5. And Still We Persevere
We encourage you to read Appendix 1, which includes our financials, parochial data, charts, and graphs, but we want to draw your attention in this segment to several items: the recent budget reductions made by Council and the Treasurer, the DEPO (Designated Episcopal Pastoral Oversight) arrangement with the Diocese of Albany, the opportunity to support the Order of Deacons, and comments/concerns from the clergy listening session.
Budget Reductions in Recent Years
In response to concerns from many parishes about the impact of the parochial assessment on their local budgets, the Diocesan Council and Treasurer have worked hard in recent years to reduce the diocesan budget. Expenses in 2018 were reduced by 4% from 2017. At the same time, there are concerns about the impact of these reductions on diocesan activities, particularly in the area of clergy formation, mission support, and support for parishes in transition or having clergy difficulties.
In an effort to place the budget on a sustainable basis for the longer term, Diocesan Council, the Trustees, and the Rock Point Board, among others, are working to develop plans for additional revenue from sources other than parochial assessments, including increased legacy giving and additional income from Rock Point.
The Episcopal Church in Vermont – DEPO Parishes in New York
The Bishop of Vermont provides Designated Episcopal Pastoral Oversight (DEPO) for two parishes in the Adirondack region of upstate New York. These parishes, part of the Diocese of Albany, have profound disagreements with the Bishop of Albany on matters related to marriage for same-sex couples, LGBTQ clergy, and other matters.
Agreeing to the request of the congregations, the Bishop of Albany has invited the Bishop of Vermont to exercise DEPO responsibilities and pastoral support for these parishes. The Bishop of Vermont has included these parishes in his regular visitation schedule and has, in cooperation with the Bishop of Albany, provided counsel to these parishes when they have searched for new clergy.
The DEPO parishes pay their full parochial assessments to the Diocese of Albany. They send non-voting delegations to the Diocesan Convention in Vermont and publicize special services and other events through the Diocese of Vermont’s website and newsletter. Many members of these congregations feel a close affinity with the Diocese of Vermont and its Bishop and very much want the DEPO arrangement to continue in the next episcopate. The clergy and laypeople of Vermont always put out a warm welcome at convention or other diocesan gatherings to our sisters and brothers across the lake.
Deacons have a special call to be icons of servanthood and to be a link between the church and the world. Vermont deacons actively serve in 12 parishes, and have leadership roles in many church-wide ministries. One parish, which has gone through a difficult period, referred to their deacon as the glue that kept them together through it all.
Given the increasing reliance on local ministry approaches, encouraging the growth of the ministry of deacons might provide additional strategies for strengthening our congregations, lay ministries, and community connections. It is an opportunity ripe for development.
None of our current deacons in active service is under the age of 50. There are currently two postulants and two others in discernment, but there is no school for deacons, nor any active diocesan study programs that served as informal training in the past. However, we currently have one postulant enrolled in the Province One Deacon Formation Program and one in the Iona Program from the Diocese of Texas.
Not all members of The Episcopal Church in Vermont have had personal experiences with deacons, but those who have are enthusiastic about the order. The current deacons themselves – nurses, a doctor, lawyers, a farmer – and many throughout our parishes fervently hope that our new bishop will support the development and current ministries of our deacons, and continue to involve and raise up the diaconate in the life of parishes and in The Episcopal Church in Vermont.
Vermont Archdeacon Catherine Cooke, deacon Stan Baker, and Deacon Lucy Pellegrini are pictured at a September gathering of the Association for Episcopal Deacons.
Taking Our Gifts For Granted
At the clergy listening session, mention was made that we often take for granted the ways The Episcopal Church in Vermont has been a leader in supporting many issues – same-sex marriage, LGBTQ issues, baptismal ministry, dignity, open table, freedom to try new liturgies, and integrity of leadership. Will the next bishop be in tune with what we already practice and take for granted? Will the next bishop come with those values? Will we be encouraged to explore new models of ministry such as sharing clergy leadership in certain under-served areas of Vermont?
Other clergy comments: “Maybe we are not the canary in the coal mine, but perhaps we are the dove on the ark.” “Live resurrection and lead without fear.” “Be with us—take off the miter. Put down the ‘cane.’ Flatten the triangle as much as possible. Be among us. Continue this model but use the purple shirt when needed.”