What is the Living Stones Partnership?

What is the Living Stones Partnership?

by Pat Harik, Living Stones Coordinator for the Episcopal Diocese of Northern California

Before I became involved with the Episcopal Diocese of Northern California's Total Ministry Development Group, I had never heard of Living Stones, outside of the biblical reference in 1 Peter: “Come to God, …. and like living stones let yourselves be built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood... .” Since then, I have attended their annual meeting twice, once in 2012, as a member of the Diocesan team and this year, as your Coordinator to Living Stones from the Diocese. Both have been enriching experiences for me. But I imagine that I have not been alone in my lack of awareness of this group and our involvement with it. My purpose for this article, therefore, is to bring us to a broader awareness of what Living Stone is and why we are a part of this very worthwhile collaborative group.

Living Stones is a partnership of Anglican and Episcopal communities of faith, engaged in mission and committed to the ministry of all the baptized. The Living Stones credo states: We acknowledge that God works through all people, all times and all circumstances. We believe the church is the body of Christ and proclaims Christ to the world. Each person in the body is uniquely called and gifted for ministry. In the context of theological reflection, Living Stones exists to support, challenge and strengthen ministry.

The purpose of this group is to practice collaborative leadership and work, examine systemic issues, offer professional consultation and engage in ongoing biblical and theological reflection, as the members encourage new ways of engaging in baptismal ministry. Members include lay leaders; clergy and bishops; local leaders; regional members; seminary faculty and administrators; members and leaders of faith communities; representatives of judicatories; and ministry developers in local, regional and wider church circles.

Living Stones was first organized in 1993 to provide a forum for dioceses, provinces and educational institutions in Canada and the United States, to gather and share stories of their experiences of being church in a non-traditional form and to present innovative ideas for reflection and feedback. Currently, there are 18 partner groups in Living Stones. Living Stones welcomes inquiries and guests from throughout the Anglican Communion and other denominations. At our meeting this year, the bylaws were amended to also allow individuals to join the partnership.

The forum for Living Stones is an annual meeting held in February. It is structured around the presentation of case studies by each partner team, called Baptismal Ministry Experience and Reflection, or BMERs (Bee-merz). Depending upon the number of partner teams attending the meeting, the partner teams are grouped with 3-4 other teams for BMER presentations. After each team presents their BMER and clarifying questions are asked, the other teams respond by offering critique and consultation. The depth of experience and wisdom, the breadth of practice, and the insights and observations offered to each other prove invaluable.

A valuable program extension that has grown out of Living Stones is the Ministry Developers Collaborative. It offers year-round opportunities for ministry development, networking and collegiality, and formational and professional development for ministry developers. Applicants for the program submit portfolios and the collaborative develops a training plan for expanding the candidate’s breadth of knowledge and experience. At the completion of the training plan the candidate is awarded a Ministry Developer Certificate. This certification program is available to all interested persons, not just those within the Living Stones Partnership.

In my next article, I will share our experiences from this year’s Living Stones Annual Meeting.

 

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