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THRIVE Begins Work

When Bishop Shannon announced in July that the diocese faces a financial cliff, she appointed a task force of clergy and lay leaders to consider “how new models of ministry and new collaborative relationships might offer our diocese ways to discern our future.”

The group, which named itself THRIVE (Taskforce for Hope, Revitalization, Innovation, Vision, and Efficiency), is chaired by Ellen McCulloch-Lovell of Christ Church, Montpelier, and the Rev. Scott Neal of St. Paul’s, White River Junction, and is operating through three sub-groups focused on key areas of concern: financial sustainability, chaired by the Very Rev. Greta Getlein of the Cathedral Church of St. Paul; missional vitality, chaired by Luke Krueger of St. Paul’s, Wells; and governance and collaboration, chaired by the Rev. Bob Leopold of St. Andrew’s, Colchester.

At its initial meeting in late July, the task force heard from Bishop Sean Rowe of the Dioceses of Northwestern Pennsylvania and Western New York, who made a presentation titled, “Adaptive Opportunities in Vermont.” Rowe, who holds a PhD in organizational learning and leadership, will speak at the diocesan convention on November 6 to share his thinking about opportunities for adaptive change in the Episcopal Church and his experience leading the partnership between the two dioceses he serves.

McCulloch-Lovell and Neal will also make a presentation to the convention. THRIVE’s report to the diocese is due by Pentecost Sunday, June 5.

THRIVE’s meetings will be facilitated by Heidi Kim, a Minnesota-based consultant who formerly served on Presiding Bishop Michael Curry’s staff as officer for racial reconciliation.

At a meeting on September 30, Kim introduced the group to the use of jam boards—a collective digital whiteboard where people can record ideas, thoughts, and impressions online. After trying out the technology during a bible study of a passage from Nehemiah, members broke into small groups via Zoom breakout rooms to discuss what Rowe calls “undiscussables and inconvenient realities”— the issues that can stand in the way of change, but that culture, tradition, or past history have made it difficult to talk about.

Small groups used jam boards to answer two questions: “What are your greatest hopes and dreams?” and “What gives you pause or causes you anxiety?” The responses, posted anonymously, bore evidence of both enthusiasm for the THRIVE process and concern about its ability to change the diocese.

“We will be the place that provides the model for the whole Episcopal Church!” wrote one participant. “My concern is that THRIVE achieves bold and visionary proposals but when its report is released and discussed, it fails to generate grass roots support,” said another. Another wrote, “Hope: to be brave leaders in following Jesus in new ways,” while a member in the same small group worried, “The busyness that we already experience that will keep us from fully engaging in this work.”

In closing, Kim reminded participants that “even through this work feels very technical … that this is a ministry, that you are engaging in discipleship … and I, for one, am very grateful to you, because I think that what happens in Vermont will set a model for the rest of the Episcopal Church.”

The full THRIVE group will meet again on November 9; the three focus groups will each meet during October to begin their work. Learn more about THRIVE by attending diocesan convention on November 6.

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