The Mission Council of the Episcopal Church in Connecticut held its first meeting of 2018 at Transfiguration Lodge at Camp Washington in Lakeside, CT on Saturday, January 13.
New members' terms begin in January so this served as an introduction to the work of the Council as well as the opportunity to build working relationships.
The Rev. Adam Thomas had used blue tape to create an outline of Connecticut and its six Regions on the large rug covering much of the Lodge's floor. As an introductory exercise, people were invited up by groups to stand on the map where they lived, or worshipped, and answer an ice-breaker type of question.
Members of the Council include one lay and one ordained person selected by each Region (12 total); three from different Ministry Networks, elected at Annual Convention; ex officio members including the bishops, chancellor, treasurer and assistant treasurer, and Secretary of Convention and Secretary of the Diocese. ECCT staff canons attend to provide support, and Region Missionaries may sometimes attend. Neither canons nor missionaries vote during business sessions.
After introductions, Chancellor Brad Babbitt reviewed the work of the Mission Council as defined by ECCT Constitution & Canons. Mission Council serves as Convention in between its sessions, with some specific limitations; Mission Council members also serve as the board of the Missionary Society (which includes all "members of the Diocese of Connecticut"). Thus, Mission Council members are charged with oversight of the whole of ECCT.
Members certainly bring their wisdom, experience and insight from serving in their Regions or Ministry Networks, however, they do not serve as representatives of those. Mission Council members instead have a duty of care (to act with care and prudence), and a duty of loyalty (to act in the bests interests of) the Episcopal Church in Connecticut. This is consistent with our understanding of the "Diocese of Connecticut" as the collective witness of its parishes and worshiping communities.
Canon for Mission Finance & Operations Louis Fuertes next reviewed the fiduciary responsibilities of Council members, again emphasizing the ECCT-wide nature of the Diocesan Budget and the Budget of Convention. He noted that while 160 of 164 parishes had sent in parochial reports last year, only 84 parishes had submitted audits (or financial reviews); both are among items required to be a parish "in good standing."
Next, the Rev. Adam Thomas and Sharon Ely Pearson offered a time of Dwelling in the Word [of God] by telling a story in the Godly Play tradition, followed by one-on-one conversation called "wonderings."
(See image, left)
Bishop Ian T. Douglas next gave an overview of "the new missional age," which he first presented during his annual address at Convention. Link here for video of the presentation, or here for video of the longer, more detailed presentation at Convention
Afterwards, people broke up into their Regions to consider what God is up to in their Region, and to identify "what is exciting/challenging you (in the Region) about a 'new missional age'"? Reports were shared in a plenary session.
After lunch, the session resumed in three self-selected focus groups:
1) Followup on Convention Resolution 4, which directed the Leadership Gathering [Mission Council, Standing Committee, Commission on Ministry, and board of Donations & Bequests] to "spend at least two of its gatherings in 2018 devoted to the study and witness to the impact of the sin of racism on our common life; and ... provide [ECCT] with what it learned and establish benchmarks for the ongoing work of dismantling racism across Connecticut." This subgroup will recommend to its counterparts in the Leadership Gathering that at least twice, preferably more often, members of all the groups will read a common book and devote at least 20 minutes to its study during the joint Leadership Gathering sessions.
2) Followup on Convention Resolution 10, which changed Canon I.11.B and I.11.C in order to "clarify the processes the Standing Committee, Mission Council, and Bishops use when parishes and worshiping communities overspend endowment, and/or cannot, or do not, fulfill their obligations to our diocesan common mission support." This process can lead to a decision about the dissolution of a parish. The Mission Council has a role of recommendation. On Saturday, members discussed the information they would need in order to fully participate in the process and make any recommendations.
3) Followup on the morning conversation of listing what was exciting or challenging in each Region, looking for common themes and considering what kind of agenda it suggested for the upcoming work of the Mission Council.
Before wrapping up the Mission Council took up one business matter.
Their regular meetings are held quarterly in March, June, September, and December.