The Bishop Search Committee decided to reimagine Holy Conversations. Other dioceses have asked people to come to a central location to answer four to six questions. We used the Appreciative Interview and Inquiry method to develop our Holy Conversations. In order to reach as many people as possible, we decided to schedule a Holy Conversation at every Church in the Diocese.
Over a two-month period, the ten members of the Bishop Search Committee conducted 41 sessions, providing an opportunity for every member of the Diocese to participate. A few of our smaller parishes chose to meet together. A couple of times, we conducted a Conversation with only one or two parishioners. We also visited any group or gathering that invited us, including mission district meetings and a clergy gathering. Links to the documents we used are at the end of this article.
At the beginning of each session, the group read together this opening prayer:
Imagine a Diocese in which every congregation is valued as a vital place where God’s love shines in community and lives are nurtured, sustained and transformed in Christ.
Imagine a Diocese in which everyone is deeply rooted in the love of God and the community in which they live.
Imagine a Diocese of diverse communities of faith who become one voice in gathering, sharing and proclaiming Christ’s peace, justice and hope for the world.
Come, let us remember who we are, and whose we are, and image what can empower and sustain us—the Diocese of Nevada.
For the last activity of each Conversation, we distributed survey cards asking people to list their “top five characteristics you feel we should seek in a new Bishop.” We concluded each session by giving every participant a bookmark with our prayer in both English and Spanish for the search for the next Bishop of Nevada. That prayer is on our Welcome Page.
Five Holy Conversations were in Spanish and English for people who attend our Spanish-language services in Las Vegas. Two were at Mission District meetings in Las Vegas and Silver Springs. One was at St. Thomas the Believer, our parish at the Lovelock Correctional Center. One was at a meeting of clergy in the Northwest Mission District. Altogether, approximately 690 people participated. (2016 Average Sunday Attendance was 2,602.)
The Search Committee especially enjoyed the sessions that included children. We found that our young participants took the process very seriously, provided us with some new insights, and demonstrated a wonderful understanding of Eucharistic theology. We told them that we appreciated their help with finding the next bishop; we explained that this person will probably be the Bishop who presides at their confirmation service.
In our Spanish-language Conversations we found that, for the most part, people wanted the same characteristics in a new bishop as everyone else. There were a few more requests for a bishop who speaks Spanish. Our Latino parishioners also desire an advocate, a bridge-builder, and someone who respects the dignity of every human being.
We found in our Holy Conversations at St. Thomas the Believer that the participants had many of the same expectations for a new Bishop as the rest of the Diocese. They want a Bishop who will worship with them and help them continue to develop and utilize their gifts.
From these meetings we learned that the people of the Diocese of Nevada like to meet together for prayer, for fellowship, for learning, and to help others. We like the Eucharist, we like to sing, and we are trying to live out our Baptismal Covenant. We want a Bishop who wants to be one of us. We are “fishing” for a Bishop who loves us and appreciates us for who we are.