An Important Announcement from the St. Peter’s Vestry

Dear People of St. Peter’s:

With great joy and excitement, your Vestry announces that the Reverend Jacob E. Pierce has accepted our unanimous call as Priest-in-Charge to lead us through this time of transition and discernment, and into the bold future we all envision for St. Peter’s.

We encourage you to learn more by clicking the following links:

The Vestry’s Full Letter
A Letter from the Reverend Jacob E. Pierce, Priest-in-Charge
A Letter from the Bishop of the Diocese of North Carolina
A Frequently Asked Questions document about our Transition Plans

Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions about the Priest-in-Charge Model

What is the difference between a priest-in-charge and an interim rector?

Their authority is the same, with either and interim rector or a priest-in-charge, assuming the full authority of rector. One difference is that the priest-in-charge is a priest who is well-known to or already employed by the parish, while an interim rector is a priest who is trained in interim ministry and chosen from outside the parish with the approval of the Bishop Diocesan and selected by the vestry. Another difference is that an interim rector is temporary and may not be called as permanent rector, while a priest-in-charge is in discernment for just such a call. Finally, an interim rector is employed only until a new rector has been called, whereas a priest-in-charge is in discernment for a specific period (in our case, 24 months), to determine whether a call will be made to remain as rector.

What is the difference between a priest-in-charge and a rector?

Generally, the term of a rector is indefinite, but for a priest-in-charge it is typically fixed (in our case, 24 months). The fixed term of the priest-in-charge also includes very specific milestones. Otherwise, the church canons (governing rules) give rectors and priests-in-charge exactly the same rights and responsibilities.

I’ve never heard of a search being done this way. Is St. Peter’s taking a risk with a non-standard approach to transition ministry?

The vestry has done a lot of soul searching and discernment about the very particular time in which we find ourselves. We also received a great deal of advice and counsel from the Bishop Diocesan, the Right Reverend Samuel Rodman. We believe that we are actually minimizing risk, rather than increasing it. In addition, there are some extremely successful examples of this process working well in nearby dioceses, including Upper South Carolina (St. Peter’s, Greenville; St. John’s, Columbia) and Washington, D.C. (St. Alban’s). In Arkansas, Christ Church, Little Rock, with the agreement of their bishop, called their associate rector to be priest-in-charge in May 2017.

Isn’t it against the canons to call an associate rector for a leadership role after the resignation of a rector?

No. Neither the national nor diocesan canons and constitutions prohibit a congregation from calling any qualified candidate, as long as the Bishop grants consent. By the way, another old legend, also not true, is that staff members must offer their resignations to a newly appointed rector.

Why did the vestry choose this path for the congregation, instead of a traditional search?

Several factors brought the vestry to consensus about this approach to transition ministry.

  • First, the opportunity for uninterrupted clergy leadership. Calling Fr. Jacob as rector is not a foregone conclusion under this transition model. It would be the result of a rigorous, mutual discernment process between him, the vestry, and the congregation. Meanwhile, St. Peter’s doesn’t have to put on hold its aspirations for ministry in center city Charlotte.
  • Second, a realistic look at the availability of skilled interim rectors with track records of success in congregations our size. The Diocese advised us that we might not find an interim rector before January 2019. In addition, five other congregations in the Charlotte metropolitan area are currently conducting or just completing searches.
  • Third, the general good health of the congregation, the physical plant, the staff, and the programs. Annual fund contributions, while still not where we wish they were, continue an upward trend. The church buildings are in good shape now but will need serious attention in the next five-to-ten years. And our core programs – especially formation, outreach, social justice and music – are flourishing.
  • Finally, in May, the vestry launched a strategic visioning process which we would like to see continue, rather than be interrupted by a traditional search.

What other steps did the Vestry take to make this decision?

  • Shortly after Fr. Ollie announced his resignation, the vestry met with Bishop Rodman and the Canon for Transition and Pastoral Ministry, Catherine Massey. The Bishop and Canon Massey outlined various options open to the Vestry and asked members to determine a path forward, after focusing on Fr. Ollie’s leave-taking on June 24th.
  • Subsequently, the vestry has met frequently to identify desired characteristics of clergy leadership during the transition. We have met for more than 18 hours to discern the best transition path. We have had an open dialogue with Bishop Rodman and Canon Massey. We have prayed, researched, and discussed methods for transition ministry. All of us on the vestry have strongly felt the presence of the Holy Spirit in our deliberations.
  • Based on this broad assessment, which included Fr. Jacob’s success during two other transition periods and the vestry’s overall confidence in his abilities and vision for the parish, we unanimously asked Bishop Rodman for permission to call Fr. Jacob as Priest-in-Charge and to enter into an agreement for a 24-month Priest-in-Charge process. He was the only candidate we considered.

Bishop Rodman was very involved in developing the priest-in-charge model for St. Peter’s. He supports our path.

Will there be a search process for a new Rector?

There will not be a traditional search process, but we will be in discernment for 24 months as to whether we call Fr. Jacob to be our permanent rector. We will complete a parish visioning process, Office of Transition Ministry Portfolio (similar to a parish profile), and other transition processes as we would in a traditional search. This work will lead to our decision about an ultimate call. Much like a traditional search process, the vestry will be in close working contact with the Bishop and his designees during Fr. Jacob’s tenure.

Don’t we miss out on doing a national search for the best talent?

Yes. But we believe Fr. Jacob has shown that he is such a talent, as we’ve seen when he led our congregation during Fr. Ollie’s sabbatical. We have seen his strength as a preacher and homilist; his collaborative leadership style with other clergy, staff, and lay leadership; and his ability to execute the liturgy. We believe he is an excellent match for us, given his love of our liturgy, his previous experience as a youth minister, and his commitment to music, outreach and social justice—all important ministry areas for St. Peter’s. We also considered the tight job market, and the fact that a number of other Charlotte-area congregations are competing in roughly the same talent pool at the same time.

If the Vestry has made this choice, does this mean the congregation doesn’t get a voice?

Quite the contrary. When we say “rigorous, mutual discernment process,” we mean it. We don’t see this approach as a shortcut, but rather as an opportunity to devote the time and energy to discerning the best path forward for our beloved St. Peter’s, while still moving forward with our ministries. Specifically, with assistance from Canon Massey and Bishop Rodman, we will organize discernment groups and use the Appreciative Inquiry model for our mutual discernment process. And we believe that the strategic visioning process that will ramp up in the fall and involve the whole congregation will feed into and enrich the mutual discernment process. The Vestry will provide the congregation with regular updates.

What is the “Appreciative Inquiry” model?

Appreciative Inquiry is a model that seeks to engage stakeholders in self-determined, positive change. It seeks to search for the best in people, their organizations, and the strengths-filled, opportunity-rich world around them. The Canons who are assisting us in our transition are well-versed in Appreciative Inquiry. More information about the model is available at https://appreciativeinquiry.champlain.edu.

What will the timeline/process look like?

  • There will be a mutual expectations exercise between the Vestry and Fr. Jacob during the first three months of the call to explore our expectations and roles, facilitated by the Bishop’s designees.
  • The vestry will complete a new Office of Transition Management (OTM) portfolio (similar to a parish profile) based on congregational meetings to gather data. This activity will be facilitated by Canon Massey and the Regional Canon, Rhonda Lee.
  • Between months 18 and 24 there will be a final, active discernment process with the Bishop or his designee, vestry, and Fr. Jacob to review where we have been, where we are, and what we have mutually discerned.

What happens if this mutual discernment process results in a decision not to call Fr. Jacob as rector?

The 24-month timeline gives both the parish and Fr. Jacob time to take next steps very deliberately, rather than hastily. At 18 months, if either the vestry or Fr. Jacob discerns that there isn’t a call for Fr. Jacob to be our rector, he would continue to serve as an interim rector (and receive interim rector training) while both he and the vestry begin a transition process. The vestry would organize a standard search, likely based on information gathered during the Appreciative Inquiry and the strategic visioning processes. At the same time, Fr. Jacob would begin his own discernment process for his next career move. St. Peter’s would enjoy uninterrupted clergy leadership.

With Fr. Jacob moving into another role, what will we do about an Associate Rector?

The vestry and Fr. Jacob will begin the process for calling a full-time associate rector. In the meantime, we are blessed with the presence of our assisting priests, the Reverend Sally Johnston and the Reverend Keith Lane. The vestry and Fr. Jacob are committed to ensuring we have full clergy coverage.

If the process ends with the decision not to call Fr. Jacob as rector, could he remain as associate?

No. When we entered into this 24-month priest-in-charge path, he and the vestry made the mutual decision to set him on a path towards being called rector, either at St. Peter’s or at another congregation.

I still have questions and concerns about this process. What should I do?

Start by discussing your reservations with either of the wardens, Bert Miano, Senior Warden, or Maria Long, Junior Warden, or with another member of the vestry. There is plenty of time for everyone to have the chance to share concerns and joys. Bert and Maria were present for all of the meetings and, together with the other vestry members, believe that this approach to transition ministry is the right one for St. Peter’s. We have the backing of Bishop Rodman for this approach. And, most important, we believe that it keeps us moving toward our vision to become a community of bold followers of Jesus, a crowd that effects good change for the world, a place known for radical love and welcome, and a beacon of hope in Center City Charlotte.

A Letter from Bishop Rodman

Office of the Bishop

Dear People of St. Peter’s:

It is with great joy and anticipation that I join with your vestry in announcing this next step in the life and leadership of St. Peter’s, as you call the Reverend Jacob Pierce to be your Priest-in-Charge for the next two years.

This model is a new one in the Diocese of North Carolina and came out of a great deal of prayer, conversation, mutual discernment, and grace. Jacob will serve as Priest-In-Charge with all the authority and responsibility of a rector, as you discern together whether he may be called to become the next rector of St. Peter’s. This approach was agreed upon for a number of reasons which include: pastoral sensitivity to the particular history of St. Peter’s around transition; a desire to continue the momentum for your strategic plan; Jacob’s own capable leadership during Ollie’s sabbatical; and the recognition that the church of the 21st century may need to explore new and different models based on a specific parish context.

The details of this model and Jacob’s role have been worked out in concert with your wardens and vestry leadership and are shared in their letter. Most important to remember is that while this period is one of transition and discernment, it is also a time to move forward in your mission with boldness and confidence. The 18 month mark of the Priest-in-Charge model will begin a more intentional and intense time of discernment, during which both St. Peter’s and Jacob will prayerfully share their respective understandings of what God is calling you to at the end of the two year period. If vestry and priest-in-charge are in agreement that Jacob is called to be your Rector, the call would move forward and he would be formally installed in a Celebration of New Ministry early in the third year. If either party, or both, do not discern a call, then the parish would move into an interim period. Jacob would be eligible to serve as interim while a new rector is called.

As this is a new model, there will be questions about how this plays out, and certain details may need to be adjusted along the way, but we have great hope for this approach and great excitement about what this will mean for you as you move forward together in your life and mission. My staff and I will continue to work closely with your vestry, and I look forward to this partnership, the ways it will serve all of you at St. Peter’s, and what we may learn together that will serve as a gift to the wider church.

Blessings and grace,

 

 

The Right Reverend Samuel S. Rodman
Diocese of North Carolina

A Letter from the Reverend Jacob E. Pierce

“And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church…” Matthew 16:18

August 15, 2018

Dear People of St. Peter’s,

Greetings on the feast of St. Mary the Virgin, Mother of our Lord Jesus Christ. I write following the announcement that I have been elected Priest-in-Charge by the Vestry of St. Peter’s. With the consent and collaboration of our bishop, the Right Reverend Samuel Rodman, our vestry has chosen a transition path which includes the entire parish. I am excited for St. Peter’s, what this season will mean for me as your priest, and what it will mean for our mission and ministry together.

I am honored to have the trust of this community which I so dearly love. I am grateful to Bishop Rodman, Bert Miano, Maria Long, and the entire vestry for their steadfast leadership and discernment. Our vestry has spent many hours over the past ten weeks discerning the right path for St. Peter’s. We owe them our heartfelt thanks and gratitude.

As a priest and a pastor, I deeply value discernment, and this transition will require the discernment of our entire parish rather than a committee of a few. Through this process we will create a new parish profile, we will discern our values as a community, and we will engage in conversation about our mission and ministry. Most importantly, we will do this together. After a season of 18 months, the vestry and I will further discern if I am called to be Rector of St. Peter’s. This unique transition process is outlined in the “Frequently Asked Questions” document.

In the readings from this past Sunday, we heard from St. Paul that all of us are “members of one another.” This season of transition will hold up our unity, asking each of us to discern the future of St. Peter’s as one body, sharing in one bread and one cup.

We are blessed with an amazing community, committed lay leadership, and a talented staff. In the months to come, I ask your prayers for me as Priest-in-Charge, for our vestry, and for our parish. We are the beneficiaries of many generations who have come before us, and on this solid foundation, on this rock, St. Peter’s will continue to be a beacon of hope in Center City Charlotte for years to come.

Faithfully,

 

 

 

 

The Reverend Jacob E. Pierce, Priest-in-Charge

A Letter from St. Peter’s Vestry

August 15, 2018

Dear People of St. Peter’s:

With great joy and excitement, your Vestry announces that the Reverend Jacob E. Pierce has accepted our unanimous call as Priest-in-Charge to lead us through this time of transition and discernment, and into the bold future we all envision for St. Peter’s.

Since the May announcement that we would be seeking a new rector, the Vestry has been deeply engaged in an enriching and enlightening process of prayerful discernment that has led us to this moment. From the beginning of our deliberations, we were able to consider a wide range of transition models with the full encouragement and support of the Right Reverend Samuel S. Rodman and his staff. As we did so, several facts resonated with us, and some clear considerations emerged.

First, St. Peter’s is a healthy, dynamic parish with strong lay leaders, wonderful and committed staff and superb clergy in place. We want to push forward with our strategic visioning process, our ambitious outreach and social justice agenda, our powerful liturgy, our inspirational music programs and our strong formation opportunities without losing momentum.

Second, Fr. Jacob provided capable and inspiring leadership last year during Fr. Ollie’s three-month sabbatical, and his work as St. Peter’s Associate Rector for the past 18 months has been stellar. The more we discussed the kind of spiritual leader we hoped to attract to St. Peter’s, the more we recognized that we already had a superior candidate in our midst.

The Priest-in-Charge model which we have adopted is faithful to these considerations. St. Peter’s deserves a unique transition process reflective of the strength of the parish. This model includes rigorous discernment that will engage the whole parish.

For the next two years as Priest-in-Charge, Fr. Jacob will have the full authority and responsibility of a rector. He will immediately take on the role of leading our worship, outreach, formation, pastoral care, and the ongoing administration of the parish. Together we will complete a parish profile, develop a strategic visioning plan, and engage in conversation about St. Peter’s core values. Through this period of mutual reflection and evaluation, we will together discern whether Fr. Jacob is called to be our rector. If the vestry and Fr. Jacob agree that he is called to be rector, he would be installed at the end of the two-year term. If not, we will move forward with a traditional search.

The vestry believes strongly that this transition model provides stability to St. Peter’s at this crucial time and allows us to lean fully into our mission as a beacon of hope in Center City Charlotte.

We commend to you Fr. Jacob’s letter to the parish, Bishop Rodman’s letter, and the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) document for more information. Please plan to attend a forum this Sunday at 9:30 a.m. for a conversation with the Vestry and Priest-in-Charge to learn more about this transition model.

As we embark on this journey together, St. Peter’s Vestry is grateful for the open way in which Bishop Rodman and his staff have engaged with us to develop our path forward. We also are grateful for the opportunity to take this journey alongside Fr. Jacob. This partnership with the diocese will continue over the next months as we–the parish, the vestry, and Fr. Jacob–develop a plan for our future and seek to live into our faith through this transition. Thank you for your support and prayers over these past weeks. Our work has only just begun.

In peace and gratitude,

St. Peter’s Vestry

Transition Update

We continue to make progress in our plans for the transition. The vestry’s meetings over the past week have been prayerful and productive.

Plans for the summer and fall are well in hand, with numerous opportunities for fellowship and worship. The summer schedule of events is completed, and can be seen here. The complete Life at St. Peter’s schedule of activities through early September is available online now, and be on the lookout for printed copies soon. Thanks to our Associate Rector, the Reverend Jacob E. Pierce, and the formation committee for their planning work.

This past week, Father Jacob, in consultation with the wardens, has completed a schedule of clergy to serve our parish through September. We are extremely grateful for the assistance of the Reverend Keith Lane and the Reverend Sally Johnston, who along with Father Jacob, will cover our clergy needs for the next three months. We will also welcome the Reverend Canon Rhonda Lee, who has preached at St. Peter’s before, on Sunday, July 8. St. Peter’s has a strong lineup of clergy to meet our spiritual needs for the next three months.

In addition to planning for the short-term needs of the parish, the vestry has been in discernment over the past three weeks about the best path forward for St. Peter’s in our search for a new permanent rector. We have felt your support and have prayerfully considered the different styles of transition presented to us by Bishop Rodman and Canon Catherine Massey. Please know that our focus throughout this process has been to identify the process which will give us the best opportunity to find our next great rector.

We will be announcing a decision about which approach we have chosen within the next several days. In the weeks ahead, we will hold several open discussions to answer your questions. Please be patient as we continue this important work, and please continue to keep the vestry in your prayers.

Bert Miano, Senior Warden

Maria Long, Junior Warden

Transition Update: Leave-taking for the Reverend Ollie V. Rencher

Honoring the Reverend Ollie V. Rencher

As we move through the final weeks of the Reverend Ollie V. Rencher’s tenure with St. Peter’s, the vestry urges you to join us in celebrating the many gifts of our ministry together. As part of that celebration, we look forward to a special leave-taking liturgy on Fr. Ollie’s last Sunday, June 24, followed by a reception in the parish hall immediately after the 10:45 a.m. service. Please make plans to attend and say goodbye to Fr. Ollie and Ellie.

As Fr. Ollie begins his new journey to a new parish, the vestry also would like to provide him with a “purse” in recognition of his service to our parish. If you would like to contribute to this monetary gift, you may do so online or by writing a check to St. Peter’s Episcopal Church with “Rector’s purse” in the memo line.

Transition Update

As we move through this season of change, please know that your vestry is fully engaged in all aspects of this transition. We met again on Tuesday evening for nearly three hours. During that time, we discussed a number of options for the best way that St. Peter’s should move forward. You should know that the Diocese is providing us with greatly appreciated support, and we are grateful to have some flexibility to choose a process that honors the unique strengths of this congregation and is not bound by the strict rules of prior transitions. We hope to have a consensus on the path forward by the first of July. When that happens, we will provide more details.

Please continue to keep the vestry in your prayers as we discern the best way forward for our beloved parish.

Bert Miano, Senior Warden

Maria Long, Junior Warden

Transition Update: Vestry Meets with Bishop Rodman

Dear Friends,

The vestry met with Bishop Sam Rodman and Catherine Massey, Canon for Transition, this past Monday, June 4, to learn what our options are upon Father Ollie’s announcement that he has accepted a call to Grace-St. Luke’s, Memphis. During that three-hour meeting, we received a great deal of information about all of the options available to us as we go forward through this transition.

Bishop Rodman and Canon Massey stated several times that St. Peter’s is a strong parish. This point was also stressed by vestry members, and we will do our best to continue the work, growth, and movement of St. Peter’s as a beacon of hope in Center City Charlotte.

The vestry will meet again next week. We will continue to update the parish as we move through this process of growth.

For the next three weeks, however, the most important thing our parish can do is to honor and cherish Father Ollie and Ellie as we say goodbye. Stay tuned for ways in which we will recognize and honor his ministry here at St. Peter’s.

Please make every effort to join us on Sunday, June 24 for Father Ollie’s last service and plan to attend the joyful reception to celebrate his years at St. Peter’s after the 10:45 a.m. service.

Peace,

Bert Miano, Senior Warden

Maria Long, Junior Warden

The Richness of Life at St. Peter’s is a Blessing

The richness of life at St. Peters is a blessing.

In just the past few weeks, depending on your interests and energy level, you might have chosen from among the following bounty of options: two rousing Spring Concerts by the Choir School at St. Peter’s, an offering of pub theology, a Festive Parish Potluck celebrating Pentecost, a Center City Concert by the A.W.Duo, and an all-day Pentecost Retreat offering a silent, meditative journey through the Daily Office.

These opportunities were in addition to our routine offerings every week: formation classes for children, youth, and adults; Holy Chow every Sunday morning; the simple beauty of our 8:00 a.m. Rite I service, as well as our 10:45 a.m. liturgy; along with baptisms, pastoral visits, and small group fellowship.

The many chances to meet, greet, eat, learn, and worship together are so plentiful at St. Peter’s that it is easy to take them for granted. In the days and weeks ahead, as we prepare for this season of change, I urge you to find ways to offer thanks to the clergy, staff, and lay leaders who weave our lives together into this strong, vibrant tapestry that we all love so much.

Summer is nearly here, and our schedules will change. Our routines will change. And, in this particular summer, our rector will change. As we meet this significant moment of transition, our engagement with St. Peter’s must not change.
Now is the time for each of us to lean in even more, to be present for one another, and to celebrate our shared love of St. Peter’s together in new and old ways. Our deep gratitude for our life at St. Peter’s, along with hope for the future, will light the path.

Bert J. Miano, Senior Warden