Fr. Ken’s Annual Meeting Address (with an important announcement)


Today I announce what I believe will be an exciting new phase in my life and ministry, and the life and ministry we share together.

For the last 20 years, I have been teaching and preaching that the secret to a spiritually healthy church with spiritually healthy members is for each and every one of us to discern God’s call and to follow it where it leads. And that includes me…

After I wrote my first book several years ago, I thought I had gotten the book-writing bug out of my system. But nooooo… Instead God has been increasingly drawing me toward an expanded ministry of writing, speaking, coaching, and consulting: helping the next generation of church leaders and congregations prepare for the future by sharing with them the lessons we have learned at St. Nick’s. But I also feel God wants me to do this not as a sharp break, but as a mutual transition over the next couple of years.

To that end, after much discernment, with the support of the Bishop of Washington and in cooperation with the Vestry, I am announcing today my intention to remain your Rector for up to to more years: roughly through the end of 2017, and calling for a search-in-place for the next Rector of St. Nick’s, to be completed it time and the new Rector to begin by January 1, 2008.

Also effective January 1, I intend to move to a 24-hour workweek (the equivalent of three 8-hour days a week). I will do this with the assistance of a full-time Interim Priest Associate who will take on Shivaun’s duties and many of the purely administrative parts of mine, and who would stay with us for 3 years (two years into the next Rector’s tenure.

What will this mean?

For one thing, it means 90% of you will not see any less of me over the next two years (I will be here almost ever Sunday, just like now. The two-fifths of my job that I will be handing over to the Interim Priest Associate is the part that no longer feeds me – the administrative management of the parish – which means that I will be happier and more energized doing the other three-fifths: preaching and teaching, and walking in love with the people of my congregation.

For another, it means that, unlike the usual search process, St. Nick’s will not have to endure an extensive interim period, with an interim rector, in which growth comes to a halt during the search for the next Rector. Rather, you will be able to conduct a thoughtful, prayerful, unhurried search for the next Rector with your current Rector still in place as a steady presence and a source of continuity. And this continuity will be continued by the Interim Priest Associate, whose time will extend one year into the next Rector’s tenure.

And finally, by combining the funds we save from the adding together 16 hours each that Shivaun and I are freeing up, we are able, at no additional expense to the parish, to bring on the Interim Priest Associate full time, 40 hours per week. That’s a net increase of one additional clergy day a week, which will make a big difference.

I know this is the right thing to do. And I feel it, too  With every step closer to this public announcement, I have felt an increasing lightness of spirit, and an greater upwelling of love for all of you.

The Vestry and I anticipate that the people of St. Nick’s will have many questions about this. So we have prepared the attached “Questions and Answers” sheet to answer as many of these as possible.

But I assume that many of you will have personal questions, too. So invite you to meet me at a St. Arbuck’s (or other coffee shop) near you, to answer any questions you might have over coffee, tea, lunch, or breakfast.

No rush though… I’ll still be around for couple of years yet.

A summary of the entire Annual Meeting will be mailed on Tuesday.

Transition at St. Nicks – Questions and Answers

20 years after leading us in the founding of St. Nicholas Church, Fr. Ken is announcing that he feels called to begin a transition toward a new phase in his ministry in 2016. Since the publication of his first book in 2010, Fr. Ken has felt increasingly drawn toward a ministry of writing, speaking, coaching, and consulting: helping the next generation of church leaders and congregations prepare for the future by sharing with them the lessons we have learned at St. Nick’s.

With the support of the Bishop of Washington and in cooperation with the Vestry, it is Fr. Ken’s intention to remain our Rector for up to two more years, allowing us to grow without interruption, focus on our future, and begin a thoughtful, prayerful, unpressured search for our next Rector with our current Rector still in place. During this time, Fr. Ken would move to a 24-hour workweek (3/5 time) and bring onboard a full-time Interim Priest Associate, who would focus on administration, children and youth ministry, and pastoral care, and would remain with us for three years (one year into the new Rector’s tenure). This will approach will provide a sense of continuity for us and for Fr. Ken.

We anticipate that the people of St. Nick’s will have many questions about this. The following Questions and Answers are our attempt to anticipate as many of these as possible:

Q.    Why call this a transition. Why not just say that Fr. Ken is leaving us?
A.     Because by openly giving us a time frame of up to two years Fr. Ken is giving us the gift of continuity and the freedom to discern our future and our next ordained leader in the context of a smooth transition rather than an abrupt departure.
Q.    Why does Fr. Ken have to go? Why can’t he stay?  
A.     When we started St. Nick’s 20 years ago and someone asked how long he would stay, Ken said, “As long as I’m called: no more, no less.” Since then, he has taught us that each of us has a call and each of us must listen for and follow it. It is a cornerstone of life at St. Nick’s. Having listened and heard a new call, he could set us no better example than to make plans to follow it. It’s hard when a founding pastor is called away, because it feels like the person who assisted in our birthing is leaving us to our own devices. Yet as any parent knows, truly loving one’s children ultimately means giving them the freedom and independence to grow into the mature adulthood God has planned for them. There will be a cost to Ken’s ultimate departure but great promise, too. And our first task as a parish will be to discern how our own call will shift and grow.Q.    What specifically will be different in Fr. Ken’s work with us starting in January 2016? What will be his focus, responsibilities, and typical workweek?
A.     As part-time Rector, Fr. Ken’s focus will be strategic leadership. He will continue to help us in our transition from Pastoral- to Program-size. And while he won’t take part in the search for the next Rector, he will be a non-anxious presence for us as we move through the process. He will provide guidance in our capital campaign discernment, celebrate and preach at Sunday services, baptize and bury, and provide for our urgent pastoral care. The difference is he will manage his ministry within a 24-hour week, rather than 40 hours: 4-8 hours on Sundays, 16-20 hours over the remainder of the week.

Q.    What are our goals in calling a full-time Priest Associate in January 2016? What will be her/his focus? What should we expect from that priest? 
A.     In addition to providing continuity beyond the call of our next Rector, we have several goals in calling a Priest Associate: Taking over many daily administrative tasks to lighten Fr. Ken’s load in that area. Covering more non-urgent pastoral care, to free him for more focus on critical pastoral needs. Continuing to guide the development and expansion our children and youth programs.

Q.    What are Mo. Shivaun’s plans?  She is expecting a third child in January. Will she be returning after her maternity leave?
A.     After much prayerful consideration, Mo. Shivaun has decided that she won’t return to a paid position at St. Nick’s. While she loves St. Nick’s and has learned a lot in her time with us, 3 kids are lot to juggle, and she has decided that raising them is her primary calling for now. She will be available for preaching, celebrating, and providing consultation, as needed. But because her primary calling for the next several years will be raising her children, she will not be a regular member or our staff or congregation.

Q.    Can we afford to pay a full-time Priest Associate and a part-time Rector?
A.     Yes. Here’s how the math works. 2/5 of Fr. Ken’s compensation, combined with all the compensation expenses we save from Shivaun’s answering the call to full-time parenthood, equals the amount of compensation necessary to pay a first- or second-year priest full time.

Q.    Who will be in charge once Fr. Ken moves to 24 hours a week status?
A.     Fr. Ken will still be the ordained leader of St. Nick’s, chair of the Vestry, and supervisor of all staff, including the Priest Associate. The only difference is that Fr. Ken will delegate much of the daily administrative management to the Priest Associate.

Q.    Will the Priest Associate Fr. Ken appoints in January 2016 become the new Rector when Ken leaves?
A.     There is no assumption that the Priest Associate will automatically become Rector when Fr. Ken leaves. On the other hand, she or he may apply for the position on the same basis as a priest from outside.

Q.    How will we search for and choose a new rector? 
A.     The process we will follow to search for a choose a new rector is an emerging process called, search-in-place – that is, a search for a new rector when the current one is still in place. The process can take about two years to complete, and is similar to the traditional approach to rector search in many ways, except for the fact that it is conducted while the incumbent rector is still in place.  This allows us to avoid the sharp break that occurs with the traditional process. The steps include:

  1. The Vestry appoints a search committee.
  2. The rector search committee studies the parish inside and out: the needs of current member and the surrounding community.
  3. Based on the study, the search committee develops (and the Vestry approves) a parish profile, which describes the parish’s vision and mission, strengths and areas needing attention, and what they will be looking for in a rector.
  4. The position is then advertised through the Diocesan Transition Officer, who collects applications of interest clergy and forwards them to the search committee.
  5. The search committee reviews the applications, selects candidates for interviews, and clears those candidates with the Bishop.
  6. Based on the interviews, the search committee recommends the top candidate(s) to the Vestry.
  7. The Vestry interviews the top candidate(s), its members evaluate candidate gifts and skills, and prayerfully seek to discern the Spirit’s guidance as to whom they should call as the next Rector. Once they have reached consensus on a candidate, they vote to extend a call.
  8. Once the Vestry decides and the candidate accepts a parish meeting is called to ratify it.
  9. The name of the Rector-elect is submitted for the Bishop of Washington for consent.
  10. The new Rector then begins her/his ministry at St. Nick’s and at an appropriate time the bishop will come to “install” the new Rector at a “Celebration of Shared Ministry.
Q.    Why are we using this approach instead of the traditional process? What are its advantages?
A.     The traditional process is similar to the search-in-place process in most respects: both take up to two years to complete, both have a search committee, both do a parish profile, both work with the diocese’s transitions officer to seek candidates, etc. The main difference between the two is that in the traditional process there will be a two-year gap between the departure of the incumbent rector and the arrival of the new rector (in which a priest-in-charge is appointed), while in the search-in-place process there will be little or no gap, so there is more continuity and little or no interruption of growth. Also, because the previous rector is still around during the search process, it is important he or she stays out of the search and selection process.
Q.    Has the search-in-place process been used in other Episcopal dioceses? What do they think of it?
A.     The search-in-place process has been used in a number of dioceses, with both startup and traditional congregations. We have had the opportunity to talk with some of them about their experience with it and their comments have been very positive. Our diocese has been wanting to try it for some time now, and Bishop Mariann is very supportive or our using it.Q.    What about the Capital Campaign process we recently started? Wouldn’t that process be at odds with the process of selecting a new Rector?
A.     According to our Capital Campaign consultant, the two processes should be able to work hand-in-hand. For example, the questions we are asking in the Discernment phase are the same kinds of questions that we will have to have to answer to develop a parish profile in preparation for searching for our next Rector. And if the actual “Ask” segment of the campaign occurs in, say, 2017, we would have provided the incoming Rector with both a roadmap and resources for the journey that will lie ahead.

Q.    Now that Ashley Myers has stepped down from her Admin role, what are our plans to fill that position?
A.     Ashley stepped down as Parish Admin in order to focus on her online business and college degree program, both of which are intensifying. Alicia Frechette (our Personnel Coordinator) and I have revised the job description. So far we have received 12+ applications in response to our ads in the diocesan e-newsletter and Craig’s List, and in response to our sharing the job announcement to the surrounding churches and faith-based organizations, including two with whom we are exploring a possible job share arrangement. Ashley has worked ahead on bulletins through the end of October, by which time we hope to have hired a replacement.

Q.    Who should I talk to if I have feelings about these changes?
A.     Fr. Ken would be the first choice (or Mo. Shivaun, if you have feelings about her departure). But our Wardens, Andy Aviles and Mindy McCartin, are also more than willing to talk.


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