Transforming congregations requires changing the roles of leaders. Leaders need to be like gardeners, cultivating the ground to develop rich soil in which plants will thrive and grow.
Clergy Cohorts are essential for the formation of these leaders, by providing a space where they can cultivate thought, prayer, and dialogue about what is happening in their ministry. Their meetings are grounded in scripture through Dwelling in the Word.
Clergy Cohorts develop shared spiritual practices. This is sacramental work – holding one another in the presence of the holy each day.
Another purpose is developing leadership skills and capacities. This is the core question on which clergy participants spend much of their time in the Going Local process:
What primary leadership challenges do I face for which I do not have an answer
but must address if I am to lead this congregation into missional transformation?
With the help of a Leader 360 survey, clergy receive rich feedback in four key areas – character, cultivating people, forming a missional environment and culture, and engaging context – discern one or two challenges, develop an action plan, and design experiments to test out what they have discovered about themselves.
There are sixteen clergy participating in two cohorts. Some of them have congregations in the Going Local process, and others have chosen to participate for their own professional development. They meet monthly with a peer facilitator and quarterly with a consultant from The Missional Network. The next scheduled quarterly gathering is June 10.
The first group of clergy are winding down their work, and although a few have or are moving out of the area, there is a sense the others will continue to meet, because they have bonded as a group.
Participants in the first Clergy Cohort are: Beth Rauen Sciaino (now in the Diocese of New Jersey); David DeSmith (St. David's, Kinnelon); Diane Rhodes (St. Andrew's, Harrington Park); Sheelagh Clark (St. Stephen's, Millburn); Julian Eibin (St. John's, Ramsey); Stephen Rozelle (Christ Church, Pompton Lakes); and Keith Gentry (Peer Facilitator/Coach).
The second Clergy Cohort are sharing their leadership autobiographies with each other and will soon develop an action plan for addressing their challenges.
Participants in the second Clergy Cohort are: Briggett Keith (Holy Trinity, Hillsdale); Erik Soldwedel (Christ Church, Harrison/Newark ACTS); Margaret Otterburn, (Church of the Messiah, Chester); Paul Olsson (St. Paul's, Morris Plains); Elizabeth Wigg Maxwell (St. Peter's, Livingston); Susan Sica (St. Gregory's, Parsippany; Bill Allport (St. Paul's, Englewood); Vicki McGrath (All Saints', Millington); Willie Smith (Trinity, Cliffside Park); and Sheelagh Clarke (Peer Facilitator/Coach)
The Clergy Cohorts provide a safe space for clergy to be vulnerable and deepen relationships. They function as both a support group and a learning community. This helps clergy imagine, dream, and envision a new future. Some are experiencing a renewed sense of call and vocation.
If you would like to learn more about participation in a Clergy Cohort, or would like more information so that you can encourage your clergy to consider the process, please contact the Rev. Ginny Dinsmore, Coordinator for Missional Church Strategy, at firstname.lastname@example.org.