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Dispatches from the "Joining God" journey: Meet our coaches

R-l: Action Learning Team Coaches Peter Jackson, Paul Bolles-Beaven and Valyrie Laedlein talk with Suzanne Willian and Alan Roxburgh. NINA NICHOLSON PHOTO
Suzanne Willian

The Diocese of Newark is blessed with a talented group of coaches who are also great leaders. They are guiding diocesan teams towards joining God in our neighborhoods and communities and better understanding the challenges we face on this journey. Read on to meet our diocesan coaches and learn about the different roles in which they serve.

Action Learning Team Coaches

Action Learning is an approach to problem-solving that involves a small team working on real problems and learning both as individuals and as a team. The team engages a significant, urgent challenge for which we presently do not have an answer, but which we must address, if we are to live into God’s future.

The Action Learning Coach helps the team to reflect on what they are learning and how they are solving problems. Coaches provide a creative and safe space for the team and encourage effective questioning and reflective listening. Wrestling with right questions builds group cohesiveness and generates innovative thinking.

Paul Bolles-Beaven

Three years ago, Paul retired from the Union Square Hospitality group in New York City where he acted as the Chief People Officer. In that role, he was responsible for the hiring, training and development, and promotion of restaurant staff. In addition to coaching an Action Learning Team in the diocese, Paul is pursuing professional executive coaching certification and serving on the vestry at Church of the Holy Innocents in West Orange where his wife Anne is rector.

“At the beginning of this process, we were basically strangers. There is an intimacy that has developed among us from talking about these things. It’s been a transforming exercise.” – Paul Bolles-Beaven

Nancy Harwood

Nancy, a former warden at Christ Church in Short Hills, spent much of her career at J.P. Morgan and then JPMorgan Chase where she led HR for investment bank. Presently, Nancy is a Principal with the Boda Group, a leadership development firm. She works with leaders and teams to assess their capabilities, envision their potential, strengthen relationships, build practical skills, increase engagement, and operate more effectively.

 “There is something in the Biblical word that speaks to us each time we come together.” – Nancy Harwood

Peter Jackson

The Venerable Peter Jackson is an active member of our diocese. In addition to coaching an Action Learning Team, he chairs the Commission on Ministry’s Committee of the Diaconate, serves as clergy at Holy Trinity Episcopal Church in West Orange, and is the Archdeacon for Witness/Transition and Process. Peter spent much of his career at the United Nations and lectured at Columbia University’s School of Professional Studies.

 “I came across a poem by Wendell Berry that speaks to the nature of this work:

“It may be that when we no longer know what to do
We have come to our real work,
And that when we know longer know which way to go
We have come to our real journey.
The mind that is not baffled is not employed.
The impeded stream is the one that sings.”

– Peter Jackson

Valyrie Laedlein

Valyrie spent the bulk of her professional career at Community Resource Exchange (CRE), a nonprofit consulting firm that provides the strategies and tools needed to build sustainable, high-performing organizations that improve people’s lives and drive social change. She recently founded her own firm and is working with non-profit organizations in areas of strategic planning, organizational development, and board effectiveness. Valyrie is the Senior Warden at St. George’s in Maplewood.

“We are challenging ourselves to do some thinking and sharing about what kind of spiritual awakening we seek, and where and in what we have found it.” – Valyrie Laedlein

Going Local

Going Local invites clergy and congregations on a journey together that forms and develops relationships with God, each other, and neighbors through concrete actions. In this process we are blessed to have volunteers who are Congregational Coaches and Clergy Cohort Coaches.

Going Local Congregational Coaches

Congregational coaches work “behind the scenes” to support, guide, challenge, and journey along with congregations into and through missional transformation. They meet with Guiding Teams from congregations on a regular basis and check-in with Guiding Team leaders frequently. In addition to providing resources and answering procedural questions, they help leaders and teams to reflect upon what they are learning and design next steps.

Coaches Deborah Drake and Kathy Seabrook and our diocesan Coordinator for Missional Church Strategy, Ginny Dinsmore, receive training from John McLaverty of The Missional Network (TMN) as part of the Going Local process they began in March of 2014. Their learning community recently grew to include a new coach, Ken Boccino.

Ken Boccino

Ken serves as Deacon at St. George’s Maplewood, where he is involved in the healing ministry and outreach, focusing on opportunities to serve in the community. He is a member of the Board of Trustees for First Friends, an organization which is an advocate for and provides support to immigrant detainees and asylum seekers. Ken works in Information Technology, as a Process Improvement Lead for Novartis.

“To me, the role (congregational coach) rings "diaconal ministry" and I do enjoy working with different congregations in the Diocese.” – Ken Boccino

Deborah Drake

Formerly Director of the Passaic County Department of Health, Deborah is a Health Officer and has a Master's Degree in Public Administration. Deborah is a Deacon serving as Pastoral Administrator at St. Agnes' in Little Falls. She is also active in Diocesan affairs such as The Resolutions Committee and Marge Christie Fund. She has served as a member of Diocesan Council and Archdeacon for Administration. Deborah has been a Guiding Team Coach for nearly three years.

“The surprise is that God is everywhere; on the supermarket line; at motor vehicle and yes, in church.” – Deborah Drake

Kathy Seabrook

Kathy is a management consultant, international keynote speaker, seminar/workshop presenter, leadership trainer, author, facilitator and strategic planner in the field of global environmental, health and safety (EHS) management and developing global leadership fluency. Kathy worships at St. Mark’s Basking Ridge. She was a member of the Mission Strategy Committee, one of the first steps in our diocesan journey to join God’s work in our neighborhoods and has been part of the Going Local process as congregational coach for three years.

“Our culture teaches us that plans are good, and to be organized is a highly regarded skill to get things done. But the Going local journey is about being, not doing. Living into the tension of ambiguity is not easy but that it where we open up a space to listen to what God up to.” – Kathy Seabrook

Going Local Clergy Cohort Coaches

Our clergy coaches guide and challenge peers as they address key issues and leadership challenges facing clergy in the 21st century. These coaches support clergy through their individual adaptive challenge work, facilitate monthly meetings, and are co-learners on the journey. They work with a consultant, John McLaverty, on their facilitation skills and in developing ongoing agenda and resourcing of clergy.

Sheelagh Clarke

Sheelagh was called to serve as Rector of St Stephen’s in September of 2011, two days after Hurricane Irene caused almost $300,000 of damage to St. Stephen’s Church and Preschool. Prior to attending seminary at The General Seminary in NYC, and her ordination in 2005, Sheelagh was a high school educator and Inspector of schools in the UK. Sheelagh is passionate about our diocesan journey. She and St. Stephen’s were in the first group of Going Local congregations.

“The process offers a lens through which to see our work as leaders. It gives me time to step out to be at the meeting, do the readings, time to reflect, watch what’s happening and analyze.” – Sheelagh Clarke

Keith Gentry

Keith serves as rector at St. Michael's in Wayne. He has a rich history in administration, liturgy, pastoral care and a deep sense of local and global mission. He was a certified Radiology Technologist and trained as a Physician Assistant before answering the call to the priesthood. Like many of our coaches, Keith is active in diocesan life. In addition to coaching, Keith serves as a coordinator for New Start, an orientation program for clergy new to our diocese.

“When the group came together and began to share, I learned that this process is a deeper commitment faith-wise than people perceive.” – Keith Gentry