Throughout the spring, members of the Episcopal Branch of the Jesus Movement in Western Washington were asked:
- Who are we now?
- What do we need to move forward towards our vision?
People gathered in churches in Bellingham, Olympia, Seattle, Sequim, and Vancouver for prayerful conversation and learning. An online survey for those who couldn’t make it to Saturday events was also offered. About 450 people attended the WalkAgain events and another dozen responded to the online survey. This process generated 1327 unique comments about how the ministry of the Diocese of Olympia is working and where the Holy Spirit might be guiding us.
In the Diocese of Olympia, people are talking about…
Responses reflect a very active and vital diocesan ministry carried out in local settings. Many participants proudly described ministries in their congregations that were impacting their neighborhoods and transforming their lives. There was also quite a bit of conversation and excitement about Diocesan Formation ministries; especially the College for Congregational Development and the 2018 Bishop’s Leadership Conference (Size to Size, Strength to Strength).
Quite a few comments suggested that the current Regional Ministry system is poorly understood and ineffective, though folks do desire greater connections with other churches in their regions.
Areas of Vision
When thinking about how the Diocese of Olympia currently embodies Christ in our local context, most participant’s responses centered on how congregations serve the poor and weak. Folks named the transformative power of being a part of a community that follows Jesus. Regular Eucharistic worship and formation opportunities at the local level were also a source of energy.
In thinking about how the diocese might further center its ministry at the local level, participants noted the importance of local and diocesan culture and values. As a hierarchic church, attention to local context will require the Diocese of Olympia to constantly reassess diocesan culture and values to ensure that the people closest to ministries have the greatest stake in how they are carried out.
When reflecting on how Olympia’s congregations are networked today, almost half the responses focused on the Regional Ministry system. These responses varied in terms of how well folks thought the regions were functioning. There was very positive response for how diocesan formation initiatives like the College for Congregational Development and Bishop’s Leadership Conference serve to connect congregations from geographically different places with other churches facing similar challenges.
Moving forward, members of the Diocese of Olympia indicated a greater emphasis on effective use of communications tools, not only to share the Good News of Christ with the unchurched but so that members can learn from each other and grow together.
Sacrament and Service:
As Episcopalians, members of the Diocese of Olympia value liturgy. They have strong opinions about worship and a deep commitment to providing opportunities for people to grow deeper in their relationships with God through Common Prayer. Sacramental life takes place in the context of weekly Eucharist and the pattern of worship of local churches.
Forming Christian Leaders:
While members of the diocese currently rely heavily on diocesan formation initiatives to promote the formation of Christian leaders, when thinking about what the diocese might need to do moving forward our energy shifted to local culture and formation. There is a strong desire for more ways to cultivate Christian leadership through learning at the congregational level.
We received very few comments about the sitting bishop’s leadership style, charisms and gifts. This may have been due to how questions were phrased; that is, questions asked for people to reflect on their shared ministry as the Diocese of Olympia rather than assign responsibility for that ministry to the bishop and assess it. Another possibility is that people are simply more focused on what is happening close to home than in a diocesan office.
There were also many comments about the lack of clarity and effectiveness in regional ministry. People had trouble articulating what regional ministry structures do or what they thought regional ministry structures ought to do. While there is a lot of positive energy in local churches and goodwill towards the bishop and diocese, there seems to be a lack of clarity about who ought to be doing what parts of the mutual ministry of the diocese.