On Being Included in the Creative Process

We are all leaders. We’re all used to being the ones leading the meeting, coming up with the ideas, and fostering and supporting the ideas of those on our leadership teams.

What this means is that sometimes when we are included in the creative process for something large and exciting – and we didn’t come up with the idea, and we’re not leading the meeting – that it can naturally be a little strange, and a little awkward.

Further, some of us think in very concrete ways, and others of us think in very fluid and flexible ways. Both are incredibly necessary for our beautiful and diverse church to function. After all, creative problem solvers aren’t always the best administrators, and linear thinkers aren’t always the best when it comes to brainstorming new ways forward.

So when we are being invited to participate in the creative process of making something new, we might be doing the thing we love most, and are the best at. And we might be doing something we find a bit stressful.

However, when we come into the process matters as well. Think about it:

We can come in toward the beginning of the process or toward the end. Both options have positives and negatives.

When we’re invited in at the beginning of a creative process – maybe not at the exact start, maybe we weren’t in the room when the idea was first conceived of, but it’s still early days – then we have the beauty and honor of being the people who come up with all the ideas. We have a chance to put our two cents in and make it even better than it might have been, even more useful to us and the people we represent.

The downside of coming in at the beginning of the process is that it can be messy. Nothing is certain. If it will even work is uncertain. It might be hard to explain to others because we have a lot of question that we don’t yet have answers for. And we know exactly what those questions are, because we’ve been asking them ourselves.

Sometimes if we try to explain where we are in the process to other people when it’s still early days, we can seem like we don’t have all our ducks in a row. And the truth is, we don’t. We’re still figuring out what ducks we need to have, much less to try to get them to all stand in a line.

So it might seem like coming in later in the process would be infinitely preferable. But coming in later has its pros and cons as well.

On the upside, later in the process it’s so much easier to explain it to other people! We can show them the glossy pictures of what it will look like, the architect’s rendering, the budget, the price points, the height of the bell tower, the exactly symmetry of the curve to the walkway, and an idea of who is going to pay for it all. When we come in later in the process, all of our ducks are in a row. We have numbers, statistics, pie charts, success rates, incomes, expenses, staffing plans, timelines, and lists upon lists of who is going to be responsible for what.

This is the stuff of Annual Meetings, and it can be very impressive.

What we don’t get when we come in later in the process is a hand in the pot. We don’t get a say. We weren’t consulted, our opinions weren’t required, and so our own viewpoints, and the viewpoints of our constituencies, weren’t reflected in the plan.

So that’s where we are.

When we’re brought in earlier, it’s messier and there are questions everywhere, but we get a say in what happens, we can change the very course of the project, and even exercise the power to veto it if it seems apocalyptically bad.

When we’re brought in later, it’s clean, clear, beautiful, and easy to present, and it’s also already a done deal which we are being asked to vote upon, or ratify.

We can have one, or the other, but not both. We can have a hand in the creation of a new thing, or we can have the calm certainty of exactly what it’s going to look like, but not both.

Our bishops, in their wisdom, have chosen to bring us in on the beginning of this process. Oh, they went through all the proper channels first to make sure it could be done and they weren’t violating a canon somewhere. And once the proper people said, ‘Sure, maybe, but what’s it going to look like?’ then they turned to us.

It was presented to the clergy at a joint overnight. It was the main topic of conversation. Would the clergy take one look at the idea and veto it immediately? That was an option. They didn’t. They said, en masse, ‘Sounds interesting. I’m not totally convinced. Let’s keep going. Also, here are my list of questions.’

The feeling at the end of the overnight was a tentative hopefulness.

A group of clergy and laity from both dioceses gathered together for an intense two-day session, let by an expert. They came out with seventy pages of questions, which was exactly what we needed from them. Did they at that time come to a consensus that this was a terrible idea and we should scrap it immediately? Not at all. They came up with seventy pages of questions about all that needed to be considered going forward. The feeling at the end of the two-day session was a tentative hopefulness. Now this idea is going to each diocesan convention – WNY in October, NWPA in November. Do we have a resolution to vote on and debate? No. Why?

Because we don’t need one. It’s totally normal and reasonable, and part of our canons, to have a bishop of one diocese become the provisional bishop of another for some set period of time. Happens all the time.

So why are we giving this so much intense thought and treating it like it’s a new process? Because what we’re considering isn’t just a bishop of one diocese fulfilling an administrative role on an ad hoc basis.

What we’re really considering is this: could we really be such good friends and neighbors, one diocese to another, could we be involved in such similar ministry to such similar communities, could we discover such similar new avenues of ministry and outreach that it would just make more sense to share a bishop and a bishop’s staff?  Would it make more sense to have some joint committees? A joint convention? What we’re not doing is this: we’re not talking about combining two dioceses into one.

First, that’s a nightmare of red tape at the state level. And the few dioceses who do span across state lines were grandfathered into such red tape issues because the dioceses came before the state lines.

Second, we don’t need to have a combined diocese to be such good friends and neighbors, to participate in such similar ministry to such similar communities, to even share a bishop and a bishop’s staff.

Look at Stafford and LeRoy. Look at Burt and Wilson. They are individuals parishes with individual identities – and shared ministries, and shared leadership.

So that’s where we are: in the beginning of a creative process that builds on what is already allowable and normal in our church, but which may be a beautiful creative solution that takes us into the future with confidence and faith.

The Rev. Sare Anuszkiewicz is a priest in the Diocese of Western New York where she serves at Trinity, Warsaw.

Courage, Compassion, Connection

Clergy conferences are different everywhere you go. Diocesan culture changes from one region to another. Some groups can’t wait to be together: everyone knows each other and is friendly and helpful. Other places are so big or full of competition or conflict that going into a conference makes everyone wary about what might happen. I have been in the Diocese of Northwestern Pennsylvania just over a year now. I have been to three clergy conferences and each one has been different from the last. Last year, the clergy met with the clergy of the Diocese of Pittsburgh at Antiochian Village. In the spring, we met by ourselves at Olmstead Manor, and last week, we met with the clergy of the Diocese of Western New York at Chautauqua. I have been nervous going into each one, not knowing what to expect or anything about the location, and knowing that I wouldn’t know half the people in attendance. Of the three of them, this last one was the best. Even though I only knew my colleagues in NWPA, there was never the sense of being an outsider or a newbie. There was a friendly attitude throughout the conference. It was interesting because as much as any of us thought we knew what was going to happen, there were surprises for all of us along the way.

Bishop Sean Rowe and Bishop Bill Franklin brought together the clergy of their dioceses to make a suggestion and gather our input on the idea. The idea is a rather radical one, especially currently given the Episcopal Church’s history of autonomy and continual splitting up into more dioceses. The idea is as the letter from the Executive Committees stated it, that when Bishop Franklin retires (announcing his retirement date of April 3, 2019) the Diocese of Western New York vote Bishop Rowe as the Provisional Bishop for five years and see what the dioceses can do together in the next five years.

Now I have to own my own baggage. I realized at this conference that my entire ordained life (all three and half years of it), I have been canonically resident (priest-speak for which diocese we belong to) in a diocese sharing a bishop. I was ordained the day after Bishop Sean was approved as the Provisional Bishop of Bethlehem and then transferred to the Diocese of Northwestern Pennsylvania. During that time I worked in the Diocese of East Tennessee as a seminarian and in the Diocese of Texas as a curate, two very different dioceses. What I have noticed though is that the effort of collaboration and innovation of working together and sharing resources between the Diocese of Bethlehem and the Diocese of Northwestern Pennsylvania has had good and lasting effects for the people of both dioceses.

We considered the idea to the best of our ability. There is always vulnerability with thinking about something new and innovative and being able to face that and express it is helpful for everyone instead of getting defensive or fighting about aspects of the idea. We considered it with all the wisdom we were able to muster… and probably a little extra thrown in by the Holy Spirit. We took an idea seriously which hasn’t been tried before, because we know what a difference it might make, not only to our dioceses, but also to the national and international church. Things we do and learn and try and experiment with may someday revolutionize the way the church works. We don’t know what the future holds exactly. What we do know is that we want the Episcopal Church to be a part of it. Adaptation and innovation will help us get there.

What I saw was Brene Brown’s gifts of imperfection at work. I saw courage, in facing a new and scary idea. I saw compassion, for each other in the face of what might have to change in order for the idea to work. I saw connection, as we talked through how we might work together for God’s kingdom. I saw excitement for something that brings us together and progresses the kingdom of heaven. I saw acknowledgement that kingdom work ain’t so easy. I saw grief at the impending loss of a good bishop and a relationship which will be changing.

Yet, we also acknowledged that we know our future is going to require working together with other people and groups. We have to model this for those in our future. Seeing us work together, with those like us and those who are not like us will make a huge difference to how well the Episcopal Church weathers the years. The details of how we do this are important and many would argue they are the crux of the matter. I would say that the heart of the matter is the love which God has given us as a gift to share. Working from a place of love and unity, as does our Trinitarian God, we can make all things work together for good with those who love God. (Philippians 4:13)

I don’t always like being stuck in a windowless room for long periods of time listening to someone else talk, more or less simply because I like looking out windows. Yet, what happened in that low beige windowless room was much more remarkable than what it would have seemed. We walked into that room not knowing what was going to happen, simply we knew we had been brought together by God and our bishops to work together… and what we started was looking at a very intentional bonding together of people who can work, share, and play together. It was good to see people who don’t really know each other being vulnerable together and working together and thinking about something new together. It was good to meet new people who could be resources for each other and support for each other in different ways. I don’t know where it will lead, but I’m looking forward to exploring the future together.

The Rev. Elizabeth Yale is Priest-in-Charge of St. John’s Church, Franklin. 

Registration for Convention 2017 Now Open

 

Registration for Courage and Collaboration in Christian Community: Diocesan Convention 2017 is now open.

Convention will be held November 10-11 at the Bayfront Convention Center in Erie and is being hosted by St. Mark’s, Erie.  A full schedule and other convention information can be found on our website.

As part of our ongoing conversation about collaboration and innovation in the church, we will be welcoming the Rt. Rev. William Franklin and a large contingent from the Diocese of Western New York.  This convention will be very mission-focused and the schedule reflects that.  The Rev. Canon Scott Slater, of the Diocese of Maryland, will help us continue exploration of our future through a program relating to shared ministry, both on the diocesan and congregational levels, using the work of Brené Brown.  To learn more about our program, you can revisit this blog post.

On the schedule you can see that we will have an open house on Thursday, November 9, from 7:00 PM-9:00 PM at St. Mark’s in place of the usual hospitality suite.  As many of you know, St. Mark’s recently underwent major renovations, due in part to a grant from the diocese, so they could continue growing their mission and ministry.  They are holding the open house as a thank you to the diocese for assisting in their work.  All are invited to attend.

Please also note the two pre-convention meetings.  The first will be held on October 10th at 7:00 PM at Christ Church, Meadville.  The second will be held on October 12th at 6:00 PM at St. John’s, Kane.  All are welcome to attend the pre-conventions.  We will be talking more about the process of exploring a shared future with the Diocese of Western New York so that all are fully informed prior to convention.

We urge our clergy and delegates to come ready to engage in our conversations. Please do not use the condensed business time as an excuse to not attend the entire convention.  The work that we will be doing at the convention, though not the conventional business, will be setting the table for the future of our diocese. We would also encourage those laypeople who are not delegates but who are interested in being a part of this conversation, to please join us as well.  We will have plenty of space for those who would like to join us and we would love to have you there.

Exploring Our Future

September 22, 2017

Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ:

Last weekend at a meeting of the clergy of the Dioceses of Western New York and Northwestern Pennsylvania, Bishop Franklin announced that he will retire on April 3, 2019, as required by the canons of the Episcopal Church. His letter, which you can read here, says he has returned from sabbatical “full of energy and ideas that we will explore together over that time.” Chief among those ideas, as we discussed with the clergy of both dioceses, is the possibility of our dioceses sharing a future.

At our upcoming diocesan conventions, we will propose that we spend the next year convening discussions among leaders across our region about how we might create more opportunity for mission by working together. This process will culminate in October 2018, when our dioceses plan to meet together for a joint convention in Niagara Falls.

If our discussions in the next year are fruitful, as we hope they will be, we would anticipate that in 2018, the Diocese of Western New York would elect Bishop Rowe as its bishop provisional for five years beginning in April 2019, when Bishop Franklin retires. During the first three years of the partnership, our two dioceses would work together to deepen our relationships and develop shared mission priorities. In October 2021, we would re-evaluate the partnership and then, in October 2024, decide whether we wanted to continue it beyond the five-year mark.

In proposing a partnership between our dioceses, we are not seeking simply to save money, although we believe that will be possible, and we are not aiming just to share a bishop. We believe that our dioceses have complementary strengths and challenges, and that together we are well suited to respond to God’s call in our region. Our communities share an industrial past, a Rust Belt culture, and a love for the natural beauty of the Lake Erie watershed, and our congregations are home to resilient people who know that by working together and staying focused on mission, we can weather uncertain times and a changing church.

Between now and our conventions—October 27 and 28 in Western New York and November 10-11 in Northwestern Pennsylvania—we hope that you will join us in praying about the opportunity we have before us and thinking about your hopes, concerns, and questions. We look forward to being together soon and to embarking on this year of discernment about the future that God has in store for the people of both our dioceses.

Faithfully,

The Rt. Rev. R. William Franklin                               The Rt. Rev. Sean W. Rowe
Bishop of Western New York                                     Bishop of Northwestern Pennsylvania

James Isaac                                                                    Jack Malovich
President, Standing Committee                                 President, Standing Committee
Diocese of Western New York                                    Diocese of Northwestern Pennsylvania

Promoting Diocesan Collaboration

By our own Fr. Adam Trambley and reprinted from the ‘House of Deputies News.’

Image via EpiscopalChurch.org

Image via EpiscopalChurch.org

I believe that the most important “sleeper issue” coming before General Convention this year is diocesan collaboration. A number of resolutions could open important doors to allowing our struggling dioceses to gain more traction in their crucial work.

The various creative initiatives dioceses have attempted in recent years demonstrate the difficulties some dioceses face in developing a mission strategy and raising the money to pursue it. The election of Sean Rowe as Bishop Provisional of Bethlehem, even as he continues the bishop of Northwestern Pennsylvania is but one example of the ways different dioceses are trying to adapt.  These ecclesiastical experiments to date can be considered the beginning of a coming wave of collaborations for three reasons: the financial situations of small dioceses are likely to get worse before they get better; nothing tried so far has proven to an unqualified success; and a number of canonical barriers remain to fuller collaboration.  Hopefully by the end of convention, we will have at least removed some of the canonical barriers.

I was part of a group that wrote two resolutions to facilitate diocesan collaboration: D007, which I proposed, and D003.  These resolutions would enable greater flexibility in diocesan collaboration without requiring anyone to do anything they do not want to do.  Another resolution, C031, would provide financial incentives for diocesan mergers.

D007 would accomplish two objectives.  First, this resolution would allow dioceses to share a commission on ministry.  Current canons provide that each diocese will have its own commission.  Allowing for collaboration in this area seems especially beneficial at a time when more and more dioceses are developing clergy formation programs that differ from a traditional three-year Master of Divinity, and are developing training and licensure for a variety of lay leadership offices.  Second, this resolution would allow bishops to serve in more than one diocese.  Current canons require a bishop to reside in his or her diocese. D007 would allow a Standing Committee to consent to a bishop residing in another diocese where that bishop is also serving.  This solution seems the most straightforward way to eliminate the only current barrier to bishops serving more than one diocese at a time.  This resolution would still require each diocese to have its own standing committees and finance committees, which seems necessary as long as the dioceses remain independent corporations.

D003 would amend the constitution to allow for diocesan mergers when a diocese does not have a bishop.  Article V of the church’s constitution currently requires that dioceses without a bishop wait until they elect one before moving ahead with a merger.  This requirement would seem counter-intuitive, however.  The time when a diocese is without a bishop may be the best moment to consider a merger with a neighboring diocese.  Consent of General Convention and approval by the Executive Council would still be required, however, so this change does not create an unduly hasty process.  Note that resolution A101 accomplishes as similar goal, but only when a Bishop Provisional is in place in a diocese.  D003 provides for the Ecclesiastical Authority, which may be a bishop or the Standing Committee, to allow a merger to move forward.

C031 is a resolution proposed by Province III that would reduce the General Convention Assessment by 50% for one year for dioceses that agree to merge.  This resolution will require some wordsmithing by the legislative Committee on Governance and Structure, but it provides an interesting carrot that might prompt some discussions about inter-diocesan mergers and collaborations.

I would also mention a number of resolutions that discuss the selection process of bishops.  Ensuring we get the best leaders at the diocesan level is extremely important.  The Task Force on Reimagining the Episcopal Church saw a need for the church to look seriously at the role of bishop and proposed A002.  A number of other resolutions deal with various aspects of the episcopacy, and how to ensure that recent selection problems aren’t repeated.  I believe D004, which was written by a group I was a part of, is perhaps the most comprehensive of these resolutions, but whatever comes out of committee should probably be approved.

Adam Trambley, a member of the legislative Committee on Structure, is a clergy deputy from the Diocese of Northwestern Pennsylvania.