The Rev. Melinda Artman left diocesan convention in October hoping to bring the insights of keynote speaker, the Rev. Canon Scott Slater, home with her.
Slater, canon to the ordinary in the Diocese of Maryland, delivered a keynote address titled “Moses, Jesus, and the Diocese of Bethlehem: Walking with Curiosity and Courage” in which he drew on the work of Brené Brown, who is known for her work on vulnerability and courage.
Artman, who was recently called as priest-in-charge at Church of the Redeemer in Sayre, says the Episcopal Church is called to a season of vulnerability. “I think we need to help all our parishes recover from being part of the baby boomer generation,” she says. “Those of us who are in that generation didn’t have to do anything to bring people to church, really. And so we need to live into being missional.
“But in order to have those conversations we need that work, like Brené Brown’s, that can help us explore where the Holy Spirit might be leading us. It might help congregations be brave and vulnerable enough to ask questions like, ‘What does it mean to have a beautiful, historic building with too few people to fill it?’”
Slater’s keynote has inspired Artman to look into the possibility of having a speaker who has been through Brown’s training speak at a parish or vestry retreat. “That way, we could start visioning together and having some difficult conversations,” Artman says.
Church of the Redeemer is already modeling the kind of creative, collaborative work Slater and Brown envision. The parish partnered with St. John’s Lutheran Church in Sayre to call Artman to her role, pastoring to both congregations. “It’s interesting to see,” Artman says. “We’re looking for ways to be missional together, but maintaining distinct identities.
Both congregations took a big step and said, ‘We can’t afford a full-time clergy person anymore. How might we work with each other to continue to have that full-time presence without having to pay for it?’ So yes, they are living into that collaborative work. Because really, our foundational identity should be Christian, not Lutheran or Episcopalian.”
Artman also drew a connection between Slater’s work and the work of Valerie Brown, who led the diocesan clergy conference in late October. “I thought Canon [Anne] Kitch was brilliant in bringing in Valerie Brown as the speaker for the clergy conference. She works with Parker Palmer, and his teaching is complimentary to that of Brené Brown’s,” Artman says.
“Palmer’s work is more about being able to engage in difficult conversations and making space and being respectful, but you have to be vulnerable in the way that Brown’s work suggests before you can get into that space or build trust.”