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What’s next for Minsters and Convocations

by The Rev. Canon Patrick Funston

Now in its third year, The Minster Project, originally proposed by Bishop Bascom at the 160th Diocesan Convention in October 2019, is up for a check-in. After the 162nd Diocesan Convention in October 2021, the Council of Trustees empowered a working group to lead some intentional listening to minster team participants and members of parish leadership. That listening is ongoing and includes listening and discernment about the Convocation structure. The Council of Trustees hopes to furnish a report ahead of the 163rd Diocesan Convention in October 2022.

Members of the Missouri River Minster gather for a joint outdoor worship service in October 2021

As Bishop Bascom finished her first year as Bishop of Kansas, she and the Council of Trustees discerned a need to empower congregations for shared vitality and missional connection amid a changing church landscape. The Council of Trustees and Bishop proposed an experiment called The Minster Project with expectation for a two-year review.

As it was originally conceived, the Minster Project grouped the 44 parishes of the diocese into 12 smaller groups facilitated by a Minster Shepherd to share in mutual support, mission, and ministry. Leadership teams were encouraged to begin to gather for conversation and formation around The Way of Love, Presiding Bishop Michael Curry’s articulation of the methods of the Jesus Movement. Minster leaders were asked to reflect on the Way of Love’s seven markers of Christian identity: Turn, Learn, Pray, Worship, Bless, Go, and Rest; building their team to support the outpouring of Christ’s Way of Love in the “minster neighborhood,” the geographical region around the member churches. While most minsters were encouraged to just meet for formation and collegiality, a few minsters were invited to begin neighborhood mission in the model of the Way of Love.

A few months later, the world changed and so the Church changed too. When the Diocesan Convention gathered in 2019, nobody could have anticipated the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic in just a few months. Just as the Minster model was getting off the ground, it became dangerous to meet, and clergy and lay leadership’s concern necessarily focused on parish realities. Even as some Minster Teams continued strongly, others lost momentum just as they were beginning. This year’s listening process is seeking to learn more about what minster models have been working and which need more support and clarification.

The Council of Trustees asked a working group to guide the listening process and to provide initial recommendations. The Reverend Casey Rohleder, President of the Council has been joined by Dr. Beth Fitz Gibbon and Ms. Diana Waddell-Gilbert, at-large representatives from St. Paul’s, Leavenworth and Good Shepherd, Wichita, respectively. Their work is supported by Canon to the Ordinary Patrick Funston. Recognizing that the Minsters and Convocations exist at a similar place in the diocesan structure, the Council of Trustees asked the working group to include Convocations in the listening process.

Members of the Missouri River Minster enjoy an outdoor picnic following a joint worship service in October 2021.

At Easter 2022, the team is still gathering data. Dr. Fitz Gibbon has had one-on-one conversations with current and past minster shepherds, and the working group and other Council of Trustees members facilitated small-group conversations at Convocation meetings. The working group plans to put a survey out by the end of April which will invite all members of the diocese to reflect on Minsters and Convocations while also allowing space for the Council of Trustees to hear feedback on larger goals of the diocese. Initial feedback has been helpful in guiding the research process and includes a good balance of strengths and areas of improvement.

Over the summer, the working group and Council will incorporate these various methods of feedback into a report to submit to Diocesan Convention. In addition to a summary of the methodology and process of the research, the report will provide recommendations for the diocese going forward. It will highlight areas where parishes, clergy, minsters, and convocations might need more clarification and support, and it will provide recommendations about possible convention action. The Council of Trustees’ report will be greatly supported by broad diocesan participation in the survey.

it became dangerous to meet, and clergy and lay leadership’s concern necessarily focused on parish realities. Even as some Minster Teams continued strongly, others lost momentum just as they were beginning. This year’s listening process is seeking to learn more about what minster models have been working and which need more support and clarification.

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