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Convention Address 2022 — the Rt. Rev. Diane M. Jardine Bruce
Recalling our roots to grow anew – that is the theme of this year’s convention and indeed this theme will continue into the coming year. Recalling our roots to grow anew. I thought and prayed about this as I visited every congregation – all 48 – yes, including Maryville — in my first few months here with you in the Diocese of West Missouri.
The Convention planning team, which started planning for this convention back in January, came up with the theme for this convention. Indeed, the planning team has been a great group of people from throughout the diocese to work with on this convention. I am grateful for their work and for their deep love and care for this Diocese.
I keep on thinking about this theme and the words of Bishop Tuttle which I have shared often with you –
“Yours is a glorious Missionary field. Talk Missions, work Missions, love Missions from the very start. All around the horizon, there is Missionary work for you, and that, too, of a most promising kind . … Kansas City, St. Joseph, Springfield, Sedalia, Carthage, ye that are strong, I beg you uphold the weak. I beseech you as for your life, stand by the Missionary work. … Here and now, you are to give tone to your Diocese. You are to start the making of its future history. Be prudent, prayerful, earnest, kindly, unselfish, generous.”
I thought often about Bishop’s Tuttle’s words as I traveled around the diocese – I heard, especially early on when I would visit a congregation during the week, “Bishop why are you here? Are you here to close us?” No, I’m not here to close any church, because if we close any more churches we lose the Episcopal foot print in that area – That would be a shame as our voices as Episcopalians are a much needed balm in the Western part of the State of Missouri.
I learned many things in my diocesan travels.
I learned that there are many silos that had been erected here in this diocese – silos that limited communication and stifled creative, collaborative mission and ministry.
I learned that there is distrust – not only between congregations and the bishop, but between the clergy and the bishop, and the clergy and each other.
I learned that there has been a lack of direct communication around issues and with people.
I learned that the diocese is too often reactive as opposed to being proactive.
These issues aren’t new, but they are issues which need to be addressed so that the diocese will be able to start a search process to discern and elect the best person to be your next bishop for this gem of a diocese. And it IS a gem of a diocese.
Some other areas that I discovered and turned my attention to were:
- Doing away with ordinations at convention and confirmation at deanery services.
- Inviting Diocesan Council to move to the use of the consent agenda which frees the council to have more robust conversations around issues that matter. We also moved to meeting monthly which provides more time to be proactive in the work coming before the council. This also has meant that, as there is time to discuss issues, items coming before council which may have been “rubber stamped” in the past are no longer treated that way. One good example was council going line by line through the budget, asking for more narrative, and questioning openly what is in there. This was our first step in a process to overhaul the budget which I will speak to in a bit.
- We hired the Rev. Chas Marks as our quarter-time transitions missioner – we changed the focus there to start working with a congregation the moment the rector or priest in charge announces they are leaving – this is helping to speed up the transition process so that congregations don’t have long lapses between clergy leadership.
- You will see in the budget that we’ve asked for Fr. Chas to be moved up to half-time on diocesan payroll to help me with congregational development – so much of the work of transitions overlaps with congregational development.
- A subset of the work on transitions was the establishment of the diocesan leave taking policy which is a standard policy used across many dioceses in the Episcopal Church and in other denominations as well. This gives the clergy person who is leaving and the congregation a clear road map of duties and expectations and helps with the emotions around a clergy person leaving, and ensures, when it is followed, a smooth entry for the clergy person coming into the position. This was a natural outcome of revising how we work on transitions in the diocese.
- Fr. Charles Everson joined the staff as quarter-time missioner for vocations. Again, we are trying to streamline the process of vocations and increase communication among candidates and seminarians and the diocese. We continue to work in this area as we move people “already in the pipeline” forward while moving to standardize the ordination process so that it is easy to understand all requirements, and dates and expectations are clear and published well in advance.
- Just as planning for convention started much earlier for this convention than in years past, we are moving to do the same with the budgeting process. Indeed, in December we will be outlining a process by which we will strip the budget down to zero, and rebuild it based on the revised mission and vision statements. At the same time, subgroups will be formed to study compensation for clergy and laity as well as assessment calculations. Information will be brought to the people of the diocese through the New Spirit and From the Mission Field monthly so that you are all informed about this important work.
- We came together to celebrate, learn or pray
- Absalom Jones
- Deanery Picnics
- Diocesan Prayer Vigil Against Gun Violence
- Diversity Workshops
- Diocesan Council and Standing Committee Retreat
- Joint Staff Retreat
- Leadership Essentials
- Renewal of Vows
- Stewardship Workshop
- Women’s Retreat
- We started, revitalized or continued committees in the diocese:
- Campus Ministry Committee
- Differently Abled Committee
- Formation Committee
- LGBTQ+ Committee
- Peace & Justice Committee
- Property Committee
- Stewardship Committee
- The Union of Black Episcopalians
- Worship & Liturgy Committee
- Youth Committee
- The diocesan staff, leaders of the diocese and I have spent much of our time together trying to move ourselves into looking at the diocese as whole – looking at it holistically. This is to break down the silos which have existed here. This is not always easy work. We will continue to work on open communication, transparency, and making all our work as proactive as possible.
- My goal is to rebuild trust, restore effective, healthy communication styles, put guidelines in place where needed for our common life together, to visit all of you as often as I can, to be available to you as your Bishop Provisional, and to share the love of Christ with all of you.
I know many of you follow me on Facebook where you see every day where I am, what I am doing, and what I am praying for. This has been my daily habit for years. I also love taking photos of all of you, the beautiful churches here and posting them as well. And those of you who follow me very closely know I have a love/hate relationship with WORDLE, and that my beach balls at home in Irvine are a source of delight and sometimes frustration for me.
This is to all to say, while I have been working very hard and very fast this year to put you all on the right track to be able to elect your next bishop, I am also taking the needed time to relax and spend time with my family.
I have to share with you that I have been so charmed by visiting you all in every congregation and what I have encountered traveling through West Missouri –
- The first time I saw a SHARE THE ROAD sign with an Amish buggy on it was so thrilled! I was even more thrilled when I saw my first Amish buggy on the highway!
- My encounter with the outhouse at St. Oswald’s in the Fields has been my favorite story to share with family and friends. I can’t help but smile every time I think about it.
- The genuine, warm hospitality of the people of The Diocese of West Missouri has been a balm for my own soul as I gather with you all.
- A truth I love to tell – driving in Missouri is the best driving experience I have ever had. When I hear “oh, Bishop, Kansas City Rush Hour traffic” – I almost have to laugh. When I go home to Irvine and get on the freeway there – I miss traffic here.
- I love Kansas City BBQ. Unfortunately, it is reflected in my latest cholesterol numbers.
- I love experiencing the different food offerings this part of the country has – everything from Springfield Style Cashew Chicken to BBQ in MANY BBQ restaurants — I’m still waiting to taste the pork tenderloin sandwich up near St. Joseph.
- Speaking of food, I am not a fan of deviled eggs, however whenever my husband is with me on a visitation, he is always very grateful for them.
- I am still leery of driving at dusk or dawn when the deer are, well, active.
All this is to say that I have so enjoyed these last 11 months with all of you – and am so grateful that the Spirit brought us together.
You know, the roots that were planted here so long ago are still here – longing to be nurtured. We are getting there – but this will take time, and I think you can see we have made great progress in one year. Let us continue to come together, and work together in the months ahead, to strengthen this Diocese, focused on the words of Bishop Tuttle so that we may recall our roots to grow anew. I ask you to be prudent, prayerful, earnest, kindly, unselfish, generous – and let me add, patient.