Last week I engaged in a Mutual Ministry Review (MMR). Actually, it began a month ago when the Rev. Gay Jennings, President of the House of Deputies for the Episcopal Church, and a long-time consultant with dioceses across the church, came and spent two days having conversations with leaders from around the Diocese of Newark. She talked with 55 people – 23 clergy, 18 laypeople and 14 members of the Episcopal House staff. Some conversations were in groups – the Standing Committee, Trustees, steering committee of Diocesan Council; but most were one-on-ones.
Gay went back home to Ohio to transcribe the responses, and then passed on the 54 pages of unedited, anonymous responses to me. Last week she returned for two days to meet with me, the Episcopal House staff and the Standing Committee to report on the patterns that emerged in the of responses.
What were the patterns? Widespread support for the ministry of the Episcopal House staff, and for me and my ministry. An appreciation for the increased financial transparency of the diocese, and gratitude for the growing commitment of the diocese to be in the business of serving congregations. Trust has grown. There were lots of comments about our Diocesan Convention; that it is more is more relational and focused on mission, and less contentious.
There is a general commitment to becoming more missional – which to me means finding out what God is up to in the world outside the confines of the church, and then discerning how best to join with God in engaging that world – be it our neighborhood, local community or further afield. However, the need was also expressed for the diocese in general – and me in particular, need to provide greater clarity as to what “missional” means and how best to live it out.
There was concern expressed that missional not be the “flavor of the month.” There was also some anxiety expressed about congregations that are struggling financially – and what is the best way to approach this reality.
What did I learn? I am still sorting through the incredibly valuable information that Gay gathered. But what stands out is a growing awareness that we are all in this together. That God is calling me as bishop, and us as diocese, to continue to venture forth more intentionally in mission. The MMR confirmed for me what I had long thought and felt – that there is a deep commitment to God and God’s church in this diocese – and a solidarity and desire to live into the many missional challenges and opportunities that are before us.
Finally, my Mutual Ministry Review confirmed for me the value of the MMR enterprise – and I encourage clergy and vestries to engage in their own.
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