January 2018: Planning, Covenants and Transformation

 
In this Issue


Opening Remarks

In this edition of Transforming Challenges, Senior Consultant Maureen Gallagher offers her insights regarding the notion of covenants or promises inherent in the planning process for faith based organizations in her article, “Planning, Covenants and Transformation

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The Reid Group News

  • Maureen Gallagher and John Reid have been hired by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Boston to help the Corporation for Sponsored Ministries to establish a new strategic direction and to implement searches for the positions of Executive Director and Director of Mission Integration.
  • Maureen Gallagher is facilitating Community Days in February for the Sisters of the Holy Cross in Wisconsin.
  • John Reid is facilitating Community Days in February for the Benedictine monks of St. Gregory Abbey.
  • Tom Reid has been hired again as an executive coach and company retreat leader by the Williams Company.
  • Maureen Gallagher is facilitating the collaborative efforts of four suburban parishes in Waukesha, Wisconsin, as they experience being served by the same pastor and shared staff.
  • The Reid Groupis a strategic partner with Tryon Clear View Group, a cost reduction company that specializes in Purchase Services Audits where they identify, verify and recover billing errors, vendor overcharges which are refundable to organizations.  They then secure these reimbursements from the vendors.  In addition to telecommunication, copiers, waste management and utilities charges, they also audit postal services and credit card processing. The only fee paid by the client is a percentage of the actual savings.  The first two contracts secured by this strategic partnership are a college and a Catholic parish; we have received the first report of savings for one of these contracts which showed savings of $60,000 over the next five years in telecommunications alone.   If you are interested in this service, contact us at info@TheReidGroup.biz.
  • Our Strategic Partner Joe Sankovich has developed an important resource for dioceses and parishes with cemeteries called TOOLBOX FOR PARISH CEMETERIES. For more information go to: sankovich.com. Joe Sankovich, former director of cemeteries in the Archdiocese of Seattle, and owner of Sankovich & Associates since 1990, has developed an educational tool for parishes with their own Catholic cemeteries.  Directed to pastors, parish business managers, cemetery managers/sextons/superintendents, parish cemetery advisory board members and parish finance council members, the six hard copy manuals are formatted in the same fashion as the early diocesan teaching documents for the Second Vatican Council.  Sankovich waited until he had worked with/in more than 1,200 parish cemeteries in different areas of the United States, and conducted more than 100 seminars with pastors, parish and cemetery employees/volunteers, to organize and format these manuals.
  • The Reid Groupis also a strategic partner with The Steier Group. The Steier Group is a national, capital campaign fundraising firm based in Omaha, Nebraska, with offices in Arizona, California, Colorado, Delaware, Indiana, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, North Carolina, Oregon and Texas. They provide nonprofits with customized campaign planning studies, guidance from a team of expert project managers and strategic insight designed to help our clients reach their fundraising goals. Contact Nic Prenger, Steier Group president, for more information about the firm’s services. http://www.steiergroup.com.

So as you look at your individual or organizational future, what are your challenges? Could you benefit from skilled support? Give us a call at 206-432-3565 or send us an e-mail to start transforming those challenges into opportunities.


  PLANNING, COVENANTS AND TRANSFORMATION

Maureen Gallagher 

Inherent in the planning process for faith based organizations is the notion of covenants or promises and transformation.  The Judeo-Christian tradition is steeped in covenants—all of which are structured to enhance relationships with God and one another.  Planning, whether it is done in dioceses, parishes, Catholic schools or communities of vowed religious, is grounded in assumptions about change and transformation:  the recognition of the presence and energetic grace of God; and the desire to enhance relationships with one another.  These were also the foundation of covenants, an ancient tradition that formed the Church today.

At the thousand foot level the first and most significant covenant is the creation experience where God created the universe and promised to be present, as it continues to unfold: “the heavens declare the glory of God…and the firmament shows God’s handiwork” (Ps 19).  In this creative action God made humanity and promised “I will be your God and you will be my people” (Heb. 8:10).  This covenantal relationship is the basis of all other historically grounded covenants and points to an intimate relationship with God.  In a sense, all faith-based planning is based on these beliefs, though they will be expressed differently by various groups.

For approximately four thousand years people, who have tried to live out the Judeo or Christian traditions, have recognized and been influenced by covenants.  Covenants are generally understood to be promises made between a divine being and a people.  Covenants are transformative.  They result in new energy to change individuals and create new communities.  For communities to change and embody a new focus, they need to plan.

Three significant Biblical covenant stories point to transformed and energized communities which involved whole areas of people, and were centered around the leadership of Abraham, Moses and ultimately Jesus Christ.  Each story reveals a deeper understanding of God and the “divine-human” nature of people and communities.  Each narrative points to the interconnection of all reality and how covenants, promising relationships, can transform communities.  Each covenant demanded new planning efforts because of new relationships—new mission statements based on new identities and purposes, new visions of the reign of God and new expressions of values based on Jesus’ teachings and life.

Abraham lived in Mesopotamia at least 2,000 years before Jesus was born.  The oppressed Abraham was promised prosperity, many descendants, and the land of Canaan.  Abraham, in turn, promised fidelity to God.  Circumcision became a sign of the covenant (Gn 17:10).  The celebration of that covenant was often seen in offering animals to God.  The covenant with Abraham is considered by many in the Judeo-Christian tradition to be the original basis or revelation of humanity’s relationship with God (Yahweh).  The covenant needed planning as it transformed a nomadic group into a community of interconnected people, God’s people, who had a mission or purpose.

Moses was a major prophetic figure who lived about 1,200 years before Jesus.  God appeared to Moses in a burning bush—a bush that burned but was not consumed by the flames—a symbol of the divine nature of the revelation.  God calls Moses to lead the people out of the oppression of Egypt and the Pharaoh into the land of Canaan, a land of “milk and honey,” a continuation of the transformation process. A sign of that covenant is the Ten Commandments.  The celebration of that covenant continues today in the feast of Passover in the Hebrew tradition (Ex 19:1 ff).  The Ten Commandments were the impetuous for a great deal of change, that called for planning.  This planning, as most planning efforts, called for giving up some things and living into and adapting new ones that embraced the Ten Commandments, all of which brought about a new vision.

The greatest covenant from the Christian perspective is the “new covenant” brought about through the life-death-resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Paul talks about the “old” covenants being fulfilled by Jesus’s life-death-resurrection (Gal 3:15 ff).  Jesus is the mediator of the “new covenant” and it is celebrated in Eucharist—where all participate in and deepen their identities as the Body of Christ.  The “new covenant” continues to unfold in each celebration of Eucharist today and transforms communities across the entire earth to be Gospel oriented.  Today, planning efforts include the challenge to make the Gospel come alive, to be an evolutionary force which reflects the presence of Jesus and all he stood for in the Church and world today—to truly make the reign of God apparent today.

Covenants stories have three things in common, all of which need planning efforts.

  1. There is a sense of creation or liberation from oppression, of interconnectedness.
  2. There is a pledge of fidelity.
  3. There is a sign or symbol of the promises made.

Religious organizations are called to deepen their relationship with the Spirit of God and their relationships with one another.  We are reminded of the need to plan to truly discover and be energized by their interconnectedness to all creation and to all people beyond our parish, school or religious community. 

Rooted in planning efforts many will recognize and express a desire to be liberated from the oppression of materialism, consumerism, of “me-too-ism” and will want to be freed of whatever is keeping them from deepening their relationships with God and one another.  There will be in many who yearn to be faithful to their baptismal promises, to more deeply embrace the meaning of unfolding faithfulness and to integrate it seamlessly into all aspects of life, to truly realize “all is holy.”  Effective planning may be celebrated and symbolized in a covenant which may be made as part of an expression of gratitude for all who have gone before them in faith.  Today’s covenants will reflect unique promises of the recognition of the Spirit’s presence and support to faith-filled life journeys in the twenty-first century.

Effective planning will result in covenants that are expressed in a mission statement that reflects the purpose of a faith-based organization in terms of its reason for existing.   Planning will also articulate values as the underpinnings of mission and vision statements for the future. Its vision statements will point to increased relationship with the Spirit of God and one another.  These foundational statements will lead to goals which will express how the community will live out its mission, vision and values.  Lastly, there will be a ritual and symbol of the covenant that all can embrace pointing to the community’s promise to co-create with the Spirit, a Church and world where justice reigns and all are aware of and know they are participants in the great and wondrous unfolding universe. 

Maureen Gallagher is a Senior Partner with The Reid Group, a national consulting firm helping leaders and organizations transform challenges into opportunities to create a better world in the areas of Strategic Planning, Leadership Formation, Leadership Search, Fund Development, Conflict Resolution and Meeting Design and Facilitation.  For more information about The Reid Group, its programs and services, visit our website:  www.TheReidGroup.biz.

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