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Manual for Congregational Discernment

A Letter from Bishop Shannon

Dear Friends in Christ:

“The Church as an institution is bound by tradition, and we have lived for generations thinking that part of our mission is to protect the Church from change. However, we must no longer deny that constant change is part of our tradition.” I said these words at our Diocesan Convention in November 2021.

As we consider how new models of ministry and new collaborative relationships might offer our Diocese new ways in our future, I call upon all of our congregations to also enter discernment I ask that you consider your current ways of life as God’s gathered people in
your local communities and how—and whether—these ways of life will continue into our future.

This process of discernment of vitality and sustainability is a way for you to ask timely and critical questions about the future of our congregations. In certain circumstances, listed on page 3 of the manual, your congregation must use this manual to discern the path forward. In all cases, this discernment is the way to plan for future sustainability. It is a resource that will offer each congregation, and our Diocese of Vermont, the promise of a vibrant future of ministry together as the Body of Christ in the world.

It is important to note that your congregation is not alone on this journey: a Diocesan Congregational Discernment Team will assist you in the critical and challenging moments as you embark upon this work (see Appendix A for more information about these Teams). At last year’s Diocesan Convention, preaching on Matthew 14:22-34, I said that now is the time for us to “step out of the boat and go closer to Jesus.” As we embark on this work of building a sustainable future for our Diocese, let us answer Jesus ’call to step outside with hope and an openness to all things new. We will surely feel the water undulating under our feet and the wind blowing in our faces, and we will surely feel unsteady. My prayer is that when this happens, we will reach out and call to Jesus to steady us. His hand is always there, ready to hold us up.

Peace and blessings,

Bishop Shannon

Download the Manual

A Manual for Congregations in Discernment: A Resource for Congregations Facing an Uncertain Future: procedures for renewing, combining, and closing congregations (PDF)

Diocesan Congregational Discernment Committee

The following are initial members of the Diocesan Congregational Discernment Committee. The list will grow, and be updated accordingly.

The Rev. Canon Susan Ohlidal | Convener
Email: sohlidal@diovermont.org
Phone: 802.748.8755

Wendy Besett | St. John’s, Hardwick
Diocesan Council

Shawn Bryan | Christ Church, Montpelier
Rock Point Commons Board

Sarah Cowan | St. Paul’s, Vergennes
Trustees of the Diocese

The Rev. Kathy Hartman | St. John’s, Randolph
Diocesan Council

Maggie Thompson | Christ Church, Montpelier
Standing Committee

Ex-Officio Members
Tom Little, Diocesan Chancellor
Paul Horn, Diocesan Treasurer

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