6. The Tensions of Shrinking and Growing
In recent years, several full-time diocesan Ministry Support Team positions were gradually eliminated due to budget concerns. Some of the previous workload became layered on the remaining Team, and some ministries are no longer able to be carried out.
We currently have 15 congregations in the complex process of leadership transition. The Bishop and the Canon to the Ordinary provide guidance and support, but it can take more time to find clergy candidates for very part-time positions, a reality that is a challenge for our smaller congregations.
At present, there are no diocesan-wide formation/education programs, clergy/spouse retreats, or the Fresh Start program that supported clergy in new positions. The four-year Education for Ministry sequence, which began in the late 1990’s, is now offered only sporadically in a few parishes, although the diocesan budget does support a diocesan EFM membership and we have a diocesan EFM coordinator.
The success of the Rock Point Partnership campaign and progress in strategic planning have set Rock Point on a positive path for the future. This has been accompanied by growing pains, however, with its additional priorities and hefty workload sometimes presenting the Bishop and diocesan Ministry Support Team with competing demands.
A supply priest leads worship at St. Peter's Episcopal Church in Lyndonville, VT, with a little help from a relatively new parishioner.
Tensions can be seen as blessings in that they can hasten the attention needed to address them. It is hoped that our new bishop and our Ministry Support Team can work together in partnership to discern ways to create a diocesan infrastructure that can be more responsive: to parishes in transition, to the unique needs of small parishes, to urgent matters that arise, and to formation opportunities for clergy and laypeople.
As described in the earlier section on financial stewardship, our financial tensions are real. At the clergy listening session it was noted that several clergy in attendance will have their time reduced due to diminished parish finances. This trend of limited resources also has a challenging effect on the parochial assessments that contribute to the diocesan budget.
Recognizing our ongoing budget constraints presents creative opportunity to explore how lay leadership might be enlisted to bring skills and support to the wider needs of the diocese. This awareness was echoed throughout our listening sessions.
On a positive note, our current diocesan Ministry Support Team is hard-working, cooperative, faithful, and highly competent in their areas of expertise. Per General Convention, they are no longer required to submit pro forma resignations when a new bishop arrives. They all have employment letters that remain in effect.