This week: a special double edition of the Weekly.

First, we take a look at issues in staff supervision, issues that have been made both more challenging and more significant as the pandemic continues. Susan Beaumont of the Congregational Consulting Group begins the conversation by examining accountability in the age of COVID. Then, we look at how supervisors can help their staff members make meaning in their work. Victoria White of Leadership Education at Duke Divinity concludes this part of the Weekly reminding us why good supervision matters — that as supervisors, we have the gift of curating human potential.

Also in this edition, we mark the coming US Thanksgiving holiday. In a poignant essay, Bridgette Lacy reflects on another Thanksgiving that took place in a difficult season in her own life. Edgar Moore invites us to spend our Thanksgiving remembering what really matters.

Welcome to this special edition of the Weekly. 

Accountability in the age of COVID-19

In the early days of the pandemic, many supervisors did their best to accommodate the needs of their staff as they were negotiating huge work/life challenges. As Susan Beaumont writes here, now staff teams are experiencing some of the downsides of grace without accountability.

People want to know how their work matters

Our staff members don’t just want to know that their work matters. They want to know how it matters to the mission of our congregations, and when we as supervisors help them contextualize their work, we help them find deep meaning in what they do.

Resources to respond to the coronavirus

Curating human potential

Supervision is, at heart, a matter of stewardship. So, how do we care for the people whose gifts and talents are entrusted to us, even if they eventually follow their callings elsewhere?

Giving thanks in a difficult season

Enjoying the Thanksgiving meal was impossible for a writer recovering from brain surgery. Yet, as she learned in that Thanksgiving in 1999, being thankful requires letting go of the things we can’t control and accepting and embracing the rest.

Thanksgiving is a time to remember

Many of the ways that we have celebrated Thanksgiving in recent years has involved a kind of conspicuous consumption without reflecting on the past. This year, we may have an opportunity to remember the past and be grateful in new ways.

From the Alban Library

The Wisdom of the Seasons: How the Church Year Helps Us Understand our Congregational Stories

by Charles M. Olsen

The church year is often seen as a framework for church programs, but well-known Alban author Charles Olsen shows readers how it can be a prism through which congregations more deeply understand their own stories. By weaving together our narratives and those of Christian tradition, a congregation can clarify its identity, grow in wisdom, and discover a new vision and ministry. Olsen draws parallels between the church seasons and practices of spiritual formation — letting go, naming and celebrating God’s presence, and taking hold. He shows us how these movements are expressed in the three major cycles of the church year — Christmas, Easter, and Pentecost. Focusing on communal narratives, he presents a process for telling a story and forming a corporate memory of the story, and then deepening and reflecting on it by exploring the season of the church year that captures its character.

Before you go…

Supervising staff members working remotely wasn’t a skill set that many congregational leaders had developed prior to the pandemic. Much of what we relied upon as supervision relied on in-person, face-to-face interaction. Yet, as with so many other dimensions of congregational life, we had to adapt to the challenges before us. 

As the pandemic continues and more churches are closing their buildings again, now is an opportunity to examine the practices we developed for online supervision. How are they working for us as leaders? For our staff members? For our congregations?

But, we also can’t miss this moment to give thanks for the human potential that’s been entrusted to our care and oversight. Perhaps supervision and gratitude are a strange but perfect pair! 

Until next time, peace! 

Nathan Kirkpatrick

Managing Director, Alban at Duke Divinity

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