I once thought that no job could be more diverse than being a newspaper editor. During my nearly half-century in journalism, I got calls about everything from misconduct in public office to the type size of the TV listings. A reader once contacted me about her deathly fear of snakes, and asked if I could warn her whenever we were planning to run a picture of one in the paper. I did.
But I was wrong about editors having the most diverse jobs. My time in journalism can’t compare to my tenure as secretary of the Diocese of the Virginia.
In one week, I received calls about:
- The nuances of Vestry bylaws.
- A proposed easement across one of our church properties.
- The possibility of purchasing an early 19th century Prayer Book once owned by a legendary rector in our Diocese.
- Details about a possible trip to South Africa.
- In my role as a vocational deacon, requests for a couple of pastoral visits.
Now, granted, some of these may seem at first glance to be less than monumental. But the joy of working for the Diocese of Virginia is that, beyond the daily inquiries, we are encouraged by Bishop Johnston to think big – to work on initiatives that can truly change the world, not just in Virginia, but all over the world.
You get the idea. Every day brings an array of new issues, challenges and opportunities. And I’m not alone in experiencing this variety.
Our 26 dedicated staff members have designated areas of expertise. But in our call to support the largest Episcopal diocese in the United States, we often find ourselves pushed and pulled in all sorts of directions. That’s one of the reasons our jobs are so interesting. But it can lead to a bit of organizational vagueness – even by Anglican standards!
That’s why I’m excited about a new initiative among our staff members that will help us to compile an inventory of staff talents and passions. It holds the promise of making us more responsive to your needs — from how to attract young people to your church, to how to become reconcilers in the greater community.
The first step was to ask each staff member to list the tasks that are currently filling that person’s time: Which are items that are required by the canons? Which reflect ministry priorities? Which are more administrative and supportive in nature?
Next came the list of passions and skills. Which of these are currently being engaged? Which have yet to be engaged?
From these responses, we hope to build a team in which passions and skills are aligned with needs and priorities. Doing so will help us to tear down unnecessary “silos” that can be barriers to collaboration.
In the process, we might discover valuable new skills that will make us more efficient and productive, along with newly engaged passions that will stoke our energies. That’s what we will need if we are to become the future catalysts and connectors among parishes whose need for collaboration continues to grow. The challenges are too great to “go it alone.”
My thanks to the Rev. Mary Thorpe, our director of Transition Ministries, who was the leading force behind this initiative.
Anglican to the core, I’ve never been enthralled by overly rigid organizational charts. But I realize that we do need structure and clear expectations if we are to do our jobs well. That’s the nuanced set of relationships we’re hoping to create.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to get back to the question of how long the lunch break should be at Annual Council.
By: The Rev. Deacon Ed Jones, Secretary of the Diocese