Transitions and Discernment on my Mind: Reflecting on the Priest-in-Charge Model

John Frederick, Senior Warden

I co-facilitate the Monday evening Bible study entitled God Calls Leaders, and as the name implies, the focus of the study is how God calls us to do God’s work. As we read about these biblical prophets and Kings who were discerning the will of God, I am reminded that the St. Peter’s Vestry and the Priest-in-Charge (PIC) are in a period of discernment and transition. Scripture says, “God gave Solomon very great wisdom, discernment, and breadth of understanding as vast as the sand on the seashore… (1 Kings 4:29).  We pray that God will guide the church, grant us wisdom and a discerning spirit in our time of transition.

On August 15, 2018, the Vestry announced that the Reverend Jacob E. Pierce accepted the call be to the Priest-in-Charge to lead St. Peter’s through a time of transition and discernment for a period of twenty-four months. During the transitional time, the Vestry will discern whether to call the Fr. Jacob to become the permanent Rector; similarly, the Priest-in-Charge will discern whether to accept a call to be the rector of St. Peter’s. For the first eighteen months the Priest-in-Charge and vestry conduct business as usual and during the last six months they will engage in an intentional and goal oriented discernment about the call for the permanent rector.

In October 2018, as part of the transition process, the Vestry and the Priest-in-Charge met with Catherine Massey, Canon for Transition, and the Reverend Rhonda Lee, Canon for Regional Ministry, to engage in a facilitated discussion about mutual expectations. The purpose of this exercise was to establish some clear expectations and parameters for the discernment process. The facilitators asked, “What does the Vestry expect from the PIC and what does the Vestry think the Priest-in-Charge expects from us?” Similarly, they asked the PIC, “What does he expect from the Vestry and what does he think the Vestry expects of him?” It was remarkable how similar these expectations were of each other. For example, maintaining a tradition of excellence, spiritual leadership, respect and support, liturgy, boldness, radical welcome, and diversity were all common expectations. Following up on the fall exercise, the Vestry and the PIC met with the Reverend Ms. Lee in February to ascertain where we were in the process. Seven months into the Priest-in-Charge model for St. Peter’s, as outlined by the Office of the Bishop, we are living up to the mutual expectations and the process is humming along beautifully.

So, what can we expect in 2020? For the next ten to eleven months, we will continue with business as usual. Beginning in January through May 2020 there will be a final, active discernment process with the Bishop and/or his designee in which the Vestry and PIC will review where we have been, where we are, and what we have mutually discerned at this time. The congregation will have a role to play as well. There will be congregational meetings to gather data and complete the Office of Transition Ministry portfolio. The Canon for Transition and the Regional Canon will co-facilitate these meetings. It is my hope that our journey together will be clear and transparent and result in a call for our  next rector. To learn more about the Priest-in-Charge Model, visit our transition page on the St. Peter’s website.

John Frederick, Senior Warden