And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another – Hebrews 10:24-25
The Steering Committee would like to thank all those who engaged in the conversations with Bishop Stokes, held over the course of six weeks and over the whole diocese. From these gatherings, a great amount of information was collected. For the purposes of the upcoming Days of Discernment, common themes that surfaced at all of the meetings were collected to help frame our work in the next stages of the process.
The committee identified the following topics as ones of common concern:
Community– Participants commented on the lack of interconnectedness among parishes themselves, and between parishes and the secular communities in which we are located. There was a strong sense of needing to reach out to others, connect with fellow Christians and show ourselves publicly. Many asked, “How do we encourage each other to take risks on ‘outside the box’ ideas as we seek to live out our Baptismal promises and Christ’s mission in the Diocese of New Jersey and beyond?”
Communications: Participants were concerned by a disconnect between congregations and Diocesan House. Many weren’t aware of all “the diocese” does. Similarly, they felt there is a disconnect between the different generations, and the laity and the bishop. They asked, “How do we utilize various communication tools to build stronger networks of connection so that we can proclaim the Gospel more effectively?”..
Formation: Participants expressed a desire for all members of our diocesan community to have more opportunities for formation and learning so that they can deepen their knowledge and love of Jesus Christ. Many acknowledged that traditional strategies like Sunday School are no longer as effective as they once were. They asked, “How do we introduce continuous Christian formation opportunities for all?”
Youth: Participants commented on the low attendance level and lack of engagement and attachment from both our children and teens, as well as those who fall into the category of young adults (18-30 years of age). They asked, “How do we give the younger generations opportunities to become stakeholders in the diocese and more important, in the mission and ministry of Jesus Christ?”
A few other points were seen as important for our consideration:
- Our language is perceived as difficult and exclusionary. We need to move away from “us” and “them” and curb our use of jargon or language particular to our church.
- People are very interested in having a relationship with the bishop.
These are the main areas of common concern that have been identified by the committee. Many other issues were raised, and information gathered through this process that will be assessed and discussed over the coming months. Bishop Stokes and the Steering Committee have reviewed the extensive notes taken at all of the forums (which will also be made available on the diocesan website under Discerning our Common Call). Please know that if you attended a meeting and expressed a concern that does not fall under one of the above categories, you have been heard.
Thank you again for your participation in Discerning Our Common Call. All of the information gathered at the Days of Discernment will again be collated and be made available for the next step in this process, the charrettes scheduled between September 13th and 20th.