Diocese begins new discernment process

After prayerful consideration, Bishop DeDe Duncan-Probe has invited diocesan leaders, including representative voices from parishes around the Diocese and members of the Diocesan Board, Standing Committee, Commission on Ministry, Diocesan Staff, and District Deans, to join her in a three-to-four month discernment process about our shared diocesan ministry. “It is clear that ministry has changed over the past two years,” says Bishop Duncan-Probe. “In the midst of transformation, it’s both challenging and necessary to listen for God’s call for our ministry.”

In 2020, the Diocese of Central New York made a commitment to a common Vision, Mission, and Rule of Life, which will ground the diocesan discernment process. How might we best use this foundation? What new dreams is God calling us to dream as a Diocese? What form will our shared ministry take in the years ahead? How will we begin to realize our vision of “a world healed by love?”

“It’s tempting to answer these questions with platitudes or strategies or quick fixes,” observes Bishop Duncan-Probe, “Even though we know the challenges our Church is facing don’t come from a lack of our trying! We’ve tried all we know and now it’s time to open our hearts to God’s wisdom that is greater than our knowing.”

So how will the Discernment Team go deep, with curiosity and open hearts? Questions are the answer.

Questions are the Answer

The diocesan Discernment Team met for an introductory session on December 8, 2021, and practiced what’s known as the Question Burst Process, developed by leadership and innovation guru Hal Gregersen of MIT and outlined in his book Questions are the Answer. His theory? If we want to find the right response to our greatest challenges, we need to start with the right questions.

“The right question opens us to the movement of the Spirit. That’s why Jesus asks hundreds of questions in the Gospels,” notes Bishop DeDe Duncan-Probe. “It wasn’t unusual for him to respond to someone’s question with a new question. Questions help us see, hear, and understand God’s dream in new ways.”

The Question Burst Process

The “Question Burst” is a way that ministry teams can find the right questions that will open their eyes to God’s call for them. The right questions, according to Question Burst developer Hal Gregorson, help us get unstuck and imagine new possibilities, because they challenge our assumptions and reframe our issues. Question Bursts can also build trust and reduces anxiety around addressing big challenges. Your vestry or other ministry team may want to join the Discernment Team in trying it out! Here’s how:

The video above outlines the basics of the process:

  1. Select your challenge and invite others to join you in the Question Burst exercise.
  2. Check your emotional temperature: write down or share one or two words that capture how you feel about your challenge. Note: You may want to have all members of the group do this.
  3. Set a timer for two minutes, and lay out the challenge for your group. Note: Bishop Duncan-Probe’s Discernment Team paused for one minute of silence after this step.
  4. Set a timer for four minutes, and as a group generate as many short, tough (but kind) questions as possible. Write every question down verbatim.
    Re-check your emotional temperature–85% of people report feeling better!
  5. Study the questions you jotted down, and select those that intrigue you or help you glimpse something you didn’t see before. Pursue these questions, repeating the Question Burst process as needed.

For the diocesan Discernment Team, Bishop Duncan-Probe laid out the following challenge and starting point: “We have a Vision, Mission, and Rule of Life. and now we’re called to dream new dreams with God.”

Members broke into small groups to respond to this challenge with a Question Burst—generating 143 unique questions! Here are just a few of the evocative questions that emerged:

Who are we caring for and loving?

What has the pandemic shown us about a world healed by love?

How do we know when we hear God’s voice?

What might we have to change so that we might follow God?

In the beginning, God would stop to admire his work: is God still doing that?

Are we afraid that the answer might actually be simple?

How large a table will we need?

What’s next?

The Discernment Team is now preparing for their next conversation in January by reflecting on and identifying the most compelling questions they asked in their introductory conversation. We’ll be sure to keep you informed about the work of the Discernment Team, and we’ll continue to share resources and practices to help you engage a similar process in your own parish.

“I ask that you pray for this discernment process, for me as your Bishop and for each of the parish and diocesan leaders who has agreed to be part of this challenging conversation,” says Bishop DeDe Duncan-Probe. One prayer you might use is the Collect for our Rule of Life, Mission, and Vision:

God of vision and grace, you meet us where we are and invite us into new life:
give us ears to hear and courageous hearts to respond to your call,
that in our shared diocesan ministry we may walk your way of love,
bringing healing and hope to the world.
We ask this through your son, Jesus Christ,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and forever. Amen.

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