Eighteen leaders from the Diocese of Arkansas explored approaches to enlivening parish ministry at the inaugural Cooperative College for Congregational Development from June 25 to July 3 in Mississippi.
The conference was a joint effort of six southern dioceses—Alabama, Arkansas, East Carolina, Mississippi, Tennessee, and Upper South Carolina. The eight-day training was held at the Duncan M. Gray Conference Center near Canton and was led by the Reverend Canon Melissa Skelton, director of the College for Congregational Development in the Episcopal Diocese of Olympia. The training was attended by 70 lay and ordained leaders and was the first installment of two conferences, the second planned for late June and early July 2011.
Spiritual, structural, interpersonal and educational aspects of organizational development for congregations were the focus of the conference. Each participant was given opportunities to exercise leadership in a small group, developing facilitation skills, which would prove useful in the parish. They also engaged various models of how to assess and respond to congregational life, gaining tools to help a parish move forward in mission and ministry.
Representing the Diocese of Arkansas were individuals hailing from Good Shepherd, Forrest City; Christ Church, Forrest City; St. Alban’s, Stuttgart; St. Andrew’s, Mountain Home; St. Matthew’s, Benton; St. Peter’s, Conway; Grace, Pine Bluff; and St. Mark’s, Little Rock.
The CCCD has been in the planning stages for 18 months as senior staff members from each diocese consulted with Canon Skelton to develop the program. The six sponsoring dioceses contributed seed money to support the conference, partially underwriting the costs for each participant.
Each participant is expected to design and complete a congregational development project in the months between the 2010 and 2011 conference.
One person from each diocese is being trained in the facilitation of the curriculum and, after the two-year course, will be able to lead a similar program in his or her home diocese.