A letter from Bishop Shannon
Dear People of God in the Diocese of Vermont:
The Book of Proverbs tells us, “Where there is no vision, the people perish” (Proverbs 29:18). As I reflect on the work of the Diocese of Vermont this year, I am compelled to flip the verse: “Where there is a vision, the people thrive.”
We have been through an intense journey. We have surmounted numerous obstacles. And by casting a new vision, and committing ourselves to it, we have begun to thrive.
I hope you will help us continue to flourish by making a generous gift to the 2022 Bishop’s Appeal.
When diocesan leaders began working on our new Vision, Mission and Values statements in March 2021, we had no idea how quickly the diocese would have to follow the example of Jesus by speaking “hard truths” and taking “bold actions,” as those statements require us to do. But in July 2021, we learned the diocese was facing financial challenges that might imperil its future, and our collaborative work in discerning the diocese’s future took on new urgency.
To help chart our course, I established THRIVE (the Task Force for Hope, Revitalization, Innovation, Vision, and Efficiency) and charged it with considering how new models of ministry and new collaborative relationships might help us to find our way forward. Its members set to work with a dedication that provided almost immediate results.
Through the work of THRIVE’s finance committee and several consultants, we determined that the diocese’s “financial cliff” was more like a hill we could steadily climb through generous and careful stewardship of our existing resources. This discovery came as an enormous relief, but the people of our diocese were already committed to a comprehensive examination of our future, and as THRIVE continued its work, other steps soon followed.
In May 2022, the bishops of Maine and New Hampshire and I announced that we were naming each other as assisting bishops in one another’s dioceses, an arrangement that began last month. In working together in this way, we hope to create space to further discern God’s vision not only for our diocese, but for the Episcopal Church across our region.
This summer, our diocese began piloting a new approach to congregational collaboration called constellations in which two or more congregations in geographic proximity enter into a formal agreement of collaboration. It begins with sharing clergy leadership, and, as the relationship deepens, resources, leadership, ministries, programs, and administrative functions.
THRIVE’s work culminated at our recently completed diocesan convention as we approved a new, streamlined diocesan structure that will focus particular attention on congregational development and financial transparency. I am proud of this group and the work it has accomplished, and I am proud of our diocese’s commitment to this process. By meeting the realities of a changing world with a commitment to our roles as custodians of God’s holy vision, we have not only set ourselves on a path toward thriving in the Diocese of Vermont, but we are also serving as a model for the whole church.
Please join me in supporting that commitment with a gift to the 2022 Bishop’s Appeal. With your support, we will continue to realize God’s vision for us, to transform our congregations and communities in even greater ways, and, yes, to thrive.
Peace and blessings,
The Rt. Rev. Shannon MacVean-Brown
Image: original art by Bishop Shannon.