SEEKER CHURCH STEWARDS MEETING
August 2, 2020
STEWARDS PRESENT: Peter Bankson, Marjory Bankson, Ken Burton, Cynthia Dahlin, Joan Dodge, Michele Frome (recorder), Elizabeth Gelfeld, David Lloyd, Sandra Miller, Patricia Nemore (meditation leader), Brenda Seat, Keith Seat (moderator), Vince Shepherd, Deborah Sokolov, Jacqueline Wallen, Glen Yakushiji
STEWARDS ABSENT: Judy Lantz, Margreta Silverstone
GUESTS PRESENT: Pat Conover, Doug Dodge, Anita Jackson, Liz Gould-Leger, John Morris
MEDITATION: Trish and others offered a reflection entitled, “Risk and Trust in Leadership”, from Sonya Dyer’s book, “Seekers: Growing Our Life Together.”
HOUSEKEEPING: The next Stewards meeting will be Sunday, Sept 6 at 5:30 pm
Worship Leader: Sandra
SERVANT LEADERSHIP: Joan shared with Stewards her intention not to continue on the Servant Leadership Team (SLT), and noted Brenda’s intent to leave in the next few years.
Marjory made a presentation on the evolution of servant leadership at Seekers Church, focusing on the three functions of pastor, priest, and prophet. She noted that we inherited a strong biblical heritage, symbolized and embodied in Jesus washing the feet of his disciples. We were also influenced from the beginning by Robert Greenleaf’s booklet entitled “Servant Leadership,” from which we took the name “Seekers.”
Seekers began with two leaders taking on the priestly function, Fred Taylor as preacher and Sonya Dyer as liturgist. (In 1973, the male-female partnership was a radical approach.) Fred took on the prophetic leader role and Sonya focusing more on the pastoral role.
When Fred stepped back in 1986, the community decided to open the pulpit –Sonya and Peter Bankson became the primary liturgists, while many different voices delivered sermons. At the same time, the prophetic function shifted from Fred to mission groups. In the mid-80s, mission groups also took on the pastoring function of caring for their members, while Sonya focused on people not in mission groups.
When Sonya left, the liturgist role shifted to Celebration Circle.
When Fred left in 1988, we had a year of discernment, looking at pastoral and leadership needs. As a result, we created a Servant Leadership Team, made up of Sonya and 3 others. Shortly after, two of the four left, with Sonya and Peter remaining as the SLT and, coincidentally, also our liturgists. Soon after, Kate Cudlipp joined the Servant Leadership Team. Meanwhile, the Stewards took on a new commitment to “care for the whole community” and not just their mission groups.
Marjory then invited current SLT members to speak about what they see as leadership needs. Trish spoke about the need to have a feel for the whole community, to make wise decisions about use of the Holy Spirit Fund, and to enlist other people to do things. Brenda sees the pandemic is causing a time of resetting in ways we can’t yet foresee, and bringing to the surface the inequalities and injustices in our society. She also said that SLT needs servant leaders who call forth visions from others, rather than people who carry their own visions. David said he feels we don’t give enough emphasis to evangelism, and we need to grapple with the aging of the community – people’s growing needs and our diminishing physical ability to respond. Joan noted that we need to think about how to serve the needs of the large number of active Seekers who are outside the mission group structure.
Marjory explained that this is the opening of a conversation that will continue, focusing on how we might structure our formal and informal leadership.
Attached is a written summary of Marjory’s presentation, “Servant Leadership at Seekers,” which she provided following the meeting.
TWO STEWARDS SHARE (Ken Burton, Keith Seat)
The meeting ended with prayers of thanksgiving for Joan and her many gifts to Seekers.
Attachment: Servant Leadership at Seekers
Since Seekers began in 1976, our experience of servant leadership has grown and changed.
Our model of servanthood came originally from the biblical story of Jesus washing the feet of his disciples – a shocking image of love and service which we continue each year on Maundy Thursday. And the language of servant leadership came from Robert Greenleaf’s booklet, Servant Leadership, from which our founders, Fred Taylor and Sonya Dyer, drew our name, Seekers: it is seekers who make prophets in our time by the quality of their listening. That was the starting point.
Fred and Sonya modeled servant leadership together as co-pastors, a dramatic step toward equality for women in the church in 1976. In worship, Fred preached and Sonya was the liturgist, expanding our language for God with her prayers and her presence. At that time, Fred worked full-time as the director of FLOC, so the 18 core members, who all came from membership in Church of the Saviour, decided to pay Fred and Sonya an equal stipend for unequal work: Sonya spent most of her time pastoring Seekers. In the next decade, more servant leaders emerged as mission groups formed within Seekers.
When Fred resigned and left Seekers in 1988, Sonya and the 19 core members (Stewards) decided to “open the pulpit” and, after a study of leadership needs within Seekers, to create a Servant Leadership Team (SLT). Within two years, the four-member SLT became two, Sonya and Peter Bankson. Their visibility as regular liturgists gave a certain stability to worship as many different voices came from the pulpit.
In the mid-90s, changes within Church of the Saviour rocked the stability of Seekers. Gordon Cosby asked each of the 10 sister communities to incorporate separately, and it looked like our “home” at 2025 Massachusetts Avenue would soon be sold. Seekers went through a gut-wrenching time of search for a new home and questions about splitting into two or three groupings of Maryland, Virginia and DC residents. During that turmoil, Kate Cudlipp chaired the Council of Church of the Saviour AND she joined the SLT at Seekers.
In 2000, another major shift occurred. After many sermons and classes in the School, the congregation seemed ready to purchase and renovate a run-down building in Takoma, DC, which meant we would stay together as one congregation. And Sonya resigned to move with her husband to North Carolina. Once again, we went through a process of evaluating our leadership needs. A small group of Stewards and Members surveyed the congregation, circulated their findings and eventually wrote out a call to “care for the whole” – and we waited to see who would respond. Brenda Seat joined Peter and Kate as the new SLT then.
Each time someone leaves the SLT, called away for new area of service, the Stewards have initiated a process to examine our need for new servant leaders. The number is not fixed. The skills not set. The purpose is to “care for the whole” and we recognize that those who might be called to the SLT will themselves grow in their capacity for holding the center of our life together.