Around 60 attendees joined the 2017 Spring Conference on Saturday, May 20 at St. Paul’s Salinas to hear The Rev. Thomas Brackett, Manager for Church Planting & Mission Development for The Episcopal Church.

Brackett’s creative presentation was designed to help congregations become dynamic communities of Jesus by moving from a dependence on institutional authority to a reliance on relational authority. He opened his talk by examining the concept of “belovedness” – referencing Jesus’ baptism story and noting that his public ministry began after God announced him as “my Son, the Beloved.”

“Everything worthy of our attention starts with this sense of belovedness,” said Brackett.

He then reviewed the diocese’s strategic objectives – building leadership for the future, cultivating treasures within our neighborhoods, and strengthening our connections with one another and the world. He recognized them as the same objectives shared by healthy faith communities that practically engage the Holy Spirit’s creative work.

A key story shared by Brackett involved a scruffy preacher named Jesse who showed up at a Cathedral and began a popular teaching series, quickly gathering a huge following. As the crowd grew larger, diocesan staff came out to investigate and were concerned that he wasn’t properly ordained or canonically resident. Despite his popularity and amazing miracles of healing, the staff focused only on his policy violations and ushered him out.

Exploring what it means to be an institution, he stated that “many of our beloved Episcopalians have been faithfully formed to confuse these two: the means and the end. It’s not the means ‘or’ the ends. Sometimes an institution is both.”

“For the sake of love, Jesus’ life and teachings went beyond the safe territories of Jewish tradition and Roman rule,” Brackett added, explaining that Jesus chose relationship over piety, living a Mendicant lifestyle that depended on the hospitality of others and giving away power instead of hoarding it. “For the sake of love, Jesus invites us to go ‘beyond the pale’ of our Holy Orders process, of our approved liturgies, of our protocols.”

“Tom’s storytelling was very powerful,” said Bishop Mary Gray-Reeves. “I think people were prompted to consider their own stories of belovedness and how that can intersect in the world. What is our stewardship opportunity of our personal story?”

Brackett’s presentation slides, which include more insights and links to videos and other resources, can be viewed and downloaded at this link.