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DYK Leading with Presence in uncertain times

Posted: October 23 2023 at 04:15 AM
Author: Rev. Arlene Christpherson, Assistant to the Bishop

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This is the season of assessment and planning for most organizations. As we near the end of the year, our congregations are gathering for their church conference. They will reflect on the past and plan their future. 

This cycle of reflection (evaluation) and planning is important for any organization. This work happens at many levels in an annual conference: in congregations’ committees; at the Annual Conference Shepherding Team table, where chairs and leaders of the conference gather to coordinate and collaborate; in Cabinet meetings, and on the floor of the annual conference session.

The Appointive Cabinet is made up of the bishop, the five district superintendents, the director of connectional ministries, director of congregational development and assistant to the bishop. The appointive cabinet meets at least twice monthly (more often during the first half of the year, when appointment work is most demanding). The conference also has a Full Cabinet, made up of the members mentioned above as well as the treasurer, director of communications, president of the Midwest Methodist Foundation, and our conference co-lay leaders.

This Full Cabinet (sometimes referred to as the Extended Cabinet) meets quarterly. This fall marked a milestone in the gathering of the Full Cabinet. While there has been provision for a lay leader to be part of this work for several quadrennium, this fall was the first time a conference co-lay leader took part in a Full Cabinet meeting. This begins a new era of collaboration and connection.

To strengthen our vision and build transparency in our system, the Full Cabinet focuses on topics that intersect with all the areas of the life of the conference. In this setting, we build on one another’s vantage points, bring each other on board in the work and life of our areas, and build relationships. 

Bishop Schwerin, in his column, introduces us to Rev. Susan Beaumont’s work on liminal time. In her book How to Lead When You Don’t Know Where You’re Going, Rev. Beaumont guides us into an approach to leadership through what she calls Presence. Beaumont defines this as “God consciousness,” the ability to lead with an open mind, open heart, and open will. Through presence we limit the internal voices of judgment, cynicism, and fear. When we are present with one another, listen to each other, and plan together, we offer a better space from which to navigate the unknown.  

This work is so informative for our life together that the Full Cabinet is reading Beaumont’s book and using it as the foundation for our worship this fall. At our October meeting, we ended our reflections with these words from Beaumont (p. 46):

The good news is that the grace of God covers it all. We simply need to keep putting one foot in front of the other, engaging the journey that emerges. In the end, Presence is a gift of God. Our hope is that we are self-aware enough to step aside and receive the gift when it is given. And then, in the words of the great Christian theologian and mystic Julian of Norwich, “All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.

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