The Iona Collaborative believes that bi-vocational congregations can be thriving examples of Christ-like churches that continually partner with God to be transformed and to transform the world around them. This moment of rapid change presents an ideal learning opportunity for bi-vocational churches to gain greater clarity about their unique callings. We encourage their discernment by teaching and facilitating theological reflection on reimagined spiritual practices for new life, both in the congregation and beyond its walls. Our new five-year initiative, Thriving Bi-Vocational Congregations: Envisioning New Life in a Changing World, will support congregations willing to identify and respond to their changing circumstances.
A generous grant from Lilly Endowment, Inc. funds this new Iona Collaborative project. The aim of the Endowment’s initiative is to help congregations strengthen their ministries and thrive so they can better help people deepen their relationships with God, enhance their connections with each other, and contribute to the flourishing of their communities and the world.
What will we learn? ▼
In 2021 Thriving Bi-Vocational Congregations (TBVC) will form a cohort of representatives from 11 churches and six diocesan appointees. Each congregation will designate the head of congregation and up to two lay leaders to participate. They will enter a three-year collaborative peer learning community that will focus on four basic components of congregational learning: (1) understanding and embodying bi-vocational ministry; (2) discerning the church’s core vocations and evaluating the theological coherence of its mission statement and values; (3) transforming the congregation’s relationships with its wider local community; and (4) facilitating growth in Christian maturity of its individual members and the congregation as a unified body of Christ.
As part of the process of transforming the congregation’s relationships with its wider local community, the cohort will learn asset-based community development through the Called to Transformation program developed by The Episcopal Church and Episcopal Relief & Development. This spiritually enriching and widely successful program empowers churches to discern the gifts of their parishioners and the gifts available in their local communities in order to build partnerships that promote thriving local life.
- Through participation in this cohort shaped by the collaborative learning process, churches will: better understand and adopt bi-vocational ministry; discover sustainable spiritual practices that support thriving churches; and adapt their ministries for Christ’s service to their changing world. The first peer learning cohort begins in June 2021; a second in June 2022.
What will be expected of us? ▼
Congregations that are selected for participation will commit to participating in the three-year program as a congregation, which means
- bringing an openness and willingness to experiment with their ministries and spiritual practices;
- sending a team (the head of congregation and up to two lay leaders) to participate in the program’s videoconferences and in-person meetings;
- working with seminary staff and consultants who will guide them throughout the program;
- be represented by at least one team member at all in-person meetings and videoconferences.
Who may apply? ▼
Any Episcopal congregation whose head of church is either: (1) a non-stipendiary, bi-vocational, or part-time clergyperson; or (2) a lay parishioner. Preference for admission will be given to: (1) churches who are part of dioceses in the Iona Collaborative and recommended by their bishop for participation; or (2) bi-vocational congregations recommended by Episcopal Relief & Development or The Episcopal Church.
What is the process? ▼
To be considered for inclusion in the first peer learning cohort that begins in June 2021, churches must complete the application below and submit it online, along with supporting documentation, by April 16, 2021. Selection of participating churches will be announced by April 23, 2021.
February 3, 2021 (6:30-8:00 pm CST) : Zoom videoconference Q & A for interested congregations to discuss the program’s process and three-year timeline.
REGISTER HERE for the Q&A session on February 3. Zoom will send you a link. Each person from a church attending the meeting will need to register separately.
April 16, 2021: Deadline for Applications
April 23, 2021: Announcement of Congregational and Diocesan Participants