Small church conference set for Kanuga fueled by international/ecumenical seminar

September 25, 2007

The exploration of different models of sacramental leadership in churches with an average Sunday attendance of 70 or less will be the topic of the Episcopal Church's Office of Congregational Development conference for bishops, diocesan staff, clergy, and lay leaders.

"Creative Models of Sacramental Leadership in the Small Church" is set to run October 7-10 at Kanuga Conference Center, in Hendersonville, North Carolina.

Conference keynote presenters include Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori; Archbishop David Moxon of New Zealand; Bishop Don Phillips of the Episcopal Diocese of Rupert's Land, Canada; Bishop Frank Neff Powell of the Diocese of Southwestern Virginia; and the Rev. Stephen M. Kelsey, missioner/superintendent of Greater Hartford Regional Ministry.

"The number of leaders from different organizations, dioceses, and provinces of the Anglican Communion coming together is truly phenomenal," said the Rev. Suzanne Watson, congregational development staff officer for the Episcopal Church.

Additional presenters include the Rev. Canon Tim Anderson of the Diocese of Nebraska; the Rev. Peter Floyd, missioner of Middlesex Area Cluster in Connecticut; the Rev. Canon Karen Lewis of the Diocese of Central New York and president of the Domestic Missionary Partnership; the Rev. Warren Murphy of the Diocese of Wyoming and president of the Rural Ministry Network; the Rev. Susan Snook, church planter from the Diocese of Arizona; Lydia Ruffin, coordinator Art and Soul Café, and the Rev. Mary Jane Oakland of the Diocese of Iowa. Ecumenical small church presenters include Julia Kuhn Wallace of the United Methodist Church and Sandra LaBlanc of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

Collectively, Watson said, the presenters will address the question: "What are a small congregation's options when the traditional model of one-priest one-altar is no longer possible and/or desired?"

This gathering draws from the success of "Bringing Christ to the Post-Christian World" held earlier this year at Holy Trinity Cathedral in Auckland, New Zealand. The first-ever international and ecumenical seminar was described as a time of "learning and sharing" that revealed more similarities than differences.

With Moxon as host, the Anglican Church of Aotearoa, New Zealand, and Polynesia and the Office of Congregational Development sponsored the February 14-17 gathering which drew participants from New Zealand, Australia, Canada and the U.S. to discuss church growth, leadership and welcoming newcomers.

The first three days of the seminar addressed the concerns of leaders in parishes, dioceses, and judicatories. Each presentation was followed by an open discussion about the cultural relevancy.

The fourth and final day was "Laity and Clergy Festival Day." Designed for the full parish membership, participants were offered a wide variety of workshops addressing aspects of congregational growth and vitality, including advertising, new member incorporation, space and buildings, music as well as aspects of key presentations made during the first three days of the seminar.

"This was the first kind of congregational development type of event for New Zealand in decades," said the Rev. Charles N. Fulton III, director of congregational development and president of the Episcopal Church Building Fund (ECBF). "So for them, it was a very unusual occurrence to focus on kind of congregational craft yet, they were very knowledgeable."

Moxon said the seminar was a reminder of the "similarities we share as brothers and sisters in Christ as members of the Anglican Communion."

"The seminar was a time for reciprocal interactions, learning and sharing," he said

The Kanuga conference will close with a Eucharist where Moxon will preside and Jefferts Schori will preach.

"In a time of discussion about what divides and separates, it is refreshing to see two Anglican Primates come together to address the question of how the small church lives out its part in God's mission," said Watson.

A DVD will be produced from the event and made available at no cost.

Further information and registration is available here.