Episcopal Diocese of Rochester
Joy in Christ, as a way of life

Wanted: Special Canon for a Special Diocese

By the Very Rev. David Hefling
Co-Chair, CTO Search Committee

When Bishop Singh called me and asked if I would cCo-cChair the Search Committee for the Canon to the Ordinary position, my first thought was of a search I took part in during my time at a state university in Ohio. It wasn’t particularly pleasant. It wasn’t well-defined and it certainly wasn’t timely.

After connecting with the other co-chair, Stan Refermat, it became clear our search could be all these things. Once our committee met for the first time, I knew we would have a positive experience; the makeup of the group was just so inclusive. There was representation from nearly every committee/group in the diocese: Diocesan Council, Standing Committee, Comission on Ministry, a district dean, a newly ordained priest, a long-time priest, a deacon, a lay person recently in a search process, a seminary rep, a diocesan staff member — all there and all very willing to participate and commit to this process. We were presented with a position description, the parameters of the search were set, and the search was opened across the country.

As a committee, our top priorities were how this person would fit the needs of the diocese as it functions today (with 33 of our Parishes being small, family-size places), how this person would interact with and support the needs of our bishop, and timeliness – so that parish searches, in particular, would not be impeded. We set a very aggressive meeting schedule and we stuck to it. Bishop Singh approved the schedule and then stepped back to allow us to do our work.

As I received the packets of information from interested people, they were immediately codified and sent on to the other committee members so that they would have plenty of time to peruse the information. When the search closed, the real work began. Every meeting opened with a prayer for guidance, insight, and patience. No doubt it helped!

We made an informal rating sheet with specific characteristics and qualifications that were essential and began to rate each person – 20 all together – in order to whittle it down to eight and then four. Those four were interviewed via Skype, which is always a treat, considering connectivity or a lack of it, and then there were two! When you select those last two, you have some serious decision making to do. Since there was such a fine line at that point, the group divided to reference and background check and continued the process. Finally, after many steps and many meetings, we decided to bring one candidate to the Diocese for a very full day of meetings and interviews that began with a breakfast and went clear through dinner that evening. Each member of the committee agreed that this candidate is indeed the best one for us in the Diocese of Rochester of those whom we vetted. However, the ultimate decision was Bishop Singh’s and he, too, decided . . . “Yes!”

For me, this was an experience like no other. I was working with a group of people, most of whom I didn’t know well. We were able to bond as colleagues, compromise when the need arose, and go through nearly three months together without there ever having been a hint of discord, anger, or acrimony. Such a big difference from my university days! We were given all the staff support we could possibly need, and along the way, if there were any points of clarification needed, process-wise, we had the benefit of our own past deployment person – Julie Cicora.

I hope the people of our Diocese will take the time to welcome the Rev. Canon Johnnie Ross with open arms and help us move smoothly into yet another new chapter of our life together. Thanks especially to Krista Cameron, Winifred Collin, Andrea Stridiron, Andrew VanBuren, Gwen VanLaeken, Rick Hamlin, Todd Rubiano, Stan Refermat, Carolyn McConnell, and Kristy Estey (whose own top priority was for someone to bring even more joy and more joviality to the diocese.) I think we’ve made it!

The Very Rev. David Hefling, ObJN+