October 7, 2007, over 135 people gathered at the Kanuga Conference Center in Hendersonville, NC, for a four-day conference to explore “Creative Models of Sacramental Leadership in the Small Church.” Participants included small church leaders from the Methodist Church and ELCA, and Anglican representatives from the provinces of Canada and New Zealand. The Episcopal Church was represented by 8 provinces and 44 dioceses, including Northern Michigan, Wyoming, Western Kansas, Texas, Easton, Western New York and Northern California. Also represented were the Episcopal Divinity School and Virginia Seminary, as well as organizations that serve the small church such as Living Stones, Episcopal Appalachian Ministries, Rural Ministry Network, New Directions North East, and the Domestic Missionary Partnership.
The gathering was marked by excitement and enthusiasm, as this diverse group came together to address fresh expressions of how small congregations live out their part in God’s greater mission.
Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori addressed the group, inviting an expansive understanding of sacramental leadership to include the ministry of all baptized people and the ministry they exercise in their daily lives. Archbishop David Moxon of the New Zealand Dioceses further challenged assumptions by inviting participants to consider social action groups that gather to break bread as a way to live out the gospel. He also encouraged increased understanding of the scope of small church mission by inviting participants to view our gathered communities as “a mission with a church, and not a church with a mission.” The life and ministry of the late Rt. Rev. Jim Kelsey, who had planned to present at the event, was remembered with a time of silence as the podium was left vacant, followed by a co-presentation on local collaborative ministry by his brother, the Rev. Steve Kelsey, along with the Rt. Rev. Donald Phillips.
Because of the overwhelming interest in this sold-out event, a DVD will be produced and available as a free download in early 2008. An initial planning meeting was also held to discuss the feasibility of a Small Church Best Practices summit to be held in 2009.
The conference closed with a lively Eucharist where Archbishop Moxon presided and Presiding Bishop Jefferts Scori preached. Two Anglican Archbishops uniting in worship was symbolic of all that had occurred: as a (sm)all church, we can do great things when we come together to live out our part in God’s greater mission.