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


Dear Friends,

I want to take a few minutes to talk with you about the diocesan staff, particularly about the Diocesan Deans. We have very good people serving us, and I want to make clear that what follows is not a critique of anyone’s work.

The Diocesan Deans program was created by Bishop Singh to do two things: 1) to provide necessary services to our parishes, and 2) to create an opportunity for leadership development by offering diocesan clergy the chance to develop leadership skills through diocesan ministry. There were four Diocesan Dean positions: Transition Ministry, Ministry Discernment and Formation, Small Church Development, and Youth and Liturgy. Each Diocesan Dean continued in his or her parish ministry and served the diocese one day a week. The diocesan service was proposed for a term of three years, after which new Deans would be appointed.

It’s been my experience that the system has not worked as well as intended. The chief complaint is that the diocesan work takes more than one day a week, and either parish work or diocesan work suffers. One day a week is simply not enough time. The Diocesan Deans have called it their “sixth-day” job. Secondly, there is a learning curve to diocesan work, and all the Diocesan Deans have testified that it took them a year or more to learn the ropes of their position. Lastly, the process of transition to new Diocesan Deans will lead to considerable turmoil both at the diocesan level and in several parishes and a resulting lag in services to the parishes of the diocese.

The original term for the Diocesan Deans ends on September 30, and it’s my intention to let the program sunset. There is currently no Dean for Youth and Worship, and I will look for a different way to lead youth work. I have asked the Rev. Virginia Tyler Smith to serve as half-time Transition Officer for the diocese, beginning on October 1. She will be stepping down as rector of Honeoye Falls at the end of this month. I have greatly reduced expectations concerning Ministry Discernment and Formation and have asked the Rev. Debs Duguid-May to continue with that work as Discernment and Formation Officer. I have asked the Rev. Johnnie Ross to serve the diocese as Chaplain to the Retired. We will continue to support small churches through the work of all the staff and the College for Congregational Development. I am grateful to Virginia, Debs, and Johnnie for their flexibility.

It’s my belief that our greatest need at this time is help in recruiting new clergy for our parishes. Currently, 11 of our parishes have no resident priest. This adjustment in staffing will permit us to work more effectively with parishes seeking clergy and provide greater support. We are in a time of a significant clergy shortage, so I’m not expecting miracles, but I do think that Transition Ministry is where we need to focus our attention. The Diocesan Council is aware of these changes and is developing the 2023 budget along these lines.

There will no doubt be a time of adjustment to this new staff arrangement. If you have questions or concerns, please be in touch.