Together We Thrive - Looking Ahead

Together We Thrive - Looking Ahead


Together We Thrive is not just the name of a Lilly Endowment funded initiative here in The Southern New England Conference, in many ways, it’s a statement of aspiration. In the post-modern church, clergy thriving is essential. Together We Thrive is a name and a statement born of a collaboration formed in 2018 with ecumenical partners from the Episcopal Diocese of Western Massachusetts and the New England Synod of ELCA Lutheran churches. The grant funded organization and its initiatives function with an Advisory Team, A Director, Rev. Heather Ramsey Mabrouk and part-time administrative staff. You may recall that in October 2018 this initiative received a $1 million Lilly Endowment Grant for Thriving in Ministry, submitted through the historic Massachusetts Conference, United Church of Christ. Together We Thrive was formed and the ministry began among and between the ecumenical partners to serve the needs of clergy, and thus to impact our churches.  When a clergy leader is thriving, their leadership, creativity, passion, innovation, engagement, and ability to serve broadly and deeply is at its best. Coach training, Affinity Groups, Bowen Family Systems training, and educational intensives have been offered throughout the term of the initiative.
Together, some good work has been done! Over the last year,  the Director, Staff, and Advisory Team have been discussing and discerning what types of sustainability are possible. What programs may be able to be embedded and sustained by one of the partners?  What type of cultural shift can continue to be nurtured among the partners? We have asked a significant question: How might we imagine and sustain the good work of this initiative in the future (with or without additional funding)?  In addition, we’re asking what have we learned?  What opportunities for future programs and ecumenical collaboration can be facilitated?

Most recently action toward forward movement to sustainability has begun. A day-long hybrid retreat in late January was hosted at the New England ELCA offices in Worcester, MA., which gathered members of the Advisory Team, our Director and several staff representatives of the three partners in each judicatory team who have similar responsibilities for clergy support and development as well as program portfolios.  The goals of the retreat were to discern and deepen common ground upon which to move forward and to connect leaders across the partnership, surface potential collaborations, share resources, and celebrate the work of Together We Thrive. (TWT)
Rev. Deborah (Debbie) Rundlett, Pastor of the Ridgebury Congregational Church and Director of The Meetinghouse, facilitated an agenda the Advisory Team had imagined together and led the group of 20 or so in reflection and lively conversation. She helped us connect with one another, brought focus to the gathering and kept the group moving forward throughout the day.

Rev. Heather Ramsey Mabrouk, TWT Director, said of the retreat, “I loved watching the energy of the morning and found the small groups I visited to be interesting and generative…overall, there seems to be some wonderful fodder for further conversations and inspired collaborations.”
As a participant and member of the Advisory Team, I also found energy and excitement in listening to peers from our partner staff teams share more about the needs, processes, programs, and methods they are using to approach faithful work in support of clergy. With both curiosity and confidence in meeting needs, aligning support, and naming gaps, they are faithful. I left wanting more. More conversation. More opportunities to discover what future collaboration will mean to our New England community clergy and our churches.

We left with as many questions as we came with, which is a wonderful measure of a successful retreat! New questions about capacity and collaboration. New questions about future initiatives. In essence, we had achieved what we set out to do. We came together in hope of seeing something of our future together in continued collaboration and shared what we have learned and are learning. It’s true, Together We Thrive!




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Karen E. Ziel

Karen works in partnership with the team to guide congregations in self-assessment and discernment, and to provide or suggest effective programs for clergy and lay leadership development.  Contact her to: Connect your congregation with the tools and...

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