May 9, 2022

Collaboration in Ministry

Congregations within the Episcopal Church tend to be loners. We seldom interface with our neighboring Episcopal churches and are often detached from our diocese. While we celebrate similar milestones and struggle with the same challenges, it is rare for congregations to collaborate continuously for ministry.

In 2015, a collaborative ministry was formed within the Diocese of New Jersey to address the challenges and the unique needs of the ten historically Black congregations. The members of this ministry include clergy and lay leaders from these congregations and a Diocesan staff liaison. This ministry was named the Commission on Black Ministry (COBM).

Monthly meetings were held continuously since the founding to discuss vitality initiatives. Areas addressed include weekly church services especially given the effects of the pandemic and recent technology, outreach to the community, communication to members, racial justice actions, and awareness of Diocesan programs. Other areas include stewardship, Black youth engagement, return of membership to in-person service, financial support, and fundraising.

An Urban Revitalization Taskforce (established by the COBM) addressed the social needs of the urban communities within which the congregations are located. Programs offered include vaccine distribution and testing as well as support for those impacted by the social and environmental unrest in Haiti.

The COBM also advocates for clergy, discussing at each meeting congregations in transition, support for new clergy and those in the process. Expressing concern about the few in discernment, a presentation for congregations to encourage and educate those with interest was developed.

Without the ongoing multi-year collaboration in ministry and the support of the Bishop and the Diocesan staff, many of these congregations would cease to exist.

Collaboration in ministry including sharing knowledge and resources, leveraging best practices, as well as collaborative leadership between lay and clergy are required skills as we minister within the church today and in the future.