Dear Friends in Christ:
The purpose of this letter is to update you on developments related to the new diocesan staff structure. I will try to be both brief and thorough, so please read carefully.
I have now had the opportunity to talk with our current staff about the proposed staff changes and have posted the new job descriptions internally. As the result of those postings, I can announce that an Away Team has been formed as follows: Jane Hartwell has been appointed Missioner for Christian Formation, Youth and Young Adults; Terry Reimer has been appointed Missioner for Finance and Stewardship; Heidi Shott has been appointed Missioner for Networking and Advocacy; and Vicki Wiederkehr as Missioner for Leadership Development and Transition. In addition, Barbara Martin has been appointed Executive Assistant and Home Team Coordinator and Tom Sumner has been appointed Accountant and House Manager. In August we will hire a new staff assistant. I look forward to continuing our work together as we learn new ways to serve God’s people in Maine.
Two of our long term employees, Elizabeth Ring and Pamela McLellan, will be concluding their work with the diocese at the end of August. Elizabeth will retire after 26 years of service to the Diocese of Maine. Pam has worked for the Diocese for nine years. Both have taken on many new assignments during their years with us and have served the diocese with energy and a deep sense of devotion. They have done outstanding work for which we can all give thanks. I hope you will take time to offer a note of gratitude over the coming weeks.
Some staff members – Sherry Sivret and Jan Lewis (Youth Ministry), the Rev. Shirley Bowen (Campus Ministry), and the Rev. Mary Lee Wile (Deacon Formation) – will continue through the end of the year so that we can plan a new approach to the work they do. Youth Ministry events will continue. Shirley will begin an overdue sabbatical in September. Mary Lee will work with the Deacon Community to adapt the way deacon formation is accomplished. While these staff persons will be with us through the fall, I hope that you will also reach out to them with your thanks.
The Diocesan Council held a special video-conference on June 12, 2013, to continue a discussion of the 2014 diocesan budget that was begun at the May meeting. In the course of the meeting, the Council agreed:
- to develop a 2014 budget with a reduced Assessment Rate for congregations
- to establish a Phase II Mission Priority Committee that will review and make recommendations about the program lines in the diocesan budget
- to support a fourth Missioner position as I had requested
The 2012 parochial reports, which were not all filed by the Council meeting in May, indicate a modest 3% income increase in total operating income over 2011. That, along with several strategies for reducing expenses, gives the Council confidence that the Missioner positions may be sustained over the next five years.
The fourth Missioner position is defined as Missioner for Christian Formation, Youth and Young Adults. It is structured in the same way as the other Missioner positions. The principal responsibility will be to network and share best practices about Christian formation for all ages with Sunday School teachers, adult educators, and youth group leaders in our congregations. In addition, the Missioner will work with a youth ministry council to coordinate diocesan youth events. And, like the other Missioners, the Missioner will have liaison responsibilities with a group of congregations.
The four Missioners and the Bishop will make up the Away Team, so named to signify that much of our work is away from the diocesan house and with the congregations. We hope that more and more of our work will have to do with coaching, training and mentoring congregational leaders.
The purpose of our new staff structure is to enable us do our work as a diocese in a new way. We need to focus on training and empowering congregational leaders to help our churches wrestle with the changing world around them. To use language you are now familiar with, we are, after three years of reflection and study, beginning the process of adaptive change. Adaptive change not only requires that we work differently, but that all the members of our community change. It is not enough to ask local leaders to change. Members of our congregations must change. The diocese must change as well.
Change is difficult, and we all struggle when confronted with the need to change. We all wish that our circumstances might not have changed, that the old ways would continue to work. Yet we know the world has changed. The good news is that we have abundant gifts for leadership among us and, with God’s grace, we can do the work of the church differently.
Our new diocesan staff is smaller that the old one. The structure is more streamlined. We are working in two teams rather than in a hierarchical way. We will be with the congregations more often. And we will be relying on you to help us do the work. We will need new leaders who will take on some of the tasks paid staff used to do. This will take time, and we will all encounter a learning curve, but I’m confident we are up to the task.
Yet whatever gains I had, these I have come to regard as loss because of Christ. More than that, I regard everything as loss because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.
Philippians 3:7, 8
Every diocese in The Episcopal Church is experiencing the need for change. As we in Maine move forward, what remains essential in the midst of all the change is our relationship with Jesus Christ and our continuing service to God’s world. May these days be opportunities for us to hear the clear call of Christ and to respond in faith.
The Rt. Rev. Stephen T. Lane
Bishop of Maine