I hope you and yours are enjoying this joyful Easter season! Pray that the abundance of rain has not caused too many hardships in your area.
Let me share with you a few significant emerging gleanings:
- What we are learning about our registered numerical growth in 2016
- What we are learning from the sampling of leadership feedback surveys
- What some of our Episcopal Church’s emerging visional ferment looks like
Numerical Growth: Lagging Indicator of Spiritual and Missional Growth
As many of you know by now, our Diocesan average Sunday/Service attendance registered a positive number (1.4%) last year. We are humbled by the fact that this was the first positive notation in nearly two decades. What we also found was that our Districts showed the following: Southwest increased by 5%, Southeast by 7%, Rochester by 2%, Monroe by 2% and Northeast decreased by 6%. That means four of our five districts saw growth in attendance last year. What that means is that while 38% of our churches saw decline in ASA, 62% saw growth or remained flat last year. It is good to know that we are experiencing a mini resurrection after years of realizing that we are not bringing in new followers of Christ into our churches. This is good news! Praise be to God!
Leading feedback survey areas
We found out from a sampling of feedback to a cross section of leaders from around the diocese that while some of what we do is working, we also need to work on addressing some areas that have potential for growth. While this was by no means a scientific survey, we received enough information in the form of verbatim and an even richer engagement when leaders who spent some time with the help of a facilitator looking at the clearly significant areas that rose to the top. We will share some of the ideas that were shared to give you a sense of some of what was shared in the next E-news. I hope to have some dialogue around these emerging priorities as we strive to grow together as the Jesus Movement.
Three clear areas emerged as significant for emphasis going forward in our Diocese. They are: relationship, stewardship, and leadership. While there is a growing sense of joy and enthusiasm in our worship, and our spiritual and missional engagement, we noticed a deep desire for enhancing greater relational connections across the diocese. We also heard an expressed hunger for more engaged stewardship of time, talent, and treasure, as well as more tools to sustain good Christian lay and clergy leaders to help lead the churches and communities we serve. The biggest take away for me was the foundational desire for some clear formation of Christian leaders—with special attention to children, youth and young adults—who care to build healthy relationships and practice good stewardship in all things for the glory of God.
The organic affirmation of some of these themes is encouraging. Our emerging College for Congregational Development is the first of these, which I believe will have a positive impact by developing communities of leaders throughout our Diocese and in our region. Right now, the summer 2017 week-long intensive College has been filled (65 people) with clergy and lay teams from 18 congregations from around our Diocese and three neighboring Dioceses. This is a very positive sign. Please pray for all the efforts taken under the able leadership of Rev. Paul Frolick and his team.
We are exploring ways to host a regional TENS Conference (The Episcopal Network for Stewardship) in May or June next year to bring intention and attention to our spiritual practices of personal and collective stewardship. We are also working to enhance our relational connections in every way to strengthen the bonds of affection we share in Christ Jesus.
Emerging Visional ferment
In the larger Episcopal Church, I notice a synchronicity with our own diocesan journey of Seeing the Face of God in Each Other. We are clearly making strides in becoming more intentionally the risen body of Christ as we are called to be in a world divided by the sin of racism. The recent communication in a document titled Becoming Beloved Committee from the Presiding officers of our Church gives us a pathway to pursuing this dream of God in some realistic ways. I commend this document to you for your prayer, reflection and action.
We give hearty thanks for the leadership of President Mark Gearan and his spouse Mary Gearan over the last eighteen years as we welcome the new President Dr. Gregory Vincent and his spouse Kim to Hobart and William Smith Colleges.
I pray for all who need our prayers, offer thanks for all the blessings of this life, and especially for the gift of the risen Christ who strengthens and causes us to rise above our troubles and our cares.