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All Things New: Post-Convention Report

“We can talk about how the structure’s in our way, but the only thing that’s in our way is our lack of imagination and tapping into the dream of God, a dream that God has for us and for our church, which I read somewhere, is ‘infinitely more than we could ask or imagine,’” the Rt. Rev. Sean Rowe said in his keynote address to the 350 Episcopalians during the gala dinner of the 41st Annual Diocesan Convention on Friday, February 13, 2015. “It’s time for the older people of this aging church that we complain about to stop idolizing the young . . . to actually take on the elder status and be elders who dream dreams, not who fight to conserve what is.”

Bishop Rowe also led a provocative plenary session on Friday afternoon at St. John’s Episcopal Church and Parish Day School, where the convention business, workshops and ordinations took place.

 

Workshops

The annual gathering of delegates from the 47 congregations in the diocese began with workshops on youth ministry, the diaconate, Episcopal schools, the Latino perspective, and holy listening. In the workshop about the ministry of the diaconate, “the sincerity and commitment of all of the presenters (Tom Morelli, Phil Loveless and David Rhodes)” came through, according to delegate Richard Wade of St. Mary’s, Ramona. “It is supremely comforting to know that we are blessed with the quality of the three presenters in their commitment and willingness to take on what they are about to do. The church will be a better place.”

The most populated workshop was Listening in a Loud World led by the Rev. Canon Allisyn Thomas. “It was an enjoyable and meaningful start to the convention,” one delegate from St. Margaret’s, Palm Desert reported. Many said that they came away with a new goal when listening: to understand, not to agree necessarily. Others rekindled their commitment to spending some time in silence every day as a way to enhance their ability to listen.

Perry Pauley, a delegate from St. Mark’s, and a in search of good schools for his children said that was his motivation for attending the workshop on What Makes an Episcopal School. The workshop helped participants explore what it means to be an Episcopal school versus a secular school citing examples such as teaching the whole child, greater involvement from parents, and greater local control of the curriculum. The workshop also communicated the unique climate of St. John’s Episcopal Parish Day School, and presenters communicated the importance of the international border in the school’s identity.

The presentation on youth ministry focused on the need for collaboration across the diocese. Kelly Mahon, youth minister at Trinity, Escondido and St. Bartholomew’s, Poway, shared the results of a diocesan-wide survey about current youth ministry practices. Monica Mainwaring, pastoral assistant at Good Samaritan, University City, emphasized the importance of sharing event information, and general collaboration. Glori McStravick, delegate from St. Andrew’s, Encinitas, reflected that this workshop taught her that her church “is special because we have a full-time youth director.”

 

Servant Ministry Awards

Bishop Mathes gave 17 servant ministry awards to congregants, based on recommendations from clergy in charge of congregations. These individuals received appreciation for their “quiet, unrecognized ministry” in their churches and beyond: Gen Clapp from St. Andrew’s, La Mesa; Linda Collier from Holy Cross, Carlsbad; Christine Cowart from St. Bartholomew’s, Poway; Chris Craig-Jones from St. Michael’s, Carlsbad; Norma Dunn from St. John’s, Chula Vista; Glover Ferguson from Christ Church, Coronado; Robert Kimball from St. Margaret’s, Palm Desert; Anne Heyligers from St. Andrew’s, Encinitas; Grace Hurst from All Souls’, Point Loma; Trudy Jenzer from St. Timothy’s, San Diego; Janet Marseilles from Grace, San Marcos; Michael McCormick and Mary Manesis from St. John’s, Fallbrook; Jack Pape from St. Alban’s, El Cajon; Harold Potter from St. Paul’s Cathedral, San Diego; Edward Saidro from St. Matthew’s, National City; Paul Thompson and Frank Updike from St. Anthony’s, Desert Hot Springs.

 

Business

This year’s business sessions produced lively conversation, a welcome change from recent years. Five resolutions passed without amendment, two passed with amendments, and one was moved to the executive council for further consideration.

The discussion about resolutions sparked debate over the issue of environmentally-responsible investing. A delegate from St. Michael’s, Carlsbad asked to remove language about “our complicity with the fossil fuel industry.” The resolution was accordingly amended. See resolution 15-04 for the final text.

Another resolution, 15-03, requested the naming of area deans, which received resistance from the convention chair, and others, who perceived the work of the area missioners to be sufficient. Arguments from clergy members explained that area deans would work to enhance the connections and care of clergy in their areas. The resolution passed as presented. The convention referred Resolution 15-05, Appointment of Diocesan Missioners, to the executive council for further consideration. It asks the bishop to appoint missioners for Latino, youth and youth adult ministry and to explore modest funding for their work.

Dorcas House/Vida Joven, the foster home in Tijuana supported by many congregations in the diocese, sought its own status as a diocesan institution, and the convention agreed, but only after significant discussion. Questions about the liability assumed by the diocese arose, and were answered by Mr. Jerry Campbell, chair of the Dorcas House board. He explained that the organization that operates on the American side of the border deals only with the volunteer administrative board of Dorcas, and not with the day-to-day operations of the foster home in Mexico. That is handled by the Vida Joven organization, which has a separate, Mexican non-profit status. As a diocesan institution, Dorcas House plans to broaden its ministry through more sweeping fundraising efforts. Resolution 15-09 gives the full explanation.

The exploration of a sister relationship with the Diocese of South Sudan, Resolution 15-01, passed as amended. The amendment expanded the scope of the resolution to include consideration of companion relationships with the Dioceses of Western Mexico and El Salvador, our current companion relationships.

The convention decided to move its annual meeting from February to November, which will allow the diocese to pass a budget for the upcoming year before the year commences. The hope is that the date change will also keep diocesan business top of mind before the holidays. Finally, an end-of-church-and-calendar-year convention will provide inspiration and support to clergy and lay leaders as they plan their upcoming church years. Resolution 15-06 passed without amendment.

Other resolutions that passed without debate or amendment were 15-02 Clergy Compensation, 15-07 Dissolve the San Diego Episcopal Foundation, and 15-08 Extension of the Study Commission on Mission Share Pledges.

The business sessions opened with a youth-led liturgy that voiced concern for the disenfranchised and forgotten. Lucas Tuttle and XX led this portion of convention.

 

Budget

A balanced operating budget of $2.1 million was passed after minimal discussion. Budget Committee chair Bill Zettinger stated that the operating budget included $20,000 for Fearless Love grants: last year the diocese received $60,000 in requests. Questions arose concerning the additional $100,000 that was set aside for new initiatives that Bishop Mathes referenced in his convention address. The $100,000 will be funded by unrestricted reserves; the current reserve balance at the end of 2014 was $1.1 million. These initiatives have not been determined but may include: youth, young adults and Latino ministry.

 

Ordinations

Three men were ordained to the vocational diaconate during the festive Eucharist on Saturday morning. The Rev. Phil Loveless from St. David’s, Clairemont is a San Diego native who has served the church as a member of the laity his whole life. He studied at the School for Ministry in Ocean Beach for the past two years and greatly values his work with disenfranchised people. The Rev. Thomas Morelli is a member of Christ Church, Coronado and has a lifelong passion for helping incarcerated people. He received his formal formation at the Ocean Beach School for Ministry. The Rev. David Rhodes hails from Princeton, New Jersey, and attends St. Margaret’s, Palm Desert. He studied at the School for Ministry in Ocean Beach and looks forward to continuing his work as a spiritual care counselor and chaplain’s assistant in the desert.

The service itself featured a diocesan-wide choir with singers from eight different congregations, including the dean of St. Paul’s Cathedral, the Very Rev. Penelope Bridges. One participant particularly enjoyed the music, saying, “the organist made the rafters ring! Joyful! Joyful!” Others called the worship service, “spectacular,” and “the high point of convention.” The Rev. Cherry Remboldt served as the cantor and the Rev. Canon Allisyn Thomas preached about all things new.

“But to say all things new, means not just new things are happening, but also that we are being formed into what we were always meant to be, created to be out of love,” Canon Thomas said. She focused on the role of deacons in the church, as this service was an ordination, and in so doing, she quoted Cardinal Richard Cushing who said, “The bishops will govern the church. The priests will do all the work. And the deacons will have all the fun.” The full text of her sermon is availablehere.

 

Friday Plenary

Bishop Rowe spoke to a crowd of about 250 people on Friday afternoon; he encouraged larger, well-resourced congregations to be bold in supporting efforts to collaborate with others. In response, the clergy in charge of the larger congregations of the diocese, St. Margaret’s (the Rev. Lane Hensley), St. Peter’s (the Rev. Paige Blair), St. Paul’s Cathedral, (the Rev. Penelope Bridges), All Souls’ (the Rev. Joseph Dirbas), St. Bartholomew’s (the Rev. Mark McKone-Sweet), Christ Church (the Rev. Anne Bridgers) and St. Paul in-the-Desert (the Rev. Andrew Green), stood up, and spoke into a microphone, saying, “we commit our support to collaboration with others.” This drew applause and cheers from the gathered crowd.

 

Bishop’s Address

The Rt. Rev. James R. Mathes, bishop of the diocese, shared his vision for the next year saying: “it has become increasingly clear to me and the executive council that we need to pay attention to three parts of the community that are not represented in leadership: young adults, Latinos and youth.” He referenced the continuing service summit that gathers outreach ministers from every congregation to quarterly gatherings, and said he hoped similar summits would emerge for youth of the diocese, and for Latinos in leadership. Perhaps the ethos of his address can be summed up in the quote from Creativity Inc. by Ed Catmull, founder of Pixar Animation: “unleashing creativity requires that we loosen the controls, accept risk, trust our colleagues, work to clear the path for them, and pay attention to anything that creates fear.”

The ordination eucharist received $3,484.26 which supports the ministries of the three new deacons: the Rev. Phil Loveless, the Rev. Thomas Morelli, and the Rev. David Rhodes.


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