A mission strategy is a plan for our future. It identifies our priorities, so we know how to best use our financial, staff and other resources. Our mission strategy is a response to the particular gifts of our diocese and the changing needs of our communities in eastern Massachusetts. It identifies the ways that we hope to answer Jesus’ call to be disciples together.
Our diocesan mission strategy calls us to embrace brave change by reimagining our congregations to better respond to the movement of the Holy Spirit in our time and place; building our relationships to unite as one body in Christ; and engaging the world to reconcile ourselves and all people to one another, and all of Creation to God.
Our mission strategy is an invitation to every congregation. Watch and share the video, below, which highlights just three examples of how local congregations are engaging with the mission strategy to embrace brave change in their local contexts.
A prayer for our mission strategy
Lord Jesus Christ, we come before you as a people of God,
seeking to join your transforming work in the world.
Open our eyes to see the movement of your Spirit.
Open our minds to imagine new possibilities.
Open our ears to hear the voices of all your children.
Open our mouths to speak with honesty and love.
Open our hands to share all that we have.
Open our hearts to receive all that we need.
Thank you, Lord, for calling us as your disciples and friends.
Give us courage to follow where you lead. Amen.
What's happening now?
The November 2019 Diocesan Convention heard a progress report on the current diocesan mission strategy, which will be up for review in 2021. The report included an "Embracing Brave Change" video (view video above) highlighting three examples of how congregations are living out aspects of the mission strategy in their local contexts.
Co-chairs Claudette Hunt of St. Andrew's Church in Ayer and the Rev. Phil LaBelle of St. Mark's Church in Southborough also reported on how the mission strategy has influenced the organization of the diocesan budget, and they announced several efforts planned for the coming year, including:
• Additional opportunities for congregations to use the Indaba conversation and relationship-building model piloted by six congregations in 2019;
• New micro-grants to support mission strategy-inspired projects in congregations;
• Online book groups that will be facilitated in January, February and March of 2020 by ministry networks on topics of evangelism, antiracism and creation care; and
• Regional wardens days and a small church summit that are being planned to bring congregational leaders together around their common challenges and opportunities.
E-mail questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Our mission strategy process
Phase I: Design a process (May 2015-November 2015)
Bishop Gates and Diocesan Council appointed a team to create a plan for the listening process. The goal of this design team was to ensure that every member of our diocese would have an opportunity to offer ideas about what’s working, what we could change, what needs we see in our communities and what new dreams we have for our diocese. The design team created Shared Mission, a brief profile of our diocese’s history, current ministries and wider context as a starting point for conversations. It’s available attached as a PDF document below.
Phase II: Listen to everyone (December 2015-April 2016)
A listening team appointed by Bishop Gates and Diocesan Council held seven open listening sessions around our diocese in January and February and also met with 12 focused groups. The smaller focused meetings were held for communities or members of a community that might not be easily heard in the open listening sessions and included youth, young adults, historically black congregations, clergy of color, Haitian/South Sudanese congregations, immigrant congregations, Spanish-speaking/Latino communities, Chinese-speaking congregations, retired clergy and the community of the MANNA ministry with the homeless at the Cathedral Church of St. Paul in Boston.
The listening team worked with professionals with expertise in social science research to analyze the information from the surveys and conversations and identify key themes. We offered our initial report on the listening process in the early part of April. We reported to you the concerns and hopes that were mentioned frequently and with passion in the listening process. We wanted to communicate clearly in a reasonable length, so we weren’t able to mention every specific issue that has been raised. We hope the initial report, and the subsequent revised report, reveal places of convergence in views among members of our diocese.
Phase III: Identify priorities (May 2016-November 2016)
A drafting team appointed by Bishop Gates and Diocesan Council looked at all the insights from the listening process alongside information about the challenges and opportunities in our diocese, the Episcopal Church and the wider community. They prayerfully considered our many voices and perspectives and identified key areas to focus on in upcoming years.
The drafting team on Aug. 9 issued a draft mission strategy and gathered feedback on it from the diocesan community at six open forums and via online and phone surveys. The team incorporated responses into a proposed mission strategy, which the Diocesan Council approved before sending it to the Diocesan Convention for its approval in November.
At our Diocesan Convention on Nov. 5, 2016, lay delegates and clergy voted overwhelmingly to approve our new mission strategy. Delegates and clergy spent time reading, together and aloud, the proposed mission strategy, which has been developed over the last 18 months with participation from more than 1,200 people from more than three-fourths of our congregations. After reading, delegates and clergy discussed the document, first in small groups and then in a larger, plenary session. Convention then voted to approve the proposed mission strategy, with one amendment that provides for greater emphasis on children and family ministry. The Mission Strategy Drafting Team supported that amendment. This plan now becomes our diocese's mission strategy for at least the next three years.
The mission strategy is available here and also is attached as a PDF below.
Phase IV: Implementation organizing (December 2016-November 2017)
• The Diocesan Council and our bishops named a 12-member Mission Strategy Implementation Organizing Team in December 2016. The team worked over subsequent months to identify next steps and new initiatives that uphold mission strategy themes, and to develop a prioritized implementation plan. The team reported its implementation recommendations at the Diocesan Convention on Nov. 4, 2017. Read the team's report here.
The team's recommendations included:
(1) launching a process for intentional conversation to help build relationships among congregations;
Click here to learn more about Massachusetts Indaba 2019.
(2) implementing "Mission Match," a diocesan version of Episcopal Relief & Development's online asset mapping tool to help connect people and congregations in collaborative ministries;
Is your congregation interested in getting started right away with "Mission Match"? Contact Hilary Greene (email@example.com) for more information.
(3) and continuing work to discern a diocesan organizational structure that will more effectively balance centralized and regional support to congregations.
New regional canons: Regional canons were appointed in summer 2018: The Rev. Martha L. Hubbard will serve as canon for the Northern and Western Region. The Rev. Kelly A. O'Connell will serve as canon for the Southern Region. The Rt. Rev. Dr. Carol J. Gallagher will serve as canon for the Central Region.
This new regional canon staffing structure is a result of the diocesan mission strategy development process, which surfaced the desire in congregations for closer connections with one another and with diocesan staff. Each of the three regional canons will serve a geographic area of the diocese encompassing four deaneries and will have responsibility for lay leadership support and development in congregations; transition ministry with congregations and clergy involved in search processes for new ordained leadership; and clergy wellness and family support.
See "What's Happening Now" (above) for updates on our progress!