by Christine Cook

In the last two months, Maryjane Peck, Linda Klimach, and I have made announcements regarding the Profile Committee, and I thought it might be a good idea to explain in a bit more depth what this Profile Committee is and what we’re doing. I did promise that I would try to be transparent about our process, so, here is partial fulfillment of that process.

As we take the steps of forming the search committee for our new rector, an important first step is to create a portfolio of sorts, which tells prospective priests something about our congregation. To that end, the Episcopal Church has a nation-wide internet bulletin board of sorts, advertising the open positions at churches around the country. Each of these church “advertisements” is an electronic form with the same twelve questions that the church’s Profile Committee has filled out.

In an ideal circumstance, these answers are both informative about the church and its various activities, and will appeal to the prospective priests who are a good match for what we’re looking for. The questions are a little tricky to answer, though, because eleven of the twelve answers must be 1200 characters or less. The twelfth one is much shorter, and tends to consist of sound bites about what the church is looking for in a priest. The best answers have a narrative structure—they tell a nice story about the church—while at the same time illustrating things that are really important to the congregation. With any luck, our answers will entice great prospective priests to look for further information about us on our website, and to apply for the position.

In case you are curious about the questions we must answer, I will lay them out in the balance of this article. For the first question, I will put in the answer we have crafted, which got approval from the diocese level recently, and so we’re fairly certain it is what we will use going forward. We have five more questions that are currently on Maryjane Peck’s desk, to see what she thinks of them, and three more are being drafted as I write this article. For the questions that are not fully fleshed out, but that we have some ideas about what story or event we would like to use to answer the question, I will add that information after the question.

Question 1: Describe a moment in your worshipping community’s recent ministry which you recognize as one of success and fulfillment.

Here is our response, which uses the Christmas Eve Community Lunch to illustrate a ministry we feel passionate about, but it also helps to illustrate a bit about the Back Door Food Pantry and our Outreach program. The Diocese has told us we are on the right track with this one:

“In 2014 St. Clare’s first held an event that has continued annually ever since: our Christmas Eve Community Lunch and Worship Service. We invite community members from local shelters, our food pantry patrons, and area soup kitchen guests to a lunch held in their honor on Christmas Eve. This event means so much to our members and helps us focus on the true spirit of Christmas. St. Clarians contribute funds and volunteer time, and we always have enough of both. Members bring their kids and have made it a part of their holiday tradition. We prepare food, make desserts, decorate the social hall, and serve as hosts to our special guests. We provide each guest with a small gift when they arrive and seat them at festively adorned tables. Church members sit at each table to make guests feel welcome. We’ve hosted 70-125 people at this event each year. Following lunch, guests are invited to share in a worship service where we sing familiar Christmas songs. Not everyone in the congregation attends the service, but those who do find it both meaningful and joyful. We provide transportation to and from the church for those who need it. It is the highlight of our Christmas Season.”

Question 2 – How are you preparing yourselves for the Church of the future?

We are still in discussion about what story we should tell here. As far as we are concerned, this is a tough question, partly because it’s hard to determine what exactly the diocese may be looking for, and also that it seems to be a very big question.

Question 3 – Provide words describing the gifts and skills essential to the future leaders of your worshipping community.

This is the response that is much shorter than the others, and we will probably work on later in the profile committee process. We will take a lot of the information straight out of the responses congregants gave during the Holy Conversations process.

Question 4 – Describe your liturgical style and practice for all types of worship services provided by your community.

We have a complete draft for this response, and it is with Maryjane to see what she thinks of it. We outlined that we use the BCP and other Anglican texts, that we have a healthy group of acolytes, vergers, and lay leadership, and some liturgical practices we consider important to our congregation, such as blessing with the laying on of hands, how we do the Peace, special services, and the like. We also touch on the Erev Thanksgiving here as an introduction to our special relationship with the temple.

Question 5 – How do you practice incorporating others in ministry?

This one has a complete draft, and is also on Maryjane’s desk for her thoughts on it. In this answer, we go more fully into our relationship with the Temple, and with the Genesis Agreement, and discuss some of our ministries, both shared and otherwise.

Question 6 – As a worshipping community, how do you care for your spiritual emotional and physical well-being?

This one is also a complete draft, and is with Maryjane at the time of this writing. In this response, we tell a story about a specific event when members of the congregation showed up for a family during a very important event in their lives, to illustrate that we are there for each other in good times and in bad.

Question 7 – How do you engage in pastoral care for those beyond your worshipping community?

This one is also in draft form, and with Maryjane. In this one, we discuss the use of our building, not just by St. Clare’s, but by the Temple, Blue Ocean, 12-step groups, the Back Door Food Pantry, the pre-school, etc. As you might guess, it was a bit challenging to shoe-horn all that into 1200 characters.

Question 8 – Describe your worshipping community’s involvement in either the wider Church or geographical region.

This response is complete in draft form, and we have sent it to Maryjane for her take. In this one, we go into detail about our Haiti Outreach Mission, and the fundraising activities we have done for it, to include the wine auction.

Question 9 – Tell about a ministry that your worshipping community has initiated in the past five years. Who can be contacted about this?

We are currently drafting the response to this question. We realized, when discussing what to put in this response, that, what with one thing and another, we don’t have a lot of new ministries we’ve implemented in the last five years. We plan to focus on the Sacred Grounds circles, and the fact that we hope to expand on this effort in the future.

Question 10 – What is your practice of stewardship and how does it shape the life of your worshipping community?

We are currently drafting the response to this question, and will likely focus on the Stewardship talks we’ve had, as well as our belief that stewardship is only partly about money; there are many other things that count as stewardship.

Question 11 – What is your worshipping community’s experience of conflict? And how have you addressed it?

We are currently drafting the response to this question. To illustrate both the importance, but also the inherent challenges, the Genesis Covenant, we plan to use our relationship with Temple Beth Emeth in this response.

Question 12 – What is your experience leading/addressing change in the church? When has it gone well? When has it gone poorly? And what did you learn?

Drafting has not begun on this question yet. As with Question 2, this question seems very big, and hard to address in 1200 characters or less. We’ll keep working at it.

These are the questions the Profile Committee is working on, as well as some information about our proposed responses to the questions. As you might be able to see, it’s challenging to fit into the character limit and still say all we want to say about the church. The answers are meant to be snapshots of St. Clare’s, what we have to offer, and why we are a special place. We can expand a bit on everything we put in here in a narrative, which we will post on our website. As our draft responses get approved, we will share more of them with you. For now, rest assured we are busily building the profile responses, and are right on schedule.