Monday, June 27, 2011

So You Think You Don’t Know One…

Most of us, if we know anything about the Episcopal Church Foundation (ECF), know that the organization was engaged to do a feasibility study for Fulfilling the Vision. (I understand that ECF has been engaged to help run the latest capital campaign.) ECF does more, however, and it maintains a Web site called ECF Vital Practices. The introduction to this site begins
ECF Vital Practices offers vestry members and other people of faith, resources and tools to respond to the changing needs of the Church. Building upon the spiritually grounded, practical Vestry Papers articles that have inspired and informed vestry members since 1995, Vital Practices uses the Internet to both expand its offering and its audience.
There is a good deal of material on the ECF site relevant to running an Episcopal parish. I must sheepishly admit that I haven’t read much of it, but then I am neither a priest nor a Vestry member. Apparently, a good place to start reading is the home page for the “Vestry Papers” section. The big topics on which you will find essays there include Administration, Buildings and Grounds, Communications, Conflict, Finance, Hospitality, Stewardship, Worship, and others.

One of the essays I found interesting on the site is by the retired Bishop of Maine and former St. Paul’s parishioner from long ago Chilton Knudsen. It is called “So You Think You Don’t Know One….” The essay is about addition, not simply in relation to pastoral care, but in relation to how members of a parish family treat one another. (Knudsen is a conflict mediator and is co-author of So You Think You Don’t Know One? Addiction and Recovery in Clergy and Congregations.) It is no secret, of course, that interactions in some parishes are healthier than in others. Knudsen enumerates unhealthy behavior, among them
  • Lack of transparency, secret-keeping (about many matters in congregational life)
  • A culture of manipulation and power-struggling
  • Image-obsession, relating to buildings, reputation, or prominence of congregation
  • Patterns of ignoring or suppressing new ideas and new possibilities
Likewise, she lists more desirable behavior, such as
  • Truth-telling (without scapegoating)
  • Entering a time of self-examination, in the form of reviews, leadership development, planning, discernment
  • Evaluating current policies and practices, and adopting of new ones
  • Adopting of methods of assuring accountability and mutual responsibility
Depressingly, her first list is longer than her second. The essay nonetheless makes interesting reading. Check it out.

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