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This site contains updated information about Shaping the Parish and provides enough detail for a diocese to understand approach, methods, costs, and how the program specifically supports parish development efforts.
Shaping the Parish™ is a program to develop and nurture healthier parishes.
The parish our hearts long for
A parish in which:
1. The daily life and ministry of the baptized is the focus of parish energies
The central rhythm of all parish churches is the movement of members from renewal in their baptismal identity and purpose to life and ministry in their workplace, civic involvements, and with families and friends. The parish church is called to support people as instruments of God’s love and light in all of life. It’s really about us learning to better cooperate with the organic processes of the parish—people become salt and light in Eucharist, prayer, learning and community so they might be salt and light in daily life.
For many parishes this involves a shift from asking lay members to focus on the institutional needs of the parish to a focus on the daily life of its members in the world. This calls for leadership that attends to the parish’s institutional needs in an effective and efficient manner while giving more attention to and respect for the baptized person’s daily life.
2. The parish is an effective community of formation in Christ
This is a process of formation that accepts people where they are and invites them to grow. We assume that the most significant way in which that happens is as people participate in a healthy parish community. It is the total culture of the congregation that shapes the person. So, we give our attention to shaping the parish in a way that has a critical mass at the center of faithful people, proficient in the Christian life; and that makes space for the whole variety of people in all stages of spiritual growth—the stable as well as the more immature and tentative, the Christmas and Easter person as well as the vicarious person connecting through their family of special occasions.
3. The parish is grounding in, and expresses an Episcopal/Anglican ethos
The Anglican tradition offers tremendous opportunities for individual choice and innovation, while also providing the stretch and challenge that each of us needs to grow up into the full stature of Christ. Anglicanism has a culture, an ethos. The descriptions of that ethos will vary in emphasis and working but they tend to all point in a common direction. We hear of comprehensiveness, personal holiness, worldly holiness, of being rooted in communal daily prayer; sacramental, pastoral and incarnational. For a fuller description see this page on Anglican Ethos.
4. The parish has an emotionally healthy climate
There is a critical mass of members with the skills of self-awareness, empathy, self control and the exercise of leadership.
5. The parish is vibrant
Parish life has energy; it creates a “buzz” that excites the congregation and spills over to the wider community. It is an attractive energy and impacts membership growth. The Sunday morning Eucharist and community time is consistently wonderful.
6. Parish leaders have the skills they need to effectively manage the polarity of adaptation to address the contemporary society while maintaining institutional integrity, identity and integration.
7. The parish is addressing areas that are barriers to health
Things that are “out of whack” are acknowledged and dealt with. The elements of parish life are mostly in alignment: income-expenses, the energy and funds to carry out the vision we have; liturgical space or number of services to match the number of attendees, and so on
Our goal is your parish set in motion toward a more faithful, healthy life. This is not another congregational development educational program in which the outcome is a few people with new knowledge and skills. Rather it is a program in which the outcome is a revitalized parish as well as a parish with more competent people.
In moving toward that parish we offer two interdependent elements:
- A support system for your parish as it seeks increased health. This includes coaching by phone, e-mail and during workshop sessions.
- The development of people in the parish with increased skills and knowledge for shaping the parish
Shaping the Parish assumes that vibrant, faithful churches will flourish as parishes and their leaders improve their own:
- Spiritual practice
- Emotional and social intelligence
- Change theory and methods
Shaping the Parish is attempting to create a support and learning process that:
1) Has short term beneficial results for the parish while also
2) beginning the parish on a long-term pathway for transformation: a more vibrant parish, more deeply grounded in spiritual life that supports the primary task of a parish; and that
3) along the way increases the competency of parish leaders for emotional and spiritual life and in change theory and methods.
We focus on immediate, tangible improvements while building long-term health.
Shaping the Parish is about the renewal of your parish. You are giving these 18 months to its revitalization. The program is a resource in helping a healthy and stable parish continue to develop. It’s also a resource for parishes that are struggling and seeking new life.
You are deciding to invest your time and energy in the shaping of your parish. We are there to help you do that. We are here to assist leaders and parish communities take responsibility for their ongoing health and formation.
The stance needed is “This is what I’m doing for the next 18 months.” The program is based on full participation in every session. It also assumes reading in the field and the designing and completion of at least six developmental projects in your parish.
In considering the program you may find it useful to understand the History of Congregational Development in the Episcopal Church
Photo credits for top of page Sacred place, Collection: Flickr; Photographer: Zoran Strajin; Chapel with Font, Collection: Flickr; Photographer: Peter de Rooij; France, Provence, Sainte-Baume Mountain, woman burning candle at Troglodyte Sainte-Marie Madeleine Holy Cave, Collection: Photographer’s Choice RF; Photographer: Sami Sarkis All Getty Images