Means of Grace, Hope of Glory


A life


Fr. Richard Norris was one of the great theologians and teachers of the Church. Though his field wasn't parish development he offered one of the most useful and significant insights used by practitioners in that field.

People naturally make the analogy between the Church and other groups with which they are familiar: clubs, corporations, families and so on.  References to "organized religion" or "institutionalized religion" reveal the assumption that the Church is just one more form of human organization.  While the process of making analogies with the club, corporation, etc., is inevitable, it also creates a problem. "People come to the conclusion that the Church is a "society created by human enterprise and designed to serve particular human ends," that it is created by the "agreement of a number of individual persons who presumably define the terms of their association and its goals." …  "Church means, not corporation and not club, but a collection of people who have been called out together by a voice or a word or a summons which comes to them from outside." (Richard Norris, Understanding the Faith of the Church, Seabury Press, NY, 1979)

For some years now the church, maybe especially the Episcopal Church, has lived as though we were justifying our existence on the basis of being a social service agency. The more we served the poor and troubled -- the more value we have. Mostly we don't say that. We still know it's bad theology. But it is how many of us act. 

While being empathetic about the tendency Norris questioned that approach. 

A.M. Allchin understood that our "activity" was to rise from a life grounded in Office and Eucharist -- "a life which overflowed into activity, not an activity supported by a life." We exist to glorify God. We exist to participate in the life of God. And from that participation will flow faithful activity. And that activity will be for almost all of us primarily done in the routines of our daily life -- in family, with friends, at work, and in civic life. 

We need to beware of the tendency of the parish to see itself as the center, as the important thing. A tendency that has too many parishes measuring faithfulness by what you do in and through the parish.  So instead of the organic rhythm of the Body of Christ we get institutionalism.

Evelyn Underhill helps us understand how bad theology, and confused practice, ends up distorting the activity, our service.

 One’s first duty is adoration, and one’s second duty is awe and only one’s third duty is service. And that for those three things and nothing else, addressed to God and no one else, you and I and all other countless human creatures evolved upon the surface of this planet were created. We observe then that two of the three things for which our souls were made are matters of attitude, of relation: adoration and awe. Unless these two are right, the last of the triad, service, won’t be right. Unless the whole of is a movement of praise and adoration, unless it is instinct with awe, the work which the life produces won’t be much good. P 22

For the real saint is neither a special creation nor a spiritual freak. He is just a human being in whom has been fulfilled the great aspiration of St. Augustine – “My life shall be a real life, being wholly full of Thee.” And as that real life, the interior union with God grows, so too does the saints’ self­identification with humanity grow. They do not stand aside wrapped in delightful prayers and feeling pure and agreeable to God. They go right down into the mess; and there, right down in the mess, they are able to radiate God because they possess Him. P 96  Concerning the Inner Life

The icon is from "The Anglo Catholics" an icon series. This one was written by Mary Ellen Watson




Two Schools of Congregational Development

There's an excellent article appearing in the April 8 issue of the Living Church -- "Two Schools of Congregational Development" by Kirk Petersen. It touches on how two congregational development programs were impacted by my divorce in 2008. But in the main its focus is on describing the College for Congregational Development and the Diocesan CDI programs. I hope you'll take a look at the write up on two proven programs. 


Petersen notes "Both organizations draw rave reviews from participants." He goes on to note the many similarities between the programs, e.g., two years, multiple dioceses, lay and clergy teams from parishes, the use of organization development, and each has involved two bishops in the training. Both have a commitment to diocesan based programs. He also wrote about how the people in each program are not very familiar with the other. 


My impression is that the Diocesan CDI program may place more emphasis on pastoral and ascetical theology and practice in its work. But that's just an impression. I'd love to get together with leaders from both programs. We could share what each is doing and take a look at how both might improve. Michelle Heyne and I could offer a few ideas from our work in Shaping the Parish (see three ideas toward the bottom of this page).


There was one error in the story that a former CDI trainer brought to my attention. In the article Kirk Petersen writes:


“Consciously or otherwise, DCDI has also borrowed a page from CCD play book by evolving into a diocesan based organization. It previously had been a national program, first at seminaries and then as a standalone organization. The “Diocesan”was added to convocation development Institute in 2011 to create DCDI.” 


Actually it's the reverse. There were 13 diocesan CDIs years before the College was formed -- CDIs in the dioceses of Atlanta, Connecticut, Milwaukee, Newark, North Carolina, Northern Indiana, Rochester, Southwest Florida, Southwest Virginia, Virginia, Washington, Western New York, and Western Massachusetts. Around the time CCD was being formed there was also a CDI in Utah. The current Diocesan CDIs are in Georgia, Milwaukee, Long Island, Northern Indiana, Michigan, and Colorado. The history on the DCDI web site seems pretty acurate.


More background

If you are interested in more background on the history of parish development in the Episcopal Church, here are two sources -

Understanding from Within

Michelle Heyne and I wrote an article for the Organization Development Practitioner in the Winter 2015 edition. Here's a link to that edition.  There's also a posting on this site that adds to the OD Practitioner article.

The article was written for members of the OD Network, the largest professional association of organization development practitioners. That's a largely secular audience and the piece is written in a manner that reflects that.

We also wrote a posting for those OD Practitioners who wanted more information on the models mentioned in the article. It's also a resource for parish development practitioners in the church seeking resources. Here's a link to that article.

That piece notes that people doing parish development need to "understand from within" if their work is to be effective:
1. We are more likely to "understand" and be received if we are proficient Christians grounded in this Anglican way of being a Christian. 
2. Taking an appreciative, curious, open stance toward the parish and the tradition will also help. If we had to chose between a competent secular OD consultant with such appreciation and an Episcopalian taking a dismissive stance toward parishes, with a list of "three things all parishes must do," we'd select the non-religious consultant.
3. Our understand will be richer and deeper if we are familiar with systems oriented pastoral/ascetical theology models of the parish church. Such models are teased out of the actual experience of the parish church in relationship with the church's self understanding of its nature, mission, and inner life.

The History of Parish Development in the Episcopal Church

It provides an overview of the field, the history, and a reflection on the current state of the field (a bit dated). It explains three streams to the field: pastoral and ascetical theology, organization development, and a blending of the two.

There's also a discussion of six ways in which parishes have done parish development: best practices, limited competency development, longer and more intensive leadership training programs, and so on.

As you'd expect there's a good bit on the development and evolution of the Church Development Institute.

We end by offering three suggestions that we think might improve the existing DCDI and CCD programs:

We are offering a few suggestions to DCDI and CCD based on what was learned in Shaping the Parish:

1. Provide developmental interventions (projects) for participants to use that are designed to be truly developmental. Support that with coaching from experienced trainers. Comment - we continue to hear about projects that are designed by participants in the two programs. Most are not really developmental. Of course participants can still learn about the process of change in a parish as well as about their own emotional and spiritual life as they engage the work. Participant skills can be better increased if they are provided with a few well designed developmental initiatives to carry out in the first year of the program. That pattern might be continued or they might then be invited to design their own projects.

2. Begin with a weekend T-group and the use of several instruments (MBTI, FIRO B, and TKI). Information on T-groups -- Crosby  Gallagher.  Our Shaping the Parish experience suggest that doing these activities at the front end of a program creates a more open learning environment that persists, establishes a norm of useful and skilled feedback, and sharpens the emotional intelligence of most participants. A difficulty with this is that it means that the training staff need to have a much higher level of training competence. 

3. We invite the leaders of DCDI and CCD to borrow from what we learned in Shaping the Parish

"The History of Parish Development in the Episcopal Church" -- Here's the link.



The pictures

CDI-Washington (around 2001) - a diocesan program

CDI-Colorado (around 2008) - a diocesan program

CDI-Seattle (2007) - a national program

CDI-General Seminary (early 1990's?) - a national program

CDI Colorado (2008) - a diocesan program


Multitudinism, Institutionalism, and the Conventional 

The awful trinity: multitudinism, institutionalism, and the conventional 

Multitudinism is Martin Thornton's term for when the church focuses on numbers.

Institutionalism is my term for when the church focuses on the institutional needs, demands and pressures that shape the time and energy of leaders and members. A related posting on institutionalism.

The conventional is when the church focuses on the current and popular measure of parish acceptable life.

This destructive trinity, when permitted to be main stage, sucks the life out of our parishes. It tears the heart out of faithful priests and deacons. It causes the Apostolic to seek nurture and growth in places outside the parish church they love.

In multitudinism - “The emphasis is numerical, membership is nominal; which inevitably means convention, respectability, Pelagianism, apathy, and spiritual sterility. The sole pastoral function is ostensibly evangelism which is so frequently reduced to mere 'recruitment'." (Thornton, Pastoral Theology, p. 14)  You end up spending your time on some form of "revival" gatherings. It will wear out the parish priest who must over-function in the hope that the numbers will show themselves. There's little or no long term payoff. In the Episcopal Church this appears every couple of decades as we hope the evangelicals can show us how to increase our numbers. Clergy trot off to places like Saint Paul's, Darian in the 70s and 80s and Willow Creek in the new century. We then try to create a more Anglican version in the hope we can be both prosperous and loyal. It rarely occurs to us that we have a tradition of organic evangelization that works if we use it.

In institutionalism - The emphasis is on the institutional life of the parish -- its roles, authority, power, and needs. Great attention is paid to administration. How might we be more a more successful institution?

The conventional - The parish behaves in accordance with the prevailing set of accepted conventions. It seeks signs from outside itself in the broader culture and becomes the Republican Party at prayer (or the Democratic Party) or how do we conform to being of the South or the Pacific Northwest?

This dreadful trinity is an interdependent system but the elements are not distinct in themselves, they overlap and are ambiguous. Three forces that appear comprehensible yet seem given, irresistible, and eternal. 


A few examples: 

Strengthen the Eucharist

The Eucharist will have a stronger presence in the life of most members when:

-We work at making use of music that people are more familiar with, bulletins in which everything is printed out, rehearsing lectors and the servers. We focus on the majority of people and their existing competence and by


-by improving the congregation's capacity for saying the Office and engaging in reflection & personal devotions and by helping members enter into the Eucharistic action and know Augustine's truth, "It is you who lie upon the altar; it is you, your very life, within the cup" and Underhill's insight, "We are to be transformed, consecrated, made sacred to His creative purpose; and so fulfill the meaning of our life."


Internal communication that builds the Body

We focus our advertising on the events that will have the largest numbers or in which key people have the greatest investment.


We focus on the Threefold Pattern of Prayer and opportunities to live the pattern as well as training and coaching that is available to assist us in running the race. We both do a lot of repetition with this as well as finding new ways to offer a deeper life in Christ. And along the way we advertise to the many.

Also -

Our home page is an entry place allowing the use of a menu. The menu lists "worship" as one of many possible things. 


The home page presents information on both the Sunday Eucharist and the weekday Office and Eucharists. It communicates a cultural density and grounding in regard to worship.


External signage


My concern here isn't with which signs are more attractive. But which focus on the "awful trinity" and which on the core spiritual dynamics of the parish. The second set shows an emphasis on the Prayer Book Pattern of worship and may communicate to those passing by that this is a place of deep prayer.  

It's not an either/or issue. Use the primary church sign to communicate the fullness of the parish's prayer life; the ground of its life. Use other signs to communicate special events or other messages, Though I do wonder about messages intended to insult and diminish others.

It is often a good idea to attend to the fact that there may be a significant number of people in neighborhood that will come to a special liturgy -- Easter, a special evensong. The problem isn't that we promote these things. The problem is that we don't adequately "promote" the core.  

Here's an example of hanging a banner to promote Easter in the neighborhood. Do attend to the multitude but first attend to the core.


A couple of changes we might make

Change what we measure 
The conventional pattern is something like this --Sunday Eucharist at 8:00 and 1030, another on Wednesday. maybe some kind of Taize liturgy or Compline once a week. If you’re a larger parish with an 8:00, 9:00 and 11:00 and nine and 11 with some kind of education or activity squeezed in between the two larger liturgies. 
So Sunday becomes anxious, rushed, and busy. The clergy need to keep moving from one thing to another 
Our excuses are along these lines -- not many people will come to a daily Evening Prayer or to a formation (training and coaching) program during the week. 


Measure differently – Measure the climate on Sunday morning. Measure the formation of the apostolic core and those ready to progress toward the apostolic faith. Measure over seven years instead of this past Sunday or the past month. Accept people at all stages of faith and practice and invite all to move forward AND feed the Apostolic core as that will help you shape a healthy culture. Certainly pay attention to the multitude and pay more attention to the core, your partners in developing a climate of prayer and apostolic ministry.


Change how we include 

Many parishes work at the inclusion of people by offering a session or two oreinting them to the parish and then we look at how to include them in the institutional work of the parish. So we get them on a committee or on the vestry. We give them some institutional role to play.
What we need to be doing - for the sake of the person and for the sake of the Body of Christ – is helping them include themselves in the pathways of grace – to take responsibility for their own spiritual life and of course to learn about the ways of the inner life. 


Understand how this relates to cultural density and the parish's "demand system"


I'll use an example for this. Putting the full parish worship schedule on the home page and the signage - Sunday Eucharists and daily weekday Office and mid week Eucharists - both adds to the parish's healthy cultural density and shapes a useful demand system. It says "worship" is the center and ground of our life. It presents the Prayer Book Pattern and thereby reinforces that in the mind of at least some. It creates an expectation, that having been listed, it will happen. 


Do not become a purist  

There is no avoiding all this. It's basic organizational psychology.  It is the culture we live in. And like all cultures we are so used to it we barely notice - the air we breath.  Members and leaders always get absorbed into the multitudinist - institutionalist - conventional culture. Always. Over time it happens or you are expelled. If it doesn't happen the priest will be unable to be an incarnate presence. We must live in the world.

So, the issue isn't whether we get absorbed into the broader culture but whether we also maintain that other culture -- the culture of the Eucharist - Office - Reflection/Personal Devotions; the culture of Stability - Obedience - Conversion of Life; the culture of losing your life to find it. And whether we maintain it at the heart of the parish's life and work.




The threefold rule of prayer

Our worship tradition as Episcopalians is based on a three-part structure. Michael Ramsey, the one-hundredth Archbishop of Canterbury, referred to it as the “Benedictine triangle.” Martin Thornton called it the “Catholic Threefold Rule of Prayer.” It is the Prayer Book Pattern. The three elements, Eucharist, Daily Office, and Reflection/Personal Devotions, comprise the fundamentals of a disciplined Christian spirituality in the Anglican tradition.   The use of this pattern can help individuals and parishes move away from the attempt to base our prayer life on a self-made, unintegrated list of "rules" toward an integrated Rule grounded in the Book of Common Prayer. 

Our times, really all times, have need of responsible citizens, workers, family and friends. People who will give themselves to the formation of their conscience in prayer and reflection, and then, to acting upon their conscience. We each have a spiritual life. We are each responsible for our spiritual life. How might we accept that responsibility so that we live as Christ's light in the world?

The threefold pattern is an approach to spiritual life that is within our tradition and that assumes that we each have responsibility for our spiritual life as we live within the Body of Christ.

Through the Rule the parish joins in the tradition and practice of the larger Church and so avails itself of, and participates in, that grace-filled life. It simply makes good spiritual sense to base the parish discipline on what the Church has developed and lived through the ages.

The basic shape and particular expressions of the Rule have been handed on to us in the Prayer Book. The Prayer Book is largely concerned with the Eucharist and the Office as the forms of prayer we share in common. It assumes that the individual Christian is engaged in personal forms of devotion as well. The norm of the Prayer Book and of Catholic tradition is the Holy Eucharist as the principal Sunday act of worship and the Divine Office as our daily offering of common praise.

The parish's prayer life needs balance, discipline, and order. It also needs experimentation. The Threefold Rule is designed to meet these needs. It provides a system that people may learn, in which they may come to rest and grow in maturity. The Rule recognizes the uniqueness of each parish's and person's spiritual life and the paradox that this uniqueness is finally known only from within the Body of Christ. How the essential elements are to be expressed will vary from parish to parish. How they are enriched with additional practices will depend on each parish's particular needs and traditions. Testing and experimentation are necessary in each parish.

The image above highlights first the core elements of the Threefold Rule - Eucharist - Office - Reflection/Personal Devotions. And then notes several forms of Reflection/Personal Devotions -- I think the essentials are self-examination/confession and a form of reflection that effectively and efficiently aids a sense of responsibility and perspective; that nurtures holiness of life.

A PDF of the Threefold Rule     

A chart on the threefold rule (Macquarrie, Thornton, Underhill, Leech)

Two page PDF - Martin Thornton on the meaning of 'Rule' & Gallagher on the Threefold Rule


What function does each element play?

Eucharist & Office: Our life in community, our reflection, and our service are nurtured from the soil of Office and Eucharist. The daily connection with Scripture and common prayer and the weekly receiving of Body and Blood orient us to the ways of eternity and feed us for “real life.” We become familiar with the ways of heaven. We chose to place ourselves in the pathways of grace.

Reflection/Personal Devotions: A form of deepening and holy application. I believe that two are essential -- self-examination/confession and reflection. To live responsibly is to live in humility and a longing for holiness; it is to live thoughtfully as we engage the day-by-day issues of our lives. In addition, I do think that spiritual reading is likely to be a help for most of us. Spending time with the writings of -- Underhill and Thornton, Leech and Gatta, Williams and Lewis, deWaal and Heyne -- will aid us in becoming at home in the pathways of grace. All the rest is a matter of temperament, circumstances, gifts and proficiency. Engage a few of them if they are helpful. Engage none if you wish. In any case never attempt to engage all of them – it will make you mad.

A PDF of the functions served by elements of the threefold rule


An unintegrated prayer life

It's easy to understand how we can drift into creating a rule of life that is based in what we find familiar and comforting. Less frequently we see some people creating a rule that is heavy and burdensome. Spiritual growth is dependent on a mix of acceptance and challenge, grace and judgement. The Threefold Rule offers that needed balance.

Michelle Heyne had an experience a few years ago that highlighted the issue. She was coaching a woman on the use of the Office. The woman told Michelle that she already had a daily practice - she did silent meditation every morning. She just could see how to fit in something else - the Office - and wasn't all that sure about why bother. Michelle affirmed that it wasn't an either/or matter. The two practices accomplished different things in the inner life. Over time the Office grounded you in the church's common life of Scriptures and praise. Her practice of silent mediation helped her feel centered and helped her see particular situations more clearly.

Example 1 - Do you really think that a parish full of people that only engage the Scriptures and praise and adoration once a week in the Eucharist is a strong enough body to provide the light needed in this world?

Start with the assumption that no parish will ever have a majority of members with the spiritual practices and proficiency of Apostolic Christians (or in Thornton's terms - The Remnant). Pastoral theology needs to begin with reality! However, it is reasonable to think that over time a priest can bring 15 - 20% of the adults to live in the Rule of the Church. And if the priest also knows how to shape a broader culture and climate that is Apostolic, that, together with the 15 - 20%, will result in a parish church that is a strong light in its community.

Example 2 - Members who have a spiritual discipline of Eucharist on Sunday and several times of contemplation or centering prayer during the week.  What is the spiritual danger given the missing elements of the Threefold Rule?

Sitting in silence without a routine grounding in the objectivity of the Office may result in a lack of comforting words, as in today's Psalm 91

1He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High, *
abides under the shadow of the Almighty.

and the useful challenge experienced in today's reading from Jeremiah

Yet they did not obey or incline their ear, but everyone walked in the stubbornness of an evil will.

The parish development task

Focus attention on offering the weekly practice of the Sunday Eucharist and the daily practice of the Daily Prayers of the Church (the Office). And provide an adequate amount of training and coaching that would help members become competent at leaving the threefold rule -- a one session 1 1/2 hour Eucharistic Practices program, Daily Office training and coaching offered as two sessions with a week of doing the Office in between, and session on methods for self examination, how to make a private confession, and forms of spiritual reading and Lectio Divina. 

If not many people in the parish say the Office on their own you might offer that training three or four times a year for a few years. Accept that there will be times when no one shows. But know that over a few years you'll end up with a number of people who know how to say the Office on their own. If the parish has a number of people who already say the Office offering training and coaching once during the year may be enough.



The Relationship Cycle

One of the most useful models I've used over the years is the "Relationship Cycle." It's a way of understanding any relationship between or among people or between people and an organization they are part of.

The Relationship Cycle describes the normal and unavoidable sequence by which relationships are developed, expectations created, work begins, and then, in time, “rubs” crop up—bumps in the road, new opportunities not previously anticipated, personality clashes, new or revised processes that don’t quite work. 

It helps when the parish has institutional, structured ways of checking in, channeling concerns, and moving forward as new hopes and concerns emerge. If the parish has such processes for the whole parish it will be easier for a working group or committee to use similar methods in adapting and revising its work over time.  

Here's the current image I use for the model --

And here's a PDF of the image       And a PDF of the image along with a presentation of the model

You are welcome to use them in your work. Such use is to maintain the PDF as it is offered and to be provided without charge. Below this posting you'll find additional related resources for the use of the model.

Here is the image of the "Planned Renegotiation Cycle" of Sherwood and Glidewell that I was inspired by; it was presented in an Organization Development Workshop in the early 70s - 




Here's a 1998 version of their model on line - now called "Planned Renegotiation: the Pinch Model"  If you do a search you'll find variations of the model in use for work with couples, family businesses, and conflict management. You'll notice how new elements and word use appears and are located in different places in the various images. All fairly normal stuff in the evolution of a model.

Over time I found myself continuing to work with the basic image (a type of cycle) but radically shifted the content. By 1996 I had developed a significant different model. Even at that I felt a need to acknowledge how the Sherwood-Glidewell model had influenced me. So, I had a statement on the handout.

Someplace along the line I discovered that the statement was getting omitted. I assume I got careless. 

So, I hope if you make use of the Relationship Cycle you'll use the version in this posting that includes the acknowledgment.

Next?  Michelle Heyne and I are working on a series of books on "shaping the parish." One of them will include models and theories we have found especially useful. We want to offer the Relationship Cycle with specific reference to the parish church. 



Related Resources

A Reflection Process    A Listening Parish