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Living Stones, Living Proof

by Maggie Thompson

Come to God…and like living stones let yourselves be built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood…
       1 Peter 2:4-5

Living Stones teamIn February, a team of Episcopalians from Vermont traveled to Las Vegas to participate in Living Stones, a partnership of Episcopal and Anglican communities of faith engaged in the ministry of all the baptized.  The Vermont team was Paul Habersang, Steve Reynes, and Maggie Thompson (from Christ Church Montpelier), and Susan Ohlidal, Canon for Ministry Development, and Bishop Tom Ely. We offered a case study of Christ Church Montpelier describing the evolution of mutual ministry and focused on how our leadership model has changed from the traditional Rector to the Priest-in-Partnership.  

Through dialogue, question and answer, role-play, prayer, and theological reflection, we listened to where the Spirit might be moving us, both in our conversations and in our own evolving expressions of organic mutual ministries.  Our working group included representatives from the Diocese of Northern California and academic leaders from the Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge, MA.  

The Vermont team described both the successes and the challenges that have gone hand in hand recently at Christ Church.  Targeted areas of challenge included addressing conflict and change in an evolving system; making strides toward becoming a cathedral in the city; and further exploring the Priest-in-Partnership model.  The consulting partners advised us, offering insights about conflict being a healthy opportunity for innovation, honoring new ministries emerging, to review and reflect periodically, and ways to tend to the evolution of the Priest-in-Partnership model of leadership.

Our keynote speaker and daily worship facilitator at Living Stones was The Rev. Donald Schell, founder of St. Gregory of Nyssa Church in San Francisco, and President of All Saints Company.  He delights in deliberate, innovative experiment and discovery in congregational worship, including movement, music, unaccompanied singing, dance, a variety of texts, and flexible use of space.  Our worship was improvisational, playful, and at times chaotic, but always spirit-filled.  Donald will be coming to Vermont for our Ministry Expo on April 20th.

By representing the Episcopal Church in Vermont at Living Stones, another positive dimension was palpable – that of Christ Church being a contributing, valuable partner in baptismal ministry with our diocesan leaders and our wider faith community in Vermont.  Seen in the broader context of many other dioceses, we have much to give thanks for in the integrity and open heartedness that permeate our Church in Vermont – living proof of the stirrings of the Spirit.

The Episcopal Church in Vermont has participated in Living Stones since 1997.  
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