I want to thank everyone who participated in or helped with what I consider to be a very successful 137th annual synod of the Diocese of Springfield. For me personally, it truly is one of the highlights of my year. To see so many folks from around the diocese gathered in one place gives some substance to the reality that we are “one church, organized for mission …”. Of course, the highlight of the highlight is the celebration of the synod Mass. Whenever the bishop is with the presbyters and deacons and baptized faithful around the altar of God, this is a deeply significant moment, theologically and spiritually. In that moment, the assembly constitutes a living icon of the Church’s fullness, possessing every gift, every resource necessary to be an effective witness to the world that Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death, and the Kingdom of God is very near us.
During the Saturday morning session of the synod, the principal topic of discussion was the proposed 2015 operating budget for the diocese. This is somewhat unusual–that is, that there was extensive discussion of the budget–according to the pattern of recent years. Of course, the reason for this was that the proposed budget included a line items under expenditures to fund the creation of a new staff position at the diocesan level, a Canon for Mission Development. In the end, the proposed budget was adopted without amendment, by a roughly 3:1 majority. What that tells me is that there is widespread conceptual support for the addition of this staff position.
But that’s not the whole story; it’s still not a done deal yet, and here’s why: In order to fund this position, we need an increase of approximately 12% in the amount of money that our various Eucharistic Communities give to ministry at a diocesan level. The way our system works, the period between now and the end of the year is when parishes make their pledges to the common work of the diocese during 2015. In February, the Diocesan Council, armed with this information, will amend the budget adopted by synod to reflect actual anticipated income. As I said to the synod, it seems prudent that we not call someone as Canon for Mission Development until it appears that the funds will, in fact, be available.
So let me make a case as to why your parish will want to respond generously to this call for increased giving. I won’t repeat here what I’ve already said about why we need someone who will focus directly and intensely on the implementation of our mission strategy. I will simply refer you to my synod address for a refresher in that area. But do let me describe what the Canon for Mission development will actually do–do for you and for your Eucharistic Community. I expect this person to be spending two or three evenings meeting with vestries and other lay leaders, along with their clergy leadership, in a sequence of events that looks something like this:
- Assess available resources–interests, passions, specialized knowledge or experience–that already exist and may be untapped.
- Assess the area of the geographic parish–analyze demographic data, learn where the needs are, find segments of the populace that are the most unchurched, potentially open to a word of good news.
- Match the resources with the needs and identify a particular mission field within the general mission field. Begin to focus prayer on that identified field.
- Develop a strategy for proactively connecting with the people in the mission field. Organize the implementation of the strategy.
- Identify individuals who will carry out particular tasks as the implementation phase unfolds. Provide appropriate theoretical and practical training.
- CMD serves as coach/consultant as strategy is implemented, advising about tweaks and adjustments that may be necessary.
This is actually just a continuation of the work that the three members of our Strategy Resource Team are already doing with the people of Trinity, Mattoon. Adding the Canon for Mission Development will enable us to multiply that effort several times. We’re doing the right things’ we’re pointed in the right direction. We just need to do what we’re doing a lot faster, or we will be overwhelmed by the twin tsunamis of demographic change (the advancing median age of our communicants) and the secularization of our society (loss of an underlying Christian narrative in our culture). I cannot promise you that adding this position will guarantee that we will succeed in our goal of behaving in a truly apostolic missionary manner. But I probably can promise you that not adding it will increase the chances that we fail in that endeavor.
May grace and peace abound for you,