May 8, 2014

A few thoughts following Clergy Conference

Over the last few days, I had the pleasure of spending a lot of time with the clergy of our diocese. The conference was held at a lovely resort, we had a great guest speaker but as most of these things go, it was the conversations with small groups, on long walks and over drinks that may be the most refreshing and beautiful part of the event. During that time, there were a few thoughts that kept coming back to me that I thought I'd share.

Spiritual formation is a journey. We never arrive. Not lay people. Not clergy. Not bishops. The moment we stop evolving, growing is the moment we stagnate. How do we cultivate patterns, systems that hold us accountable to growth? That teach us new skills? That offer the camaraderie necessary for the journey?

We need to constantly go back to the basics. So much of our conversations go back to understanding discipleship. Too many of us have forgotten the basic pieces of discipleship–of being apprentices of Jesus. What does it mean to make a follower of Jesus, and not simply a denominational affiliate? How do we do this in a manner that builds from person to person, from individual to movements?

It takes a village. None of us can go it alone. To be Christian is to be in community. Yet, many of our habits and systems isolate leaders. How might we create patterns and practices that foster accountability, mutuality, collaboration and friendship in spiritual formation for leaders?

Ordination and leadership are not analogous. There are as many clergy that are hungry to learn about good leadership skill, character and technique as there are lay people that have mastered it. Assumptions about putting on a collar make it difficult for clergy to find teachers and partners in learning the art of leadership. How might we change this?

Tradition and elasticity. Being part of a Christian family with a long tradition, legacy and practice is a beautiful thing! But we also seem to be struggling with knowing how to respond to the immediate work of the Holy Spirit while honoring the tradition we love. Can we have a clear form for worship while having the flexibility to respond to what is happening right now? Often, this feels like something has to "break." But I'm wondering, is Anglican practice more "elastic" than we imagine?

I'm so happy to be with a group that is willing to ask these questions and wrestle with them in collegiality. And I couldn't be more pleased for these to be just some of the things we work on together. If you have any thoughts, please share!

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