July 23, 2021
Dear Fellow Brendanites:
The Discernment Committee's first major task is to complete the narrative piece of the Community Ministry Portfolio. In order to do justice to this endeavor, we need your voice in our discernment process. The attached survey will assist us in the self-study component of the process, which is based on three questions:
Who have we been?
Who are we now?
Who is God calling us to be?
Please complete the attached Google survey by Monday, August 9. There will also be paper copies in the Narthex for those who prefer to participate on hard copies.
Here is the survey link: https://forms.gle/VYtTZavJePEzWYDXA
Thank you for your much needed and appreciated participation.
Allison, Annemarie, Kevin, Mike, Pat, Tammy, and Tony
July 21, 2021
Dear Fellow Brendanites,
Amazingly, it has been four months since I first wrote to you about the discernment process that will lead us to call a new priest-in-charge later this year. This letter will update you on the progress that has been made and look ahead a little into the future.
A lot has happened since March.
• We selected and commissioned our Discernment Committee.
• The Committee began work on its initial task: to learn about St. Brendan’s self- understanding today and about its members’ hopes for the future.
• Meanwhile, together with members of our staff, I embarked on collecting some numerical data that will complement the Committee’s all-important narrative contributions to a document called the Community Ministry Portfolio (or CMP—a comprehensive source of information about our parish for potential applicants).
The Vestry has asked the Discernment Committee to follow a schedule in which they will devote the remainder of the summer to completing work on the CMP, submitting it to the Vestry somewhere around Labor Day. Once the Vestry approves it, the Committee can begin recruiting
As I explained in my March 17 letter, the pool of candidates for appointment for any open clergy position these days is far less robust than some of us recall from previous decades—so I am trying to “manage expectations” in that regard.
Several people have asked whether Rev. Julie Smith—currently our Children and Youth Ministry Coordinator—will be eligible to apply for the position. The simple answer is, “Yes, she will.” I understand that Julie has some friends and colleagues helping her to discern where the
Holy Spirit may be calling her at this stage in her ministry. Like other potential applicants, she will also be waiting to read our CMP and consider whether the vision that it presents is a good match with her sense of her own future. If Julie does submit her name, her candidacy will be considered alongside those of other applicants.
Please understand that, as with the bishop search that just concluded, this is not a popular election in which each of us individually casts a vote. The key decisions are instead made by two representative bodies.
• The Discernment Committee reviews the applications and makes a recommendation to the Vestry.
• The Vestry then considers the Committee’s recommendation and, through the Senior Warden, authorizes the call to a new priest-in-charge.
At the same time (and also as with the bishop search), there will be opportunities for you to contribute your views about the parish’s strengths, the opportunities it should embrace for growth and the characteristics you believe we should seek out in our next priest-in-charge. I urge you to seize those opportunities to make your voice heard.
Thank you for your engagement with this critical process for our parish. I will post this letter, along with any further updates, to our Discernment Updates Web page (https://www.stbrendans.org/discernment-updates). There is also a separate document with answers to a few Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about the discernment process. To find it, simply click on the big blue FAQ box in the top right-hand corner of the Discernment Updates page; this will trigger the download of a Word document for you to review.
Yours in Christ,
Timothy R. Austin
May 20, 2021
St. Brendan’s Discernment Process: Committee Named
St. Brendan’s is embarking on a discernment process that will lead in due course to the calling of a new
priest-in-charge to succeed Fr. Regis. The critical first step towards that goal is the creation of a
Discernment Committee. Its seven members will be
Allison Kline (Chair)
The Vestry is grateful to each of these Brendanites for agreeing to serve, as well as to a number of others who carefully and prayerfully considered our invitation but felt they had to decline for various reasons.
The Discernment Committee will begin work as soon as possible, meeting with Tim Austin and Canon Kim Karashin to clarify their charge and plan their strategy for the work that lies ahead. They will communicate regularly about their activities in the coming weeks and will depend on the engagement and active participation of us all to complete their work. The Discernment Committee does not exist do the work for us; instead they lead us all in a collective effort to understand ourselves and the Holy Spirit’s call to us at this time.
Please keep the Committee in your prayers.
March 17, 2021
Dear Fellow Brendanites,
As many of you have already learned, Fr. Regis has made the decision to retire as our priest-in-charge as of December 31. He had initially considered stepping down sometime in August, but the addition of a few months will both enable us to complete a robust discernment process to determine who to call as his successor and allow sufficient time for saying goodbye to him and to Ken as the transition takes place.
I am writing today to provide brief answers to some questions you may have regarding what this means for St. Brendan’s. You will have more questions in the weeks to come, I am sure, but it will be helpful for us all if we have a shared general understanding at the outset about what lies ahead. In this letter, I draw on conversations I have had with Bishop McConnell and with Canon Kim Karashin, the member of his staff who works with parishes negotiating transitions like ours. I have also learned a lot from a book that Canon Karashin recommended: On the Emmaus Road: A Guide for Transitions in Ordained Leadership by Mary Brennan Thorpe.
In the Preface to her book, Rev. Thorpe writes of such transitions, “What’s the goal? Here’s what it is not: hiring a priest. […] You’re seeking God’s will for your parish in the next chapter of its story and discerning what spiritual leader will help you write that chapter.” In the coming months, we will be working together—each of us in her or his or their own way—to hear and heed the urgings of the Holy Spirit. If this seems to you a little scary, you’re right. We don’t know where the Spirit may lead us, who we may meet along the road, how the process itself may affect us individually and collectively. But we do trust that God will accompany us on our journey and that the path we follow will bring us to the destination He already has in mind for us.
In the Episcopal Church, the responsibility and privilege of calling a priest resides with the Vestry. The Vestry can—and usually does—delegate some of the work to others, but the decision is still theirs to make. Naturally, the Bishop must also approve their recommendation, but the surest way for the parish to ensure that this step is straightforward is for the Vestry to keep him informed throughout the process. Canon Karashin will be serving as our point of contact—indeed, she already met with the Vestry at its meeting on March 8.
The transition process has two major phases, each of which involves discernment. Our first task will be to develop a deep and clear understanding of St. Brendan’s—its history, to be sure, but more importantly its current identity and the directions in which we believe we are being called. Every member of our parish has a role to play in guaranteeing that this discernment is rich and robust, so you can expect to be prompted to contribute in some way to that conversation. That initial round of discernment then serves as the foundation for a second, in which we consider those individuals who have expressed an interest in serving as our spiritual leader and listen for the Spirit’s guidance in determining whom we should call.
I don’t want to get “down in the weeds” in this letter. But it is important for us all to understand at the outset that, at this stage in its history, St. Brendan’s is not in a position to call a “rector.” As Fr. Regis explained recently in The Little Log, a rector is a full-time priest whose Letter of Agreement has no set end-date. St. Brendan’s cannot afford a full-time salary and is still financially dependent on the Diocese for financial support. We will therefore be seeking to call a “priest-in-charge” who will work on a roughly half-time basis and whose appointment will run only for a limited term (probably three years). This will inevitably limit the pool of candidates we can expect to attract; they will probably already live within commuting distance and may have other ministries or lay careers.
You will be glad to hear that the Vestry has already begun its work, by learning more about the transition process and by reflecting on who might best lead us as we begin our discernment process. I hope to be able to update you on our progress in just a few weeks. Now and throughout the first phase, communication will be key to ensuring that we move forward smoothly and effectively, so we will be using all available means to stay in contact with you (snail mail letters like this one, The Little Log, our Web site, social media, and announcements at the appropriate point in our liturgies). Later in the year, by contrast, we will all need to exercise more patience, as the need to respect candidate confidentiality limits the flow of information.
I began this letter by conceding that it would probably raise as many questions as it answered. Please feel free to direct your questions to me at firstname.lastname@example.org or 508-688-9554. Fr. Regis will continue to serve us as our spiritual leader in the coming months (with all his usual energy and enthusiasm, I have no doubt!). But as Rev. Thorpe writes in her book, the current priest “[does] not have a role in the selection of [his or her successor.]” It would simply be unfair to Fr. Regis to seek to involve him in the mechanics of the transition.
Thank you for your patience in reading this lengthy letter. We certainly have a busy year ahead of us: reopening for in-person worship (God willing!), electing a bishop, and transitioning to a new priest-in-charge makes for “a very full plate.” I ask your prayers for Fr. Regis, for the Vestry and for all who will be playing roles in this transition.
Yours in Christ,
Timothy R. Austin
 Rather unusually, it is quite likely that three “bishops” will be involved at some stage in our transition process: initially Bishop McConnell, then the Standing Committee which acts for the diocese if there is a gap between the departure of one bishop and the arrival of the next, and finally the bishop whom the diocese will elect this summer.