Friday, February 23, 2007

Living Stones: A Gathering to Focus on Total Ministry

On February 17-20, 2007, I was honored to be included as a guest at the annual gathering of Living Stones in Spokane, Washington. Living Stones is a partnership of dioceses and communities of faith engaged in Christian mission, committed to the ministry of all the baptized. In the context of theological reflection, the Living Stones Partnership exists to support, challenge, and strengthen ministry in their respective jurisdictions.
The gathering included over twenty diocese and communities of faith from ECUSA and the Anglican Church in Canada. Those present formed "cluster groups" in which four different groups presented a situation for peer evaluation and consultation. Many of the presentations focused on the "nuts and bolts" and "strengths and opportunities" of living out the ministry of "locally identified and trained teams" as congregational leaders (called total ministry, ministry of all the baptized, local shared ministry, or many other names...this is a model where teams with in the congregation are identified, locally trained, and ordained--including the ministry of priest and deacon--and are then facilitated by a regional missioner who is commonly seminary trained and works with several congregational teams.)
The gathering in Spokane was filled with life, and it is exciting to see such a large group of dynamic church leaders creatively working together to find ways to continue to proclaim the gospel locally in these changing times.
If you are part of a diocese that has small churches that might wish to explore the concept of total ministry, attending Living Stones as a visitor would be a great opportunity to explore this option. Many of the congregations present initially looked to this alternative model because of finances and budget, but now embrace it and clearly state that they would not return to the one-priest one-altar model.
Unfortunately Living Stones does not have a web site for further information. If you would like more info. send me an e-mail and I will forward it to someone who can assist...

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Bringing Christ to the Post-Christian World

Greetings friends from the Seattle airport! I am in transit from New Zealand, where myself, and a team of ten other Americans (from three denominations), presented the seminar entitled "Bringing Christ to a Post-Christian World."

Over 60 leaders from New Zealand (both North and South Island), Canada, and the United States gathered to look at where and how God is calling us to proclaim Christ in this rapidly changing world.

The design of the conference included a 30-minute cultural relevance discussion to follow each presentation. These sections were informative and much cross-pollination of thought, learnings, and passion for Christ's mission were exchanged. However, it was also abundantly (and quickly) clear that the churches in New Zealand, Canada, and the United States are all facing similar circumstances. What was also clear is that we together, as brothers and sisters in Christ, are on fire with the mission of Christ, and hungry for ways to proclaim Christ's timeless and always relevant message in new relevant ways to this post-Christendom world. I, for one, am honored to have been part of this event.

Blessings mates...S.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007


The meditation below is written by the Rev. Donald P. Fuselier (, who serves at St. Dunstan's Episcopal Church, Carmel Valley. Don is also a Volunteer Chaplain at Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula, Chaplain for the Monterey County Chief Law Enforcement Officer's Association, and Chaplain for Monterey Peninsula College Police Academy.

Don's reflection warmed my heart--even on a day when it is well below freezing in New York City--and brought a tear to my eye. It especially touched me because it reminded me of my own grief and that of my four young children when my husband died suddenly several years ago. It was other people's ability (and willingness) to just be present that somehow helped us to know that God really was present, even through the darkest of valleys...S.

"Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh" (Luke 21:21b)

As volunteer hospital chaplains, we become accustomed to ministering to individuals facing life threatening illness in their own lives and those of family members. Recently, however, I found myself in a situation that overwhelmed me and left me feeling completely helpless and speechless.

After completing my "rounds", I returned home only to be paged and directed to return for an emergency. On arrival at the hospital I was informed that a 28 year old mother of two had just died very suddenly and unexpectedly. I was told that this young woman's mother, brother and sister, and fiancee had just been informed and were sequestered in a "quiet room" just 30 feet away. The charge nurse asked me to go to them and "bring them comfort".

As I slowly walked the short distance I felt as helpless and inadequate as I have ever felt in my life. What could I possibly say to a mother who just lost a beautiful young daughter? What could I say to her brother and sister? What could I say to her finance who just saw his hopes and dreams vanish in a heartbeat? Everything I could think of seemed flat and empty.

When I entered the room I found it was even more complicated than I thought. The mother was foreign born and spoke little or no English. She was wailing and pulling at her hair as the others in the room sat weeping. I stood there trying to find something to say.

Nothing came to my mind other than this woman's uncontrollable and overwhelming grief. At last I simply reached out and hugged the woman to me and held her as we rocked back and forth in silence. After quite some time she regained her composure and wept silently. After a while I offered a prayer in English and she prayed in her language. I could not understand her and doubt she understood me but we were united in prayer. As she left with her remaining children she gave me a slight smile and nod of her head.

Sometimes there are simply no words to offer. There is just being there for a brother or sister in pain and holding them, just as God holds us all.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Appreciative Inquiry Opportunities (and discussion!)

The below is from the Rev. Dr. Robert Voyle, Director of the Clergy Leadership Institute. I would welcome a conversation about the use of the Appreciative Inquiry technique in small congregations and stories from those who have implemented some of the principles. What are the strengths? In what situations is AI most appropriate? When might other alternatives be better?

Appreciative Inquiry

Appreciative Inquiry (AI) is a positive organizational process that uses focused interviews and dialogue to discover, build on, and grow the inherent life giving qualities of any individual or human system. The appreciative approach contrasts many contemporary organizational development interventions that utilize an illness model to focus on and eliminate problems. Beyond being an organizational process, appreciative inquiry becomes a generative way of being in the world that energizes and enables the creative best in people and their organizations. While positive in focus the appreciative approach does not avoid problems. Rather AI looks to what is working and creatively expanding those activities to motivate and inspire transformational solutions.

The Clergy Leaderhsip Institute is offering many AI trainings in 2007 in locations across the country.

For further information and to registger, please contact
the Rev. Dr. Robert J. Voyle, Psy.D.
Director, Clergy Leadership Institute
24965 NW Pederson Rd. Hillsboro, OR 97124-9210