What Happens At Convention Doesn’t Have To Stay At Convention

Gary Allman Five-minute read.   Resources

Bishop Marty (probably ill-advisedly) called on the rather rumpled looking Communications Director to speak. Image credit: Gary Zumwalt

As you’d expect, this post-convention issue of Spirit has several articles about the diocesan convention and the ongoing work and planning to improve, build, and fund the ‘Episcopal Branch of The Jesus Movement in West Missouri’ aka The Diocese of West Missouri.

Some of the Diocesan Staff Working Behind the Scenes at Convention L-R Gary Allman, Communications Director. Emily Davenport, Bishop’s Executive Assistant. Angela Crawford, Events-Communications Assistant. Image credit: Gary Zumwalt

For many people, the workings of convention and the diocese (and even the necessity of the diocesan structure) remains something of a mystery.  While things keep going and ‘Church happens’ every Sunday it’s easy to metaphorically snooze in the back pews and ignore the details and workings of ‘The Church’ beyond one’s own church’s horizon. Until, that is, something happens, a change in direction or an unexpected decision impacts your favorite ministry. Such things may appear to come as a bolt from the blue, but that’s far from the truth. There are discussions, meetings, proposals, counter-proposals and voting. The majority of the initiatives originate at a deanery or council level, from the representatives that you elect at your church’s annual meeting. Have you ever asked your deanery representative, or diocesan convention delegate what they do, what’s discussed? In an ideal world, they will report back to you via your church’s newsletter or magazine. Unfortunately, your often hard-pressed volunteers don’t have time to do so.

I believe it is worth investing your time to find out more about how we in The Episcopal Church manage ourselves, and how and why things change.  This is especially relevant next year as in July the 79th General Convention of The Episcopal Church takes place in Austin Texas.  It’s far too easy to complain about this or that decision after the event, but what about making sure you prime your various representatives on your thoughts, so that they can better represent you before decisions and votes are taken? Needless to say, one way to find out what’s going on within the 48 churches that makes up the diocese is to read the summaries of the diocesan convention and the findings to-date of the Council Work Groups, and whether you agree or disagree, contact your church’s representatives and make your voice heard.

Each diocesan convention and the following year has a theme. For the past five years, the theme has centered around our five baptismal covenants. This year, Bishop Marty introduced the theme: “Called in. Sent out. Building a Community of Purpose.” This concept builds on the work leading up to the Presiding Bishop’s visit last May and looks to build and consolidate the work of the diocese as a parish in its own right. You can read more about Bishop Marty’s vision here.

Convention is not all facts, figures, and discussion. Mike McDonnell (St. George, Camdenton) brings a very personal look at the proceedings, which includes the wonderfully honest phrase “absolutely mind-numbingly excruciating”. You’ll have to read his article to find out what he was referring to and discover the deep emotions that were stirred.

One of the great things about being Communications Director is the privilege of being present and able to help document key transitions in the lives of the people of West Missouri. In the run-up to the diocesan convention, I attended two area confirmation services. The first was at St. John’s, Springfield, and the second was at St. Mary’s, Kansas City. Then in early December, I was present when Fr. Jos Tharakan was installed as Rector at St. James’ Springfield, and two days later at All Saints’, Nevada when Fr. Jim Lyle was installed as Rector. Unfortunately, I missed the two (yes, two) installations of Mtr. Anne Kyle, one as Pastor to Christ and Trinity Lutheran Church, Sedalia,  and the second as rector to Calvary Episcopal Church, Sedalia. I also missed the installation of my EfM class-mate and alumna  Mtr. Laura Hughes as rector of St. George in Camdenton.

As the end of the calendar year draws nigh it’s traditional to have a little bit of introspection and reflection on the past year. Here is a small selection of some of my favorite memories from the 1,000+ pictures I took during my travels around the diocese this year. Enjoy.

Gary Allman is Communications Director with The Diocese of West Missouri.


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Work Group Reports — Metrics Team

The Metrics Team spotlights how Episcopal churches are changing and being challenged in West Missouri and analyses church and diocesan reports that highlight changes in priest deployment, number of churches, membership, attendance, and financial trends.

The Rev. Ted Estes and Amanda Perschall Five-minute read.   Resources

Work Group Reports — Metrics Team Image credit: Gary Zumwalt

The Metrics team presented the following data through graphs, explanation, and dialogue during the November 2017 Convention.

Metrics Team members are: Mary Ellison, Fr. Ted Estes, Krista Heuett, Collin Larimore, Fr. Jerry Miller, Fr. Patrick Perkins, Amanda Perschall, David Powell, Thomas Rose, and Fr. Galen Snodgrass. Fr. Estes and Ms. Perschall are co-conveners of the group.

Priest Deployment – Graph 1

Priest deployment (graph 1) has changed significantly over the last 17 years. In 2000, there were 52 congregations and the majority of these churches (71% – 37 churches) were served by at least one full-time priest. Part-time priests served seven churches (14%). Eight churches were served in regional ministries (15%). By 2017, the number of churches has reduced to 48 with the deployment of priests shifting to about a third in each category. 15 churches are served by at least one full-time priest (31%). 18 churches are served by a part-time priest (38%). 15 churches are served by a regional ministry (31%). These shifts in deployment reflect a changing dynamic in how our churches are staffed and function.

During this same 17-year period, the diocese closed seven churches and opened three. Conventional thinking might suppose that the majority of churches closed were located in rural areas with shrinking populations. This is not the case. Four Kansas City Metropolitan Churches (Holy Spirit, Cambridge, St. John, & All Saints) and two Springfield suburban churches (Ascension & Good Shepherd) were closed. Only Trinity Church of Marshall is considered rural, although it has a population in excess of 14,000 and a four-year college. Three churches have been opened since 2000, St. Thomas a Becket, Cassville; St. Matthew, Ozark, and St. Mary Magdalene, Belton. The first two of these are in a regional ministry and the third is served by a part-time priest. Cassville is rural and the other two suburban.

Trends in Diocesan membership and finance are similar to those in The Episcopal Church (TEC). (the abbreviation TEC will be used to indicate The Episcopal Church, comprised of 110 dioceses). ASA (Average Sunday Attendance) is the average attendance over 52 Sundays for a church, diocese or the TEC. According to Episcopal Church Domestic Fast Facts 2016: TEC ASA has declined -11% and TEC Active Baptized Membership has declined -8% over the last five years. Episcopal Church Plate & Pledge Income 2011-2016 reports that TEC’s average pledge has increased +11% ($359) from $2,395 to $2,754 and the overall plate and pledge reported has increased +1% over the same five-years.

Trends for The Diocese of West Missouri from 2011 to 2016 show a -17% decline in ASA and Diocesan Active Baptized Membership shows a -12% decline. Diocesan Average Member Pledge shows an increase of +19% from $2,432 to $2,901 in the last five years. When compared to the -9% decrease in the total Diocesan Plate and Pledge from $7,552,159 to $6,881,371, the increase in average pledge suggests that there are fewer pledging units but that they have increased the amount they are pledging. However, the increase in average giving is not sufficient to maintain the total of plate offerings and pledges received five years ago.

The Metrics team surveyed 15 Bishop’s staff members regarding their job descriptions, Mission Statements, goals, objectives, priorities, methods of tracking progress, and other pertinent issues. The data collected have been shared with the Goals Team for use in developing goals and aligning activities and measures to assess progress toward those goals.

The Metrics team’s charge is to work closely with diocesan stakeholders in developing and implementing appropriate measures for the work of the diocese. The goal is to provide meaningful data that guides programming and provides assurance that resources, efforts of personnel, and funding at the diocesan level are targeted, effective, and prioritized in alignment with diocesan goals. The next stage of this work will focus on the goals established for the diocese in the current process.

Sources of Information include: Individual Parochial Reports 1998-2016, The Episcopal Church Annual 2000 & 2016, Domestic Fast Facts 2016 and Fast Facts Trends 2012-2016, Average Sunday Attendance by Province and Diocese 2006-2016, Baptized Members by Province and Diocese 2006-2016, Domestic Plate & Pledge Income 2011-2016, Average Pledge by Province and Diocese 2006-2016, and Staff Surveys.

The Rev. Ted Estes is associate rector of Grace Church, Carthage, member of Diocesan Council, and co-chair of the Metrics Team.
Amanda Perschall is an active member of Trinity Church, Lebanon, member of Diocesan Council, and co-chair of the Metrics Team.


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Area Confirmations at St. John’s, Springfield

Gary Allman One-minute read.   Resources

On the afternoon of Sunday October 22, 2017, Confirmations and Reaffirmations into the Episcopal Church were held at St. John’s in Springfield. Churches taking part were: Christ Episcopal Church, Springfield and St. John’s Episcopal Church, Springfield. Image credit: Gary Allman

Confirmations, and a reaffirmation were held at St. John’s Episcopal Church, Springfield on Sunday, October 22, 2017. At the service members of St. John’s and Christ Episcopal Church, Springfield were confirmed.

Christ Episcopal Church, Springfield

Presentation of the candidates from Christ Episcopal Church, Springfield Image credit: Gary Allman

Confirmed: Rachael Dockery, Gwen Kearns, Abram McGull.

St. John’s Episcopal Church, Springfield

Presentation of the candidates from St. John’s Episcopal Church, Springfield Image credit: Gary Allman

Confirmed: Steven Freeman, Eric Swanson.
Reaffirmed: Amy Smith.

Gary Allman is Communications Director with The Diocese of West Missouri.


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Bishop’s Shield Recipient – Duchess Wall

Bishop’s Shield Recipient Duchess Wall with Bishop Marty. Bishop’s Ball 2017 Image credit: Gary Allman

Each year, it is my honor as Bishop to consider the presentation of a special award to folks from around our diocese. The award is known as “The Bishop’s Shield”. It is awarded to those who have contributed significant and sustained leadership in the life of the diocese (or in the life of the general church beyond the diocese) for which they were not compensated. This award may go alike to members of the clergy or members of the lay order. The key criteria are those words in boldface above: significant, sustained, and leadership. Nominees for the award are solicited each fall from the clergy of the diocese and from past, Bishop’s Shield recipients (who serve as a nominating committee of sorts), but anyone may nominate a person they believe to match the criteria. Usually, the awarding of Bishop’s Shields takes place at the banquet on the first evening of the diocese’s Annual Convention.

This year only one person was nominated who met the criteria, and it was immediately crystal clear that awarding the Bishop’s Shield at the banquet would not be as appropriate as another, very available setting.

Each year the youth of the diocese come together on the same weekend as our Annual Convention for a Diocesan Youth Gathering (or “D.Y.G.” as it is more commonly known). The person who was nominated and selected was going to be volunteering as a youth leader at DYG, so the Saturday evening banquet at DYG was the perfect place to present the award.

Here’s what I said on that occasion:

“Tonight, I have the honor of presenting the Bishop’s Shield to someone who is here at the DYG banquet. Before I announce his name, I want to share with you some of the things this person’s nominators wrote about him, and there were several nominators.

‘I have to wonder how many hours each day this person is in intercessory prayer. It must be a substantial portion of his waking hours. If he says, “I’m praying for you,” he really is praying every day. And you’d better let him know if your problem has been relieved, or he’ll still be praying for you next year.

What a privilege it is to be his priest. He brings to me people … who need God’s help so that I can pray for them too. Often, it is his presence in the lives of others that is the avenue of God’s grace in their lives, and his loving relationship with many who are now adults, whom he has known since he was their teacher in grade school, is what often keeps them on healthy paths. Sometimes, I think that God uses his loving obedience as the answer to those prayers.

His ministry to youth in the diocese is legendary. He is part of everything youth-related and has been for decades. Whenever I have attended a diocesan youth event, he is there. From planning events to taking aside a single kid who needs special attention, he is there. Whenever the other youth leaders need a leader, he is there, and has been for decades.’

Have you guessed yet? Would it help, if I told you that ‘he’ is actually a ‘she’? Now do you know? To end the suspense, it is my great pleasure to announce to you the newest recipient of the Bishop’s Shield is Duchess Wall.”

ASIDE – this announcement was followed by squeals of delight, thunderous applause, and a roar of approval from the youth and adult leaders present. Duchess responded with open-mouthed disbelief. After placing the award around her neck, I continued …

“My introduction to this award was written by Fr. Jonathan Frazier, the Rector of St. Peter & All Saints, KC, Duchess’ home parish. I played fast and loose with the pronouns to enhance the surprise, but I am grateful to Fr. Jonathan and the many folks who think so highly of Duchess that they nominated her for a Bishop’s Shield.

Here are a sample of more comments from Duchess’ many nominators:

‘If there are youth involved in any kind of activity in the Diocese of West Missouri, Duchess Wall has been, is, and always will be there. The fact that she has been and still is a teacher and can walk into almost any school and see “her kids” is amazing. At times it seems that Duchess invented the Youth Group! Those of us in our late 50s, and our grandchildren as well, know Miss Duchess as a Youth leader. She will share stories with you about her kids that are veterinarians, teachers, nurses, and priests. We will never outgrow being her kids and that’s absolutely fine with us! From Happening to Cliff Springs, from Missionpalooza to WEMO, from EYE to parish lock-ins, “Duchess is here, we can start now!”’

Ann Lagrange, vestry member, St. Peter & All Saints, Kansas City

‘What can one say about Duchess Wall? I have known her many years, and of course, there are stories, but nothing speaks more about her than what she has done for and with all of the youths in this Diocese for a long time now. When asked to help with any youth event, her answer is always “yes”. So many children who have become adults now in this diocese know her still as Miss Duchess, including my own adult children. I still call her that myself all the time. She never tires of serving the youth of the Diocese of West Missouri, and we are indeed blessed by her presence with those youth for all of these many years.’

Rob Walker, Clerk of the Vestry, St. Peter & All Saints, Kansas City

‘What a wonderful choice Duchess is to be a nominee for the Bishop’s Shield. Though my history with Duchess is shorter than others, I have been able to observe Duchess as well as spend some time with her to know some of her spiritual heart and love for the Church and especially the youth of our parish and Diocese. I have never seen Duchess without a smile. Ever. She speaks and thinks so caringly about others and especially of children and young people. Her background in education seems to have been less of a job to her and more of pure passion. She has great empathy for children. Her work with youth groups goes back years. She willingly and selflessly still gives of her time and talents for encouraging and directing youth activities. She is a great example of God’s love to them. Duchess and I were in a small group during one Advent season doing some spiritual direction. I remember thinking her heart and spirit shine through her eyes and smile. She lives her faith and spreads a positive spirit in all that she gives. She believes in her faith wholeheartedly and by that she is contagious in her love of Jesus. She ends all her e-mails “Jesus loves you more”. Unspoken and in speaking she talks with grace and truth. She has been and continues to be a special advocate, leader, and teacher of young people.’

Carol Miller, Sr. Warden, St. Peter & All Saints, Kansas City

‘Right Reverend Sir, I would like to nominate Duchess Wall for a Bishop’s Shield award. Duchess has been a stalwart of youth ministry in the Diocese of West Missouri for the more than 30 years I have known her. She has seen all the changes in youth ministry in the diocese, from the early days of Cliff Springs Camp through the early days of Happening being introduced in the diocese. She has continued to be involved as youth ministry participation has risen and fallen through the years. She continues to be involved to this day as a chaperone at youth events. Her ministry of presence for those she refers to as “my kids” has never lagged. I know that I would not be the person I am today without her ministry of presence in my life, both as a youth participating in the diocesan youth ministry program in the 1980s and early 1990s and as a someone still involved in youth ministry today. All of this work is in addition to her ministry at her local congregations of All Saints, Kansas City, and now at St. Peter & All Saints, Kansas City.’

Curtis Hamilton, Secretary of the Diocese & member of Grace & Holy Trinity Cathedral, Kansas City

Congratulations, Duchess, and thank you for your many years of caring for and nurturing the youth of West Missouri. Your Bishop’s Shield is well deserved and fully earned. May God bless your future ministry in the name of Christ Jesus.

The Rt. Rev. Martin Scott Field (Bishop Marty) is the eighth bishop of The Diocese of West Missouri.

Installation of Fr. Jim Lile at All saints’, Nevada

Gary Allman One-minute read.   Resources

The Installation of the Rev. Dr. James Lile, Jr. as Rector at All Saints’ Episcopal Church, Nevada, Missouri Image credit: Gary Allman

The Installation of the Rev. Dr. James Lile, Jr. as Rector at All Saints’ Episcopal Church, Nevada, Missouri took place on Sunday December 3, 2017.


Gary Allman is Director of Communications with The Diocese of West Missouri.