Today’s post is another in a series of reflections and impressions from members of the Search & Nomination Committee and Transition Committee. This post is from the Rev. Deacon Dorothy “Ricky” Brightman, a member of the Transition Committee. Visit www.episcopalrisearch.org for more Search Process updates
My church, St. Luke’s in East Greenwich, is also in a time of transition. As we search for a new rector, a sizable group of parishioners is working diligently to define, solidify and enrich our parish ministry – and identify a new leader. The time spent on this transition process often confuses non-Episcopalians, who assume that a new priest will simply be assigned or “rotated in.” They don’t understand that this is a shared endeavor as we struggle and work to build a new church – a new diocese – built on the strengths of the past and the needs of the future. It is important that many are involved and all are knowledgeable about what is going on. When done well, this wonderful process will bring all parts of the parish (and diocese) together in a process of discernment, preparation and waiting.
We have welcomed Bishop David Joslin to our original “Transition Team,” as well as other friends throughout the diocese who have volunteered to work on specific tasks. Our geography is different as well as our worship style, size of church and past experience in diocesan programs. We all don’t sound like Rhode Islanders and certainly don’t share the same snack-food preferences. We represent all of Rhode Island and, as such, will effectively be able to welcome a new bishop into our midst and work to make the pathway straight for her or him. We have even found that it is not difficult to drive over one or two or three bridges to get to a meeting – or travel as effectively from west to east as we usually do from north to south!
Sure, it might be more efficient and easier to accept a new assigned leader or one chosen by a small group of selected and knowing individuals. But that is not the Episcopal Way — as the Rev. Casey Shobe described in his musings a couple of months ago. We are not searching for a CEO to work for and manage the diocese; just as St Luke’s is not looking for a new priest who will take over, solve all problems and move us into the future.
As we watch and wait this Advent, we sit still and listen and pray. Necessary specific tasks will be done, the Search & Nomination Committee will become more intensely involved with its work, and the Transition Committee will anticipate and plan for the fruits of its labor.
One of the blessings of the long search and transition process is the gift of time – time to develop our listening skills, time for everyone to have a chance to be heard. As we listen to others, we learn more about the diocese and also about ourselves. Soon we will learn more about our cast of candidates. It is rare in this hurried world that we have the time to listen to each other, ask real questions and share the voice of the Spirit moving among us. This process for both the parish and diocese is truly worthwhile, and the groundwork we lay down through our discussion and deliberation will build a strong future for us all.