Highlights and Recording of Oct. 5 Town Hall

Recording of the Lay Leaders Town Hall of Oct. 5

Meeting Summary

Face-to-Face Preferred: Successful Clergy Day

Bishop French led the meeting. She began by expressing her preference for seeing attendees’ faces rather than a slide with the meeting agenda. She shared that the meeting was taking place after a successful clergy day, where around 80 people had gathered in person and 30 more joined via Zoom. Bishop French planned to share notes from the meeting later in the week, and she reminded attendees to check the chat for the meeting agenda, which she would post again for latecomers.

Budget Convention and Date Change Announced

Bishop French announced the formal call for a special Diocesan Convention on December 9, solely dedicated to addressing budget issues. The convention was delayed from March due to the episcopal transition and other ongoing matters. Bishop French expressed hope that by the time of the convention, the budget process will have been well-communicated and understood by the congregations. She also noted that the Finance and Budget Committee was hard at work and that pre-convention hearings had been scheduled. Additionally, Bishop French announced a hope to shift the annual convention date from March to November or December starting in 2024, to better align with the new budget timeline.

Clergy Member’s Upcoming Event and Bishop Course

Bishop French discussed an upcoming event Nov. 18 featuring Alyssa Newton, a clergy member and author, and expressed her excitement about the event’s significance for the church’s work. She also informed that she would be attending a course for new bishops in England from October 20 to November 11, during which she might be less reachable. She expressed her joy at her ability to do visitations, and encouraged congregations in need of a visitation to reach out to her executive assistant, Mirelle White. Bishop French also promoted an upcoming golf outing event Oct. 9 at Mercer Oaks, emphasizing its importance as a fundraiser for the cathedral and expressing her anticipation to connect with people and participate in the event, despite her limited golf experience.

Update on Budget and Church Leadership Transition

Bishop French provided an update about the pre-convention hearings, mentioning that the budget process was underway. Jonathan Gloster, the treasurer, confirmed that they were working on a draft budget, which they hoped to present at the end of October. She reported that several churches were either in the process of finding new leadership or in the final stages of calling new pastors.

Global Missions and Creation Care Meeting

Bishop French facilitated a discussion about global missions in the diocese, with the Very Rev. Caroline Carson introducing a new committee called the Global Missions Committee. Carson shared her vision for the committee, which aims to provide resources and build communication among existing mission groups in the diocese. She also emphasized the importance of expanding their profile within the diocese and organizing a diocesan global missions celebration day. Carson invited anyone interested to email her for more information or get involved. Canon Barbie Bach then discussed the monthly creation care service, which is broadcast to the whole Episcopal Church and is seeking to become a standing commission at the next convention.

Insurance Premiums and Dental Plan Changes

Diocesan Benefits Coordinator Pat Hawkins discussed the upcoming changes in the benefits insurance for 2024. The premiums for the PPO plans have increased by 6-7%, which is higher than the previous year’s increase of 4-4.5%. In light of this, the Benefits Committee chose the PPO 90 plan as the base plan for 2024. However, they encouraged churches to continue to pay the full premium for the PPO 100 plan if possible. Pat also mentioned a change in dental plans, from Delta dental of New Jersey to a plan under contract through Church Pension Group. This change is expected to provide better benefits for less money. Pat also cancelled a workshop due to low registration. Bishop French, a member of the Benefits Committee, added that the decision to offer the PPO 90 plan was due to concerns about some congregations facing job losses due to the 6% increase.

Upcoming Event and Anti-Racism Training

Rosina Dixon announced an upcoming event on October 1h featuring former Senator Lesniak discussing his work on criminal justice system reforms. Canon Karen Moore discussed ongoing anti-racism training programs, mentioning that there is currently a class in progress and plans for an in-person training on January 6 and 13 at the Diocesan House. More training sessions are expected to be scheduled by the end of the month. Additionally, a Spanish language training will be held in Puerto Rico between now and December, initially intended for delegates to the General Convention but now open to other clergy and lay people. Bishop French endorsed the anti-racism training, encouraging others to participate despite their current standing on their personal journeys.

Leadership Roles and Vocations Workshop

Bishop French encouraged individuals to consider leadership roles within the diocese, emphasizing the importance of exploring different positions and nominating suitable candidates. She also promoted a Hispanic vocations workshop on October 7 at the cathedral. Arthur Pederson, a member of the nominating committee, agreed and expressed his positive experiences in the committee over the past 20 years. He emphasized the value of being part of a larger church community and encouraged individuals to either serve themselves or nominate someone they know for a position.

Sharing, Announcing, and Reflecting at the Congregations Meeting

Bishop French facilitated a discussion where various congregations’ upcoming events were shared. Caroline Carson announced the ninth annual Women of Honor event of the Episcopal Church Women of the diocese, and reminded everyone about the United Thank Offering ingathering. Mary-Elise Haug announced All Saint’s Navesink’s candlelight concert with diverse compositions from African-American composers. Canon Steve Welch reminded everyone about the diocesan web calendar for posting events. The meeting ended with a Compline service.