Mutual Ministry Review Report

Every three years, each congregation in the Diocese of New Hampshire goes through a process called at Mutual Ministry Review. This is a chance for the congregation to talk about what has been going on in the parish, what excites people and where they see strengths, and then to look at areas where work needs to be done and – most important – where they discern God calling them to grow in the next few years. This fall Holy Cross has been conducting an MMR and the following is the report on the process we went through and the goals and plans adopted by the Vestry for the next two years.

Step 1: Congregational Reponses to Questions

The MMR is done with a facilitator, in our case Canon Charles Lafond, the staff member for Congregational Life at Diocesan House. On Sunday, September 27, we had “table focus groups” at which all congregation members responded to five questions:

1. Over this past year, what aspect of life in Holy Cross has excited, interested, enthralled or motivated you the most?

2. In what areas of life in Holy Cross have you noticed the Holy Spirit particularly at work? Where do you sense energy and vitality and excitement? 

3. What requires the attention of your vestry or vicar? Of what should they be aware?  What would you like to change?

4. What task or goal should be a priority at Holy Cross over the next three years?  What is the congregation doing to serve God and the local community?

5. What keeps you coming to Holy Cross? What might attract newcomers?

From these discussions, a large number of responses were recorded. These are reported in the November issue of Happenings.

Step 2: Vestry Selects Important Themes from Responses

The process then moved to the Vestry, at a workshop with Canon Lafond on Saturday, October 31. Combing through the responses, Vestry members selected those that seemed to reflect the sentiments of a number of people or pointed to important themes or concerns. These were written on post-it notes which were put on newsprint sheets for each of the five questions. Notes were clumped together, consolidating themes.

From these “clumps,” five major themes were identified:

1. The search process and transition to a new Vicar after Fr. John retires in 2011. People want to have a sense of what the process will be, how the congregation will fare during the interim, what its prospects for calling a good new priest will be, and what the risks might be.

2. Children, youth and families were mentioned by a great many people as the particular strength of Holy Cross and its emphasis in mission in the future.

3. Spiritual depth was another theme, and one that the Vestry spent a good deal of time trying to define more accurately. We saw Holy Cross as a “home” that welcomed and accepted everyone of a variety of outlooks and roles in society, without requiring that they be “perfect,” conform to some model of Episcopal parishioner, or disguise or deny their human weaknesses, failures and struggles. We were helped by comments from Canon Lafond, who pointed to our worship, preaching, and children’s formation as all reflecting our emphasis on spiritual depth.

4. Intentional growth in membership numbers and money.  A major concern for us is that our growth has stalled in the last couple of years. In order to remain vital in the future, it is very important that we grow both in numbers and income.

5. Outreach in service to the community and the world was the last major theme identified.

There were other themes that emerged from the discussions, and while important, the MMR process is designed to narrow a congregation’s focus so it can do some things well, rather than try to do many things not so well. Some of the other themes were passed over because they were already being addressed; others because they seemed less important. The other themes, for the record, were: 6. Finish work on buildings and grounds (youth room is scheduled for this winter; other work depends largely on completion of capital fund pledges). 7. People are the core of the church (a theme that runs through those selected). 8. Atrium (under 2 above). 9. Liturgy (under 3, plus a liturgy task force is in the works to help with specific concerns like contemporary music and aids for the hearing impaired). 10. Events to gather the congregation and reach out to the community. 11. Spiritual leadership (as a strength – under 3 above).

Step 3. Goals Set for Each Selected Theme

The MMR is designed to set practical, specific, measurable goals for each selected theme. Canon Lafond advised us to think in terms of a two-year horizon for these goals – the remaining time before Fr. John retires. The congregation will have enough to focus on during the interim and search process.

So, here are the goals for each of the themes:

1. Search process and transition. By Advent 1 of 2010, all Vestry members and 80% of the congregation will understand the timeline, process, vulnerability and spirituality of the transition process (to determined by a survey).

2. Children, youth and families. Because the Atrium is so important to our ministry in this area, we need to increase our trained catechists from 3 at present to 6 by June 2011. We have one catechist in training, but Anne McCausland will leave when Fr. John does, so that still leaves us with 3 more to recruit and train.

3. Spiritual depth. A pastoral care group of 4 trained members will be formed to work with the Vicar in expanding ministry with identified groups and individuals, such as the elderly, handicapped, homebound, lonely.

4. Intentional growth in membership numbers and money. A membership committee will be formed and a written plan developed and implemented to achieve a net increase from December 2009 to December 2011 in active household membership of 20% (i.e., 10 families).

5. Outreach in service to the community and the world. Design and implement a communications plan to facilitate participation in current events and outreach.

Again, to focus on a top five goals, others had to be set aside: 6. A goal having to do with discerning characteristics of a desired candidate for Vicar (will be part of the search process). 7. Finish the old building basement for use by youth group and Level III atrium (happening anyway this 

winter). 8. Form committee on spiritual life to work with the Vicar (pastoral care group chosen instead). 9. Form a liturgy committee (in process anyway). 10. Have the stewardship task force work year around, with chair and four members, independent of the Vicar (membership committee chosen instead).


Step 4.  Identify Resources, People and Steps to Implement Goals

The final step of the MMR process is to begin identifying the specific resources needed to implement to goals. Goal by goal, those listed are:

1. Search process and transition.  Resources: Diocesan deployment officer, preparation of a written timeline for the process, hold a retreat for the congregation to train in understanding of discernment. People: Deployment officer, a lay person from another congregation to talk about their experience. Steps: Rely on the deployment officer, survey.

2. Children, youth and families. Resources: Money for training, job description of what is required of a catechist. People: Volunteers (4). Steps: Awareness and recruitment effort, January-May 2010.

3. Spiritual depth. Resources: A job description and training materials ($) for the group. People: Four volunteers. Steps: Awareness and recruitment effort, March 2010.

4. Intentional growth in membership numbers and money. Resources: training, campaign design, materials. People: Canon Lafond will work with us as a pilot project for the Diocese, committee and chair. Steps: Launch September 2010, 8 weeks.

5. Outreach in service to the community and the world. Resources: Menu of opportunities. People: Outreach chair to work with task force. Steps: Ministry fair, newsletter.

 Step 5: Periodic Monitoring of Progress by the Vestry

To ensure that all this doesn’t just remain a nice report on paper, the goals will appear on the monthly Vestry agenda for discussion of progress on a regular basis. Additionally, reports will be made in Happenings and Canon Lafond will be invited back in a year or so for another Vestry meeting to review progress.

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