Recognizing that the pandemic is changing the world that congregations occupy and serve more rapidly than ever before, and that challenges to -- and opportunities for -- thriving and serving are also greater than ever, the two Episcopal dioceses in Indiana are collaborating on this project to build parish health by helping them maximize the value of their properties in service to mission. The dioceses are creating a program that integrates diocesan resources that have been successful in igniting congregational thriving, with proven tools, trainings, and resources from partner organizations Partners for Sacred Places and Indiana Landmarks. This collaboration builds healthy, thriving congregations throughout the state of Indiana, able to fully activate their spaces and enliven their buildings in partnership with their communities in a way that is sustainable and generates new resources for parish life. The dioceses also disseminate this project widely so that it can serve as a national model that excites and informs other judicatories across the nation.
The Episcopal Diocese of New York, in collaboration with The General Theological Seminary, launched Episcopal Futures to support 15 congregations of diverse contexts within the diocese that have discerned a call to missional transformation. The project seeks to collaboratively build an Episcopal culture of adaptive leadership, catalyze renewal of congregations, and plant new, imaginative worshiping communities and outreach ministries. The diocesan commitments to participants are to foster collaborative culture, faithful renewal, and radical reconciliation. The diocese employs inter-congregational, three-year learning communities that are equipped with seed funding to launch new ministries as well as simultaneous research and evaluation. Ultimately, the diocese seeks to design, implement, and sustain Episcopal Futures as an initiative that will be a step towards a holistic, energized, and Spirit-led ecosystem for all Episcopalians and their neighbors in the Diocese of New York.
This Thriving Congregations Initiative project offers an opportunity to capture and build on the momentum of a strategic planning process to assess the diocese's current reality, clarify its mission, articulate a vision for the immediate future, and develop strategic goals to accomplish that vision. The strategic planning process demonstrates its capacity and readiness for bold thinking and collaboration and ultimately generated the ideas about how to get there. This initiative seeks to cultivate the changed soil of the diocese so that God’s love might grow in its time and place by welcoming up to 36 congregations in three-year peer learning cohorts staggered over five years. Accompanied by trained coaches, congregational leaders are guided in Christian practices of examining, confessing, discerning, saying yes, and celebrating as they build capacities for adaptive leadership through action and reflection. Congregations clarify mission and vision (year one), plan and equip (year two), and launch and assess (year three). The diocese's hope is that leaders will cultivate relationships marked by vulnerability, honesty, accountability, and partnership as they build skills and capacities to adapt to changing contexts. Congregations learn together about themselves, their neighborhoods, and God’s will for them in this time and place as they experiment with innovative ways to fulfill the diocesan mission to “engage in a changing world with an enduring faith in Jesus Christ so that more people may know God’s love.” Along the way, the diocese strives to strengthen its culture of learning, creativity, and partnership and establish a new Diocesan School for Christian Faith and Leadership to support thriving congregations for years to come.
Through an ongoing commitment to bi-vocational ministry and from conversations with bishops, canons, and other leaders in the Iona Collaborative, the seminary recognized an urgent need to revitalize many Episcopal congregations led by bi-vocational and part-time clergy. To respond, the seminary invited 22 bi-vocational congregations to send three leaders each to join one of two three-year peer learning communities that seek to envision new life in a changing world. With the seminary's guidance and support, including creation of additional online resources, these two peer learning communities become labs for experimenting with traditional spiritual practices. Their churches then implement these practices as tools to understand and embody bi-vocational ministry, discern their core vocations, explore the theological coherence of their mission and values, transform congregational relationships with their wider local communities, and facilitate growth in Christian maturity of individuals and congregations. These bi-vocational congregations thrive in the course of revitalized and reimagined ministries for Christ's service to the world.