20 years of administrative ministry marked as Steve Pierce takes leave

Longtime diocesan staff member Steve Pierce ends his tenure on Dec. 14 after 20 years of serving congregations in various capacities, first as chief financial officer, later as a deputy chief of staff and most recently as coordinator for congregations.

His position was eliminated as part of the diocesan staff reorganization announced in October.

In January Pierce will move on to become the new administrative director of the Church Home Society, succeeding Roberta Tripp upon her retirement from that position.

Steve Pierce 2017 Consultant of the Year Courtesy Photo Bishop Alan M. Gates presented Steve Pierce with the 2017 Jack Doran Consultant of the Year award.

"The Church Home Society is a wonderful organization that makes grants for programs for youth at risk.  For me, at age 69, what could be better than to be a part of that?  It's a wonderful opportunity, and I feel really great about it," Pierce said in an interview.

His new part-time position will allow him to continue his training in spiritual direction and to explore consulting opportunities as time allows, he said.

Pierce's work as coordinator for congregations over the past nine years focused on churches in the process of merging or closing.  He's comfortable talking about endings and beginnings.  

"We sometimes forget that between Good Friday and Easter Sunday, we have Holy Saturday, which is a time to just be, to remember all that has happened and to grieve changes.  Having done that, when Easter resurrection happens, you are prepared to embrace it more wholly," he said.

Retired Bishop Suffragan Bud Cederholm recalled being "a somewhat new bishop" 15 years ago when he began work with Pierce and the late Jack Doran to launch the diocesan congregational consultants program through which volunteers advise congregations on business, financial and property matters.    

"Steve was then, and for the next 15 years, a gifted, wise, deeply faith-centered, pastoral and humble minister to many of our congregations and our business consultants," Cederholm said by e-mail.  "I loved working with him and learned a lot from Steve and the consultants over the years.  We never said we closed churches; we closed buildings so the church could continue in new ways and new places."

Chris Meyer, longtime coordinator of the congregational consultants, has worked with Pierce over the last decade.  In an e-mail, he cited Pierce's ability to bring a pastoral approach to whatever practical matters were at hand.

"Steve had almost encyclopedic knowledge of the parishes of the diocese, but his most important asset was his ability to combine knowledge and insight of the business of a parish with a calm, pastoral manner that put people he was working with -- particularly those in difficult situations -- at ease.  His skills in this regard will be virtually impossible to replace.  Beyond this, he is a thoughtful, sensitive and kind person.  He will be sorely missed," Meyer said.

The congregational consultants honored Pierce earlier this month with their 2017 Jack Doran Consultant of the Year award.

Pierce said that he has always seen his 40-year career in finance and administration in nonprofit organizations as a ministry.

"I continue to fall in love with Jesus through this work and in spite of this work, because that's what ministry is about," Pierce said.  "I am now the person I am because of the many hundreds of people I've met who have been willing to invite me along on their journeys and who have accompanied me on my journey.  That's been very humbling, and I've been deeply honored."

He recalled an instance of working with the exhausted leaders of a struggling and diminished congregation that needed to close.  "I was able to say to them, 'It's OK to stop.'"  After going through the closing process and finding a new home in a neighboring Episcopal church, they reported back to him that they felt they had "refound their faith."

"Sometimes we have to live into change, and so, to the extent that I've been able to accompany others on that journey, that's my most significant legacy," Pierce said.

--Tracy J. Sukraw