The Executive Council of The Episcopal Church has granted The Diocese of West Missouri $20,265 for the creation of a teaching-and-learning program designed to equip town and country churches. The grant comes from the Roanridge Trust, which has historic ties to our diocese. Partners in Presence, the name given to the proposed program, is now transitioning from concept design to the development stage thanks to the grant from the Executive Council and the funds committed to starting the program by more-resourced churches in the diocese.
The primary aims of the program are community development, evangelism, and partnerships between churches and both their local communities and fellow churches in the diocese. The program has an anticipated launch in Fall 2022 with a cohort of local church leaders throughout West Missouri. While the target audiences of the program are town and country churches, participation is open to leaders and members representing all of the churches in the diocese.
Following the pilot cohort, made up of members of our diocese, the program will be open to cohorts from any diocese. The program is designed to be customizable and contextualized to the needs of the participating dioceses. Cohorts can choose to engage the program’s content repeatedly, focusing on different aspects or reflecting on previous experiences to dive deeper into the resources and ideas at hand.
Partners in Presence is designed to equip lay and ordained leaders to help their congregations toward faithful and effective Christian witness in their respective communities. Christian witness, within the framework of this program, refers to both explicitly stated and locally enacted expressions of sharing the Good News of God in Christ – bearing witness with words to the redeeming work of God in the life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus, while also sharing that redeeming love through charitable ministries within the communities in which our churches are situated.
While there are related hopes and dreams for the Partners in Presence program, four of the goals are
- increased awareness of community outreach opportunities through local research;
- sustainable and mutual partnerships created between local churches and other entities in their respective communities;
- establish relationships between diocesan churches to meet the needs and share engagement with each other as one church in mission throughout the diocese; and
- new and renewed evangelism efforts in the communities served by our churches.
West Missouri’s Roanridge connection
As we as a diocese focus on ‘recalling our roots to grow anew,’ we look specifically to this piece of our own history as we commit to new ideas for our future.
The Roanridge Trust has deep ties to The Diocese of West Missouri and diocesan leaders are excited to see the legacy of Roanridge return to our diocese. As we as a diocese focus on recalling our roots to grow anew, we look specifically to this piece of our own history as we commit to new ideas for our future.
Roanridge was a working farm in Missouri donated by the Cochel family to The Episcopal Church to provide a unique setting in which Episcopal clergy, seminarians, and laypeople could develop an understanding of farming operations and rural community structure. As Roanridge grew into its own seminary-like community by the mid-1950s, the Chapel of the Redeemer was started as a mission of The Diocese of West Missouri. That mission is now the Episcopal Church of the Redeemer, a suburban parish in the Northwest-Metro Deanery and not, as Roanridge was, on a farm (though Redeemer sits only a few minutes from the original site).
Through educational programs such as conferences, seminars, and institutes, the non-profit corporation that managed Roanridge sought to help Episcopal clergy and laity better serve communities in rural and small-town America. The farm was eventually sold, and the Roanridge Trust was established.
The interest generated from the Roanridge Trust is specifically to be used for the training of town and country clergy and rural Christian workers of The Episcopal Church. Each year the Roanridge Trust generates approximately $160,000 to be distributed in grants.
Continuing the legacy of Roanridge, the Partners in Presence program is designed for lay and clergy Episcopalians to be integrally connected to the hearts of their communities.
Continuing the legacy of Roanridge, the Partners in Presence program is designed for lay and clergy Episcopalians to be integrally connected to the hearts of their communities. As Roanridge taught the trades that helped Episcopalians be centrally integrated into the very lives of their communities, Partners in Presence is aimed to help our lay leaders and clerics see their communities with new eyes, engaging in the work that is vital to their town or neighborhood, and expressing their faith as “Christian workers of The Episcopal Church.”
The Partners in Presence program came as the result of conversations with leaders throughout the diocese. Upon learning of the Roanridge Trust grants, the Very Rev. Isaac Petty – now Dean of the Central Deanery – opened an invitation to the clergy and wardens of town and country churches across the diocese to discuss a training program that was in line with the intentions of the Roanridge Trust, and responding to the needs and desires of our churches, and offering a customizable opportunity for The Diocese of West Missouri to engage as it works to name and exhibit a clarified mission and vision for the coming years.
Speaking about the opportunities made available by this award from the Roanridge Trust and how it can further equip our churches for renewed engagement with our communities, Bishop Bruce said, “This is a great honor for The Diocese of West Missouri. I’m so appreciative of Fr. Petty taking the lead on this in not only writing the grant proposal, but in helping coordinate this much-needed project.”
As the Partners in Presence program continues to take shape, opportunities to engage in conversations related to the customization of content specific to our pilot cohort will be available. For more information or to become involved in this project, contact Fr. Isaac Petty at email@example.com.