Vestry Retreat 2015
Trinity Church, Wilmington
October 16 - 18

Friday Evening  … Feast of Latimer, Ridley, and Cranmer Bishops and Archbishop, 1555, 1556



Social Time






Work Session: 1) Overview  2) Connecting  3) Getting started –



Compline – beginning with intro to doing the Office in a group (Michelle); then Compline -Hymn 24



Social time 

Saturday  … Feast of Ignatius, Bishop and Martyr Bishop of Antioch , and Martyr, c. 115






Morning Prayer -Ps 20   Matthew 11:7-15  Hymn 1



Work Session






Work Session






Work Session – 1) continue assessing work 2) how we get things done



Rest – Recreation






Work Session



Compline - Hymn 24



Social Time


Sunday …. Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost






Holy Eucharist



Work Session – 1) Wrap up as needed – next steps, 2) Evaluation 3) Routine vestry work beginning at 11:00





Overall Purposes of Leadership and Vestry Retreats

A yearly leadership conference that is a mix of:

  1. Developing strategies and plans for the improvement of parish life & ministry. This would be based on a process of reflecting on and learning about, the whole, or some area of parish life
  2. Community building among parish leaders
  3. Spiritual development
  4. Increasing the common competencies of parish leaders for the above. Part of our purpose is for the vestry and other leaders to increase their skills and knowledge for congregational development and leadership.

    Specific area of interest for this year
    The “specific area of interest” in 2013 and 2014 was this -- “Increase the competence of the clergy and vestry for engaging strategic thinking and oversight as that can best be done in an Episcopal parish church.”

That broad area was raised again as something requiring attention. Our assumption is that the need this year is less about the skills and knowledge of “strategic thinking and oversight” and more about skills and processes to keep things constructively and effectively in motion.

 While working on parish issues that remain on the table we will work at

1) Clergy expanding their skill range by strengthening the more assertive areas (Competition and Collaboration, especially collaboration) 

2) Using methods in the vestry that encourage an increased assertiveness; especially in the ability to collaborate.


Note: Elements may be changed as needed to work with issues that emerge in the course of the work.

      Further down the page you'll find our background thinking for this specific area of interest.


Please read before we meet

Collaboration 101: Taking a position vs. working with underlying positive concerns

Collaboration 201



Please review before we meet

Strategic Oversight - Strategic management is about establishing the parish's direction, navigating in that direction, and shaping the parish's culture and resources to support that direction.  

        PDF Strategic Oversight 


The Process of Change  -       A PDF on the Process of Change

Background thinking for the specific area of interest

An example --  last year when we all left the retreat there seemed to be agreement on the rector’s proposal to reduce the number of vestry meetings. That didn’t come to pass. The issue here isn’t that someone did something wrong. Our assumption is that on reflection some members saw problems with the proposal that they only became fully aware of after the retreat was over. Our guess is that the rector would still like to see the proposed idea implemented and some on the vestry have concerns about that. Our approach will not be to invite debate on the proposal. We will come at this, and other matters, in this way:

1)    A systems approach – If we change one piece of a system it creates a ripple effect of change because that piece is interdependent with other elements. We see some of those pieces as we work and others emerge either on reflection or as we experience the change and see the result.

2)    Creating and maintaining parish health is dependent on two broad factors – listening to the parish community and knowing how to use models of pastoral theology. The second helps leaders know how to sort out all the information they hear from the listening processes. Without the listening processes a parish lives in an abstraction; without the pastoral theology the parish can be driven by a “majority vote” (or impressions of what most people want) that lacks the wisdom of Christian tradition as it arises from members who are not adequately formed in the tradition.

3)    Blind spots develop in parishes. Those blind spots can be identified. We’ll do some of that.

4)    We will look at the system of pressures, demands, and expectations that serve to keep the parish system stable but can also become barriers to needed changes.


We have been looking at all this in relation to the instruments the vestry took last year (TKI and MBTI). That offers a take on the situation and a way of doing some useful work.


We'd agree that the parish system needs a sense of broad direction and "overall movement" in that direction. Also that some members of the vestry and the parish will be more inclined to work on "one shot" projects as individuals or in working groups. 


One issue is how do we get the needed mix of gifts in the decision making-action process? People who will listen to the parish and one another, learn enough pastoral theology to keep the parish grounded in faith and practice, generate viable options, reflect on it all, and create a way forward.


For that to be a realistic way forward it needs to take into account what all systems struggle with -- 1) how to manage the tension between change and stability? and 2) how to manage the polarity of the need to maintain and grow the parish's identity, integrity and integration and also adapt to the emerge needs of people and society?


Between 2012 and 2014 the vestry's MBTI temperament profile shifted somewhat. It's more SJ. 


That means more focus on stabilizing and consolidating strengths. Strong sense of responsibility. Want to be seen as reliable and dependable. May be too bureaucratic; keep using same approach when something new is needed. Guardians.


What we want to suggest is that 1) "the "natural resistance to change" isn't a "stumbling block" but a God given gift that we see in people of the SJ temperament. It is the contribution they make to the health of a parish (or any organization). Also, those most clearly scoring as SJs are also introverts. So, their caution about a proposed change may not fully emerge until they have had a chance to reflect on it a bit. All those people are still on the 2015 vestry.


That's in contrast to the two clergy who both score as NFs --- Idealists: catalyst; focused on values, vision, dreams, possibilities. Seeking something unique, special. Want to be seen as authentic, inspirational, and inclusive. Can be too optimistic, naìˆve. 


As you know it is 101 Christianity to 1) know that human beings have  a tendency to assume that their way of coming at the world is correct (Is God's way) and 2) that the church and the world needs a diversity of gifts (Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone.To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.-1 Corinthians 12)  


The natural tension between people with different gifts is managed in a healthy manner in two primary ways: 1) Staying grounded in the truth -- Indeed, the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot were to say, ‘Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body’, that would not make it any less a part of the body. 1 Corinthians 12 and 2) Love -- If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. ... And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love. 1 Corinthians 13

The size and schedule of the vestry and it's relationship to other elements of the parish system (adequate listening processes, using working groups, etc.) is certainly an important matter. Whatever you all decide to do about that needs to serve the parish for the next ten years (+/-). The long term matter of shaping a healthy parish culture is this -- the living of spiritual practices that continue to effectively and efficiently nurture 1) staying grounded in the truth and 2) love for God and one another. 


A parish exists to : 1) worship God and 2) form members in spiritual practices that allow them to serve a responsible people in their workplace, citizenship, families and friendships.


1) Increase effective listening processes in the parish as a whole and smaller units. Pay attention to the principles of survey-feedback.
2) Make sure that all leaders know several pastoral theology models they can use in decision making processes
3) Strengthen the spiritual practices of the congregation by providing regular and frequent opportunities to explore Anglican spirituality and help people develop useful and balanced spiritual practices (Rule of Life). Increase overall proficiency in spiritual practices.
4) Address the need for a more balanced parish common life. As with most Episcopal parishes Trinity is stronger on Eucharist and Community and weaker on Daily Office and Reflection. How to maintain and build upon the strengths while also strengthen areas of weakness?


You'll notice that these are all longer term matters. Becoming stronger is a 7 year goal not something to expect in one year. We'd also note that most of these items are just about the core business of the parish. The parish clergy are the key actors in this. 

Last year we used the TKI to look at "conflict styles." The instrument also helps us understand decision making preferences.


The clergy and vestry were noticeably weak in the more assertive processes and skills. 
That wouldn't be a problem if this wasn't a leadership group. Leadership usually requires some ability for assertiveness and high emotional intelligence, especially self-management of our moods and emotions. Being able to effectively use the competing and collaborating styles is essential in leadership. 


1) Clergy expand their skill range by strengthening in the more assertive areas (Competition and Collaboration, especially collaboration)
2) Begin to use processes in the vestry (and parish) that encourage an increased assertiveness; especially in the ability to collaborate.


Overall we'd like to use the vestry retreat in a way that will increase the range of behavior and skills. 
Our intention is to have you work on real issues for the vestry and parish while learning methods that may help pick up the pace and comfort of decision making. 



Our 2014 work - The newsprint from our work together  

Newsprint and working packets from earlier years - These may be useful for new vestry members to gain a sense of the kind of work done and for ongoing members to recall what was done.

2013 - Newsprint     Packet

2012 - Newsprint     Packet

2011 - Newsprint     Packet


A parish church faces three basic demands of the spiritual life -- "the need not to run away, the need to be open to change, the need to listen. They are based on a commitment which is both total and continuing. And yet the paradox is that they bring freedom, true freedom."  Esther de Waal