What Does Province II Do For Me?
Some time ago, a clergy member in a role of diocesan leadership asked me, “What does Province II do for my Church?” As a member of Provincial Council, I had just shared that I was headed off to a meeting in Newark. Currently preparing to head to another meeting in October, I was reminded of that question. It seemed that if a clergy leader needed that answer, then so did many others.
First, the basics: The Episcopal Church is divided into nine geographically-based provinces. Ours, Province II, includes New York, New Jersey, Haiti, the US Virgin Islands, and the Churches in Europe. The Province serves as a place for regional networking and cooperation. The Province hosts a meeting in the spring prior to General Convention, our church-wide governing body, which meets every three years. The next General Convention is in 2015. The Provincial Synod previews important issues expected to be considered helping to optimize our legislative time.
We are in a time of rethinking the effectiveness of our various leadership structures in the Episcopal Church at all levels. This promises to be “the” issue in 2015. Because the provincial structure may well be affected by any changes made, we see this as an opportune time to examine what we do effectively and, given the limited resources we all have, how we can better focus our efforts. To begin that process, we met earlier this year to set priorities, and subcommittees have met to prepare for our upcoming meeting. Following that meeting I will have specifics to share.
“What does Province do for me?” is the question I believe to be worth focusing on before the meeting. I invite your comments before the meeting on October, 11th.
It might not be apparent to every church and diocese, but much is going on. The province provides the vehicle for effective networking, for developing replicable programs, and for supporting conferences to share “best practices” in various areas of Christian development, mission and leadership at the parochial and diocesan level. Cooperating effectively, efficiently, and economically beyond our dioces can help us all in times when resources are tight.
Conversely, doing it in ways that are less than effective can be frustrating. I was elected at the 2012 Synod. At the first meeting after General Convention 2012, we started some serious self-examination. There were more than 20 networks, some very active and visible, others less so. Frankly I was completely unaware of some of these networks despite being involved in leadership in the Church for many years.
We intend to focus provincial efforts more toward those that have been effective and active and to those that we see as being in line with the “marks of mission” that the Episcopal Church has embraced. We all agreed that doing a few things well trumps doing many things cosmetically or to make us feel that we are “covering all the bases”.
While the Provincial Council engages these issues seriously, I would ask you to consider the question, “What does Province II do for me?” I am sure you can guess how John F. Kennedy might respond to this.
We are members not only of our parishes but also of our dioceses and the larger Episcopal Church and indeed, The Christian Community. What we experience, we can choose to experience alone. The problems we solve, we can choose to solve alone. I would contend that it is not how Christ intends us to act or to live. We are called to live in community at every level of the Church. We need to share our successes and our mistakes. The provincial structure provides us one vehicle to share, to teach, and to learn, so that our successes are magnified and our struggles are less burdensome.
Visit http://www.province2.org and read our newsletter, “In Prov 2”, all issues of which can be found in the newsletter tab on that homepage.
I invite your prayers for the entire council as we meet in October.
Neil D. Houghton
St. John’s Episcopal Church, Honeoye Falls
The Episcopal Diocese of Rochester