Almighty and everlasting God, by whose Spirit the whole body of your faithful people is governed and sanctified: Receive our supplications and prayers, which we offer before you for all members of your holy Church, that in their vocation and ministry they may truly and devoutly serve you, through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen. (Collect for the ministry (Ember Days): for all Christians in their vocation)
We have entered a new program year with a commitment to reconcile various priorities over this period of change in our world and our Church. One significant change in a changing Church is a change in focus to empower all members of the Church to serve God. The simple truth about empowerment is that it happens when there is space created, to use the common adage, to teach others to fish. Such change invariably creates tension that needs reconciling – which involves stepping back to see how we can best follow Jesus in our ministries. Last year, we engaged in this kind of discernment when we did not back-fill two staff positions during an ongoing staffing assessment.
The financial crisis of 2008 created awareness that change had to be reconciled on the expense side of the Diocesan balance sheet – administrative expenses had outpaced our income, potentially impacting expansion of mission and congregational development. Thanks to a few years of thoughtful work by Diocesan Council and my finance staff, the number of stipendiary, part-time and full-time positions has been reduced to levels sustainable by our current income in a way that has been sensitive to the needs of our people. An issue of ongoing discernment for the Diocese is how we can effectively serve you, our parishes and our communities with fewer staff at Diocesan House. These changes have challenged us to think about how to best use our current resources to carry out the mission of the Diocese: to grow our congregations spiritually, missionally and numerically.
To explore this challenge, the Budget Committee of Diocesan Council engaged to complete a staffing assessment over the course of eighteen months. I thank you for your patience over this season of discernment allowing us to do the thoughtful work of assessing where we are, where we want to be and how we could get there. The Staffing Assessment Committee studied other dioceses of similar size in the Northeast region of the US, received job description summaries for all existing positions of Diocesan staff, and met with bishop, diocesan staff, Human Resource Committee representatives, Deans, clergy leaders, and leaders and members of Diocesan Council sub-committees. Please join me in sincerely thanking these dedicated leaders for their thoughtful work: Ms. Gwen Van Laeken, Mr. Scott Seabridge, The Rev. Sara D’Angio White, The Rev. Lance Robbins, The Rev. Paul Frolick, with the support of: Mr. Todd Rubiano (CFO) and Ms. Libby Bakken (Chair of the HR Committee). We are truly blessed to have such dedicated and inspiring leaders serving among us.
Based on concerns that were raised thoughtfully with a focus on parish support, the staffing assessment revealed a few significant findings:
- It was encouraging to hear that perception of Diocesan staff is that they are doing good work that is valued and the overall feedback was positive in tone and spirit.
- It was noted that significant staffing reductions have already taken place over the past ten years
- Year-over-year budget reductions have resulted in limitation on maintainingstaffing at previous levels
- These reductions have also taken some toll on diocesan staff as they continue to do diligent work.
The assessment also helped us clarify our needs:
- Clear need for relational hospitality and connectivity at the first portal either physically or on the phone
- Need for dedicated operations management of Diocesan House and Diocesan Administration overall
- Free up the bishop and canon from administrative burdens so they can focus on building beloved community and nurturing the growth of congregations and missions
After significant engagement in analysis, technical reviews with Human Resource experts and after prayerful discernment, we have come to a few conclusions as a way to move forward. These conclusions include not making any new hires and not letting go of any of our valued staff, but to redefine priorities.
Two positions are changing to specifically address hospitality and operations needs. Going forward, Kristy Estey will serve as Diocesan Operations and Benefits Manager. Carolyn McConnell will move into a new position to provide Diocesan Hospitality and Leadership Support. These changes will become effective October 1, 2015. In addition, the Deans will assume an increased and intentional pastoral leadership role with clergy in their districts. Other organizational changes were made to improve coordination of functions and optimize accountability.
For clergy in our parishes, this should mean greater access to diocesan pastoral resources. In the office, these role changes will help ensure the staff can address the myriad priorities of a bishop’s staff as a well-organized team. We want everyone in the Diocese to know that we are present and working hard to carry out our collective mission. We are here to serve God, you, and one another.
Again, please accept our heartfelt gratitude for your feedback and patience, pray for us as we live and move into these changes, and please give us gracious feedback when there are gaps. We are united as your diocesan staff and are ready to live into these new roles as your fellow servants in Christ!
The Rt. Rev. Prince G. Singh
VIII Episcopal Bishop in Rochester, N.Y.