I would like to thank all who participated for your active engagement, discussions, feedback and reflections during our 2017 Spring Convocations. Feedback, data and findings from those conversations have now been turned over to a Diocesan Discernment Steering Committee who will help guide us all through the rest of this process. On behalf of the Steering Committee and our diocesan staff, I want to express appreciation for the work performed by Kim Fletcher, who facilitated the introductory phase of the process of Discerning Our Common Call. Her skills and expertise helped us learn a lot. Armed with the information that emerged from the Spring Convocations, we have decided to move in a new direction. We are currently evaluating leadership choices for the next phase of the process.
What we learned:
- Participants have a deep desire to ground this conversation in our faith and life in Jesus Christ, practicing prayer and dwelling in the Word.
- Participants came to convocation meetings expecting to address more direct questions about the budget. Many people were disappointed when it became clear that was not our purpose. We on diocesan staff own some of the responsibility for this miscommunication.
- Participants expressed a desire for clearer and more frequent communications about the process.
- Participants experienced significant discomfort about not being presented with specific goals and objectives for the convocation meetings. This confirmed our sense that we need to continue the practices of:
- discussing with each other what it really means to be a diocese in the Episcopal Church today
- exploring a set of Vital Questions about our interrelationship and commitment to one another, and
- discerning a common call
as a necessary process before meaningful budget conversations can take place.
- Congregations are anxious about the timeframe, mostly due to misperceptions about what we will seek to accomplish at the October convention.
- Participants expressed a desire to speak to and hear from the Bishop directly.
- A Diocesan Discernment Steering Committee has been established to coordinate the process, including upcoming congregational conversations, Bishop’s Forums, and charrettes*.
- We have developed a set of Vital Questions designed to help us consistently explore our interconnectedness and interdependence and to invite us to a deeper understanding of our common call.
- We’ve included those Vital Questions here for your use in inviting your congregation to gather and discuss them in whatever way the Holy Spirit moves you throughout the summer.We have scheduled forums for our Bishop to meet with laity and clergy separately, from mid-July through the end of August, to continue and deepen dialog around the Vital Questions in a relaxed, casual setting. A schedule of dates, times and locations (where known) is available and is also posted on the diocesan calendar. Location updates and meeting reminders will be sent out and posted throughout the summer.
- We will further explore the Vital Questions in larger groups at charrettes* in September in the Northwest, Northeast, Southwest and Southeast regions that will include laity and clergy together.
- We will implement a multi-media communications approach using Facebook, digital bulletins and congregational newsletters, a dedicated website, printed communications and video messaging.
- We are asking each congregation to identify a point person to work
with us to ensure that communications about the discernment process are effectively distributed throughout the Diocese.
The October 7th Special Convention:
- Will not consider the proposed 2018 budget.
- Will consider a continuing resolution to maintain 2017 spending levels through our March 2018 Diocesan Convention.
Will receive, reflect upon and discuss the Steering Committee’s findings and recommendations based upon the results of the congregational conversations, Bishop’s gatherings and charrettes* related to:
- convergence around core values
- establishing budget priorities
Will transmit this information to Finance & Budget to incorporate into their regular budgeting process as they prepare the 2018 budget for consideration at our regular Convention in March.
Based upon outcomes from all of the above and the Special Convention, process will be developed to continue conversations and implement recommendations for:
- exploring where the Holy Spirit is leading us as we respond to God’s mission in the Diocese of New Jersey and in the world,
- deepening our understanding of our common call, and
- exploring where we find meaning in our interconnectedness and interdependence.
Your Next Steps:
- Use the Vital Questions flyer to engage groups within your congregation in conversation throughout the summer.
- Identify and send contact information for your congregational communications coordinator(s) for this process to us at DOCC@dioceseofnj.org.
- Post and publicize the Bishop’s Forum schedule (and location updates) widely and often; encourage attendance – all forums are open to everyone (by orders – laity or clergy).
- Look for, post and publicize future communications from us; participate with us on any social media platforms we might use.
- Post and publicize the Regional Charrettes schedule widely and often when it becomes available; encourage attendance – all charrettes are open to everyone – lay and clergy together.
- Make sure your Convention delegates are as engaged in the process as possible – we suggest having one (or more) of them be your communications coordinator(s) for this process if at all possible.
*A charrette is a meeting in which all stakeholders in a project attempt to resolve conflicts and map out solutions.