We have just marked the first anniversary of my ministry as your bishop, and for me, marking that date was an opportunity for great thanksgiving. To be a servant leader as your bishop is my deep joy and privilege, and I am so grateful for how far we have already come together.
During the last year, I have visited nearly all of the congregations in our diocese, witnessing your extraordinary ministries and profound expressions of our faith. In these visits, I have sought to listen deeply to how my staff and I can best foster your congregational vitality and support innovative ministry in your communities. With all that you have told me and shown me in mind, I believe we are called to invest in several programs that will help shape our emerging mission strategy and work toward greater congregational vitality.
Along with Pathways to Vitality, our continuing Lilly Endowment-funded project that helps congregations achieve greater financial wellbeing, in 2018 and 2019 we will pilot:
- The College for Congregational Development, a comprehensive training program that will nurture and develop a network of coaches, mentors and consultants from within our own diocese to support thriving and innovative congregations.
- Innovating Ministry Learning Communities, a new opportunity for congregational teams to explore innovative ministry beyond church walls.
- Thriving In Ministry Initiative, a new program that will provide mentors to clergy who are creating non-traditional church communities, which are often called fresh expressions of ministry, and will create curacies, which are mentored positions for clergy who have recently graduated from seminary. We plan to launch this initiative in early 2019; the scale of our initial effort will depend on whether we are successful in seeking grant funding to support the program.
I believe that these initiatives will provide each congregation in our diocese with resources and options to strengthen ministry and mission in every community we serve. To support these new initiatives, today I am beginning a search for a canon to the ordinary for congregational development and leadership. This new position will replace the current position of canon for transition ministries and leadership development, and I hope that I will be able to fill this position by mid-August. I plan to name an interview committee of clergy and lay leaders soon and ask them to assist me in making this call.
I am grateful to Canon Debra Kissinger, who has been canon for transition ministries and leadership development for a decade, for her ministry among us and for her support during the first year of my episcopacy. We will soon plan a time to celebrate Debra’s ministry with us.
As you can imagine, our new congregational development initiatives will keep a new canon very busy! After she or he has joined us, I will ask her or him to begin a search for an associate for transition ministry to concentrate on clergy and congregational transitions and our ministry discernment process, and to assist in congregational development. I expect that we will hire that new person later this year after posting the position in the fall.
Finally, because I want to place a priority on caring for clergy and lay leaders, in the coming months I will appoint a part-time (20 hours/month) missioner for pastoral care. Since this position will be a new venture for our diocese, we will evaluate it after a year to decide if it is an effective way to meet the pastoral needs of our leaders.
I’m glad to report that, thanks to close consultation with leaders on Executive Council and with the support of Canon Brendan O’Sullivan-Hale, this new staffing plan for congregational vitality will come in slightly under our 2018 budget and in line with our projected 2019 budget. By realigning our resources to serve our congregations and their leaders, we can foster congregational vitality while also stewarding our resources wisely.
In the coming weeks, please watch the newsletter for more news about the search for our new canon to the ordinary for congregational development and leadership and about the new congregational vitality initiatives I have outlined above. As we embark on this new phase of our ministry together, I look forward to hearing and seeing more from you about what God is doing in your congregations and communities and how my staff and I can support your ministry and mission.
The Rt. Rev. Jennifer Baskerville-Burrows
Bishop of Indianapolis