RESOLVED, That this 142nd Convention of the Episcopal Diocese of Newark invite the appropriate diocesan leadership to undertake an exploration of the causes leading up to the closure, combination, or merging of a congregation when such events transpire, for the purpose of publicly sharing their results so that we might better understand and learn from the experience of those communities.
Submitted by: The Rev. Cn. John G. Hartnett, St. Elizabeth’s Church, Ridgewood
The closing or merging of congregations happens from time to time, and while we often celebrate the past ministry of those communities we rarely have an open, probing, and frank public conversation about issues, causes, and circumstances leading to their demise or transformation. Basically, we do fairly good funerals, but if we do any autopsies we rarely publish their results.
The assumption behind this resolution is that we might learn from the experience of congregations which were once able to support themselves, or were founded with that reasonable hope, and somehow found themselves in a position where that was no longer possible. If among our goals is the long term health and growth of congregations, identifying those elements of our life which have proven to work contrary to that goal might be a reasonable course to consider.
And perhaps exploring the challenges which face congregational leaders in challenging situations might be useful input into the conversations and deliberations of the appropriate diocesan leadership. Putting these explorations within the larger context of discernment about our ministry as a Diocese seems more balanced than establishing yet another body for this particular work.