, Becoming Good Soil, I invited all congregations to take part in a diocesan wide strategic planning process and I write to ask your participation in this holy work. My prayer is that as we take stock of our strengths and challenges as a church–where we see fruitfulness in our ministries and where we struggle–the Holy Spirit will clarify our vision of God’s preferred future for the Episcopal Church in the varied communities and contexts of our diocese. From that vision, it will be our task to establish mutually-discerned goals in each region and invest our resources toward their accomplishment.
As your bishop, I remain convinced that the work of becoming good soil in our congregations is best accomplished working together rather than separately. Working together, we can identify and strengthen ministry opportunities few congregations can realize on their own. The planning process will also help us determine how best to invest collective diocesan resources.
We are in the process now of establishing leadership teams for each of the eight regions of the diocese. Over the next two months, each team will determine how best to engage the regional congregations and convene a discovery session. We’re working to schedule all the regional discovery sessions in the Lent and Easter seasons (March-May), and we will publish those dates as soon as possible.
There is also a congregational component in the strategic planning process. We have engaged the consulting and coaching services of The Unstuck Group, a Christian organization that assists congregations and judicatories to invest in health and overcome obstacles to growth. As part of our collective work, every congregation has the opportunity to invest in its own soil.
If you have not already done so, I invite you to take the Unstuck Group’s online parish assessment. It provides a starting point for conversation as you identify where your congregation falls on a life cycle common to all churches. From that assessment, both clergy and laity can make prayerful and strategic decisions about next steps in leadership.
All EDOW congregational leaders may take an online leadership course, Leading an Unstuck Church, free of charge (normally a $500 charge per congregation). The course includes 12 sessions, ideally suited for vestry meetings or other leadership bodies. This is an investment in your leadership, so that congregational ministries may flourish. Ms. Mildred Reyes, EDOW Missioner for Formation is your point of contact to enroll in Leading an Unstuck Church. You may register with her via email.
For those inspired to make an even deeper commitment, there is the option of a year-long strategic planning process, supported by both the Unstuck Church Group and the Diocese, which would be customized to your parish and would include opportunities to form learning cohorts with other congregational leaders.
I welcome your thoughts as this process unfolds. Feel free to contact me anytime.
May God continue to bless us all as we tend to our soil in faithfulness to the One who sows the seeds of life within and among us all.