Bishop's Writing / Enews May
Dear Friends in Christ,
My letter this month is a grab bag of items for your consideration.
I want to begin with the good news that the celebration of our Lord’s resurrection went very well all across the diocese. Many worshiping communities reported very good attendance, some places approaching or exceeding pre-pandemic levels of attendance. And folks were clearly very happy to be together. I think that, despite the continuing risk of illness, we are hungry for the fellowship and mutual support we receive when we meet in person. We really had a good time at Easter.
The search process for the IX Bishop of Rochester is underway and the Discernment and Nominating Committee is hard at work developing the Profile of the Diocese that will be used to describe who we are and where we want to go as a diocese. The Discernment and Nominating Committee is holding a series of listening sessions to assist in creating the profile. They are being held across the diocese and online. I hope you will take part in one.
The Standing Committee is seeking applications for the other important committee in the Bishop Transition Process and that is the Transition Committee. The Transition Committee picks up the work after the Discernment and Nominating Committee presents a slate to the Standing Committee and diocese. The Transition Committee is responsible for the Presentation of Candidates (the walkabout) and assists with the Electing Convention and the Consecration. The Committee also assists the Bishop-Elect transition to our Diocese. I hope you will consider applying for the Committee.
The survey of Convention Delegates produced a slim majority in favor of an online Diocesan Convention next October. Therefore, that Convention will be held online. Formal notice of the survey will come in a separate announcement.
The Diocesan Council held a workday on May 6, 2023, to consider some necessary changes to our Diocesan budget. This year we received a record number of applications for Congregational Development grants, some quite large. The requests far exceed the available funds. The Council is taking steps to seek additional funding and also to consider a new structure in relation to grants in order to address all of the requests fairly. Decisions about these changes will be part of the budget process and will be shared with applicants for the grants, as well as the whole diocese.
The Council also considered a proposal from me to provide oversight of worshiping communities that don’t have a resident priest and are having difficulty calling one. Such a Regional Minister might serve more than one congregation and would act as a priest in charge and provide oversight for worship, administration, and pastoral care. The hope is that such a position would be temporary, but acknowledges the ongoing difficulty in finding priests to work part-time. Currently, there are about 10 openings for each priest available across the Episcopal Church. The Diocesan Council is setting aside funding in the 2024 budget to support this experiment.
I’ve now completed nearly one complete circuit of the worshiping communities of the diocese. I think there are just one or two congregations I haven’t visited yet. As I meet with you, I am often moved by your commitment to your ministries. The Episcopal Church offers important services in our communities, and we are fervently devoted to our churches. At the same time, I have repeatedly heard your concerns about sustainability. We are concerned about our small core leadership groups, our tight budgets, and the rapidly changing world around us. It is clear that we need to adapt to the new world that is emerging. I think this is the theme for our time and certainly is the backdrop to our search for the IX Bishop.
I am encouraged by the strength of our commitment and our tenacity, and, though we can’t predict the future, I believe we will find ways to adapt. I hope we will embrace an ethos of experimentation, trying new things, and seeing what works in our place. Already we are seeing ourselves more as community centers and considering ways to be present to the community beyond our walls. I believe God is calling us out into the world where God’s people are and that there are new possibilities for us. God walks with us and uses all our efforts for good.