It’s hard to describe until you are in that moment. The wind is in your face, your favorite song is playing on your iPod, and your body is in perpetual motion. There is an abundant feeling of synchronicity…rhythm. Heading down a ski slope, riding my bike on a favorite trail, weaving back and forth across the wake behind a ski boat, playing basketball with familiar teammates, and serving as the Bishop of the Episcopal Church in Minnesota.
Now, my guess is if we were playing one of those games where you determine which statement doesn’t fit, conventional wisdom would suggest that would be the last one. However, as I begin my sixth year of serving as the Bishop of ECMN, I find myself feeling a significant amount of synchronicity…rhythm; and for that I am truly grateful.
As I have in every previous anniversary of my consecration and ordination, I would like to climb up to the balcony and share with you a little bit of my perspective on the life of ECMN.
Simply put, we have more faith communities engaged in God’s mission than ever before! And more of this engagement is taking place in what we call Missional Innovative Partnerships (MIPs). Through strong discernment, often facilitated through the Missional Assessment Process (MAP), our faith communities have gained clarity with respect to their unique gifts, and are finding partners and beginning to meet the needs of the world around them.
This never was more clear than when we launched the inaugural MIP grant application process where we had 33 applications for funding to assist in engagement in God’s mission to which 12 of those applicants received a total of $70,500. Additionally, at Convention we invited every faith community to work on Ending Hunger in Minnesota. As well, through Mission Opportunity 2015: Engaging the Spirit in Haiti, the good work that is taking place there is nothing short of inspiring! Finally, I am extremely pleased to see our camping ministry expanding from our wildly successful music camp to include the offering of a camp for all middle schoolers called “Quest” this summer. There are plans for expansion in the years to come for both high school and younger campers.
Moving forward, I am hopeful that all of our faith communities will become clear about how they may use their unique gifts to partner with others to meet the needs in their neighborhoods and beyond. The impact across ECMN is already demonstrably measurable. And by continuing to build Missional Innovative Partnerships, we can continue to build capacity in following in the Way of Jesus.
One of our earliest Missional Innovative Partnerships was with Shattuck-St. Mary’s. Thanks to this partnership we now have the benefit of our wonderful new ECMN Retreat Center on the campus of SSM. This already is serving as a beautiful gathering space for our faith communities and others, including our School for Formation. The first weekend of every month, individuals preparing for the diaconate, priesthood, and other formation, gather at the School for Formation for study, reflection, and worship.
The Commission on Ministry and the Standing Committee continue to be very thoughtful in providing a healthy, holy process for all those in discernment and formation. I am exceedingly grateful to the people who walk with those offering their gifts for ministry. Also, we have strong emerging partnerships with two of our Episcopal Seminaries: Bexley-Seabury and Church Divinity School of the Pacific (CDSP). These relationships will be a vital resource for formation and will provide a broad cross section of individuals in ECMN.
Moving ahead, I am hopeful that throughout ECMN we will see more of our faith communities as communities of discernment and formation for the ministry of all the baptized, whereby all the baptized gifts are discerned, formed, and sent to engage God’s mission in the world. And I am hopeful that the School for Formation will be working with a wide range of individuals and communities to assist in resourcing to this end.
The good news, due to the hard work of many, ECMN is financially solid. Once again we ended our fiscal year in the black. The 2015 Financial Statement of Mission has more funds dedicated to God’s mission in the local faith community context than ever before. Your Pooled Investment Fund (PIF) continues do to exceedingly well and your ECMN endowed funds are now being fully utilized for missional work. Our shared Mutual Ministry Support (MMS) is as close to fully funded than it has been in a long time. We continue in our commitment to help resource faith communities that consistently struggle to fully participate and search for creative ways of restructured sustainability.
On the property front, a number of our faith communities are exploring multiple creative options to find a sustainable model to deal with the ever-increasing challenge of operating aging facilities. As well, work continues on the future options of both the ECMN office building and Cass Lake Episcopal Camp (CLEC).
Moving ahead, both the Joint Finance and Audit Committee (JFAC) and the Investment Committee will continue to work on cost savings and increasing returns on the PIF. Work will also continue to assist our faith communities towards a sustainable financial model particularly in light of property challenges.
There is an unquestionable sense of synchronicity across the Episcopal Church in Minnesota. We are establishing a strong rhythm whereby all of our faith communities are finding the necessary, sustainable resources to use their unique gifts in partnership with others to meet the needs of the world – transformational! It’s been a great and challenging ride and I look forward to continuing to share in this journey with you as we become the people God is calling us to be. Thanks for the blessing and the privilege!