Tuesday, April 22, 2008

April 22, 2008 (2)

Last night our vestry met for our ‘changeover meeting’ prior to our new vestry taking office on May 1. Newly elected members attend and are enfranchised for the purpose of electing their officers. More often than not, these positions are ‘contested’ in the sense that more than one fine candidate is nominated and a ballot decides. It might be more biblical if we simply drew lots at that point.

One position that is not contested is that of Senior Warden, a position for which I hve the privilege of making the nomination in this diocese. It is our custom for the retiring senior warden to offer a meditation at this meeting. One of the great gifts, surprises and joys form me in the past year has been working with Della Wells. She is thoughtful, caring, effective and quick all at the same time,--a powerful combination. Her many gifts were on display in her stunning meditation last night. I will not seek to summarize it here and only say that we have asked permission to publish it in Saints Alive or online or both. Suffice it to say that she has inherited the family genes of her great uncle, Bishop Robert DeWitt, (http://www.edomi.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=27&Itemid=331) one of the three bishops who ordained eleven women as priests of the Episcopal Church (see http://ecusa.anglican.org/41685_3311_ENG_HTM.htm).

Another aspect of our meeting that was particularly striking to me was our time of intercession during one of our occasional celebrations of Eucharist together. As names of the sick were called out in prayer I was reminded how in any gathering of the saints, there are many who are carrying real burdens of love and concern for people close to them who are sick or suffering, mourning or in other need. When we share the desires of our hearts in the midst of the community of faith—whether formally during a Eucharist or informally in one or another of our parish groups—something real begins to happen in and by the grace of God.

Two conversations earlier yesterday addressed a tension for us in developing communities of enough trust that the real desires of our hearts, our hopes and regrets, our joys and sorrows can be shared. On one hand groups frequently need to be ‘closed membership’ in nature for such trust (and consequent growth in faith) to occur. On the other hand we need a way of moving people who desire such community within our parish into those groups quickly. Our GIFT program was designed to allow for both purposes, but the program has not worked for the second. Our idea that we would create a group whenever there were eight or ten people willing to covenant with one another still stands, but what we have had is one or two or three people looking for a group at any given time who seek other avenues for such community when the critical mass for a GIFT group is not immediate. We are now exploring whether they may be a way to integrate one or two people into existing groups from time to time without significantly disrupting the trust that has already built up for a small community.


joshua case said...


Thanks again for sharing. One of the things which may be interesting to consider might be to make the 'covenant groups' limited in duration with a focus towards multiplication (or expanding care).

If people know that they can be together in covenant for say 12-18 months, but are then expected to move on and enable the 'convenanting' of others it could be interesting.

We've tried it in a few communities i have been a part of and have found that while people enjoy the groups they have been a part of, they also understand the way that compassionate care can spread by giving others the opportunity to "join in" by creating two or three groups out of one.

If you had core groups of 12, you could then "multiply" them into four groups of three and so on. If these core people still wanted to meet, they could come together for encouragement, sharing, training less frequently. In fact, I'd encourage this to happen.

Make sense? Sound like what you are processing?

joshua case

David W. Foerster, Jr. said...

While I appreciate both your blog on this subject and Joshua's response, my experience in running such groups as the "lead" participant tells me that growth in numbers is not all that essential. When even two or three are gathered in our Lord;s name remarkable things--especially abiding and steadfast intimacy emerges. Yes you are correct, a lasting and binding commitment is required. GIFTS is not a casual endeavor nor, properly employed an environment for momentary and casual relief from one's troubles or concerns. Keep writing. David W. Foerster, Jr.

Mark Siegel said...


I have found the GIFT program amazing. The intimacy that develops in the group enables each person to minister to and be ministered by others -- remarkable.

Because of completely legitimate and understandable family, work, and other pressures, the particular GIFT group I was part of consistently fell below the suggested size of six to eight people. As such, we all agreed to lovingly bring the group to a close.

There surely must be a way for a group smaller than six or eight to continue as a group. I think this is an idea worth exploring.

David W. Foerster, Jr. said...

Mark -- There clearly is: 1) you integrate if and only if possible and 2) You add new people and then re-covenant, but the second approach has psychological dynamic issues, especially the continuation of intimacy. It doesn't bother me personally, but it can impact someone who is either emotional fragile or self-consumed and closed or has real 'trust' issues.
But then that person probably needs intensive therapy, which is not the primary aim of GIFTS,. Warm regards, David W. Foerster, Jr.

P.S. I believe Geoffrey+ & Elizabeth+ have some very good ideas about how to move forward