This has been another busy week for me! I don’t generally find myself at the Cathedral three times in one week but, boy, were these exciting opportunities! The first event was the Special Convention for the Election of a New Bishop about which I wrote in last week’s blog. This past Saturday (June 8), I was privileged to attend the ordination to the priesthood of two special friends. I got to know Mitch Yudasz the first year I was one of the facilitators for Exploring Your Spiritual Journey (EYSJ), a program of spiritual discernment offered by our diocese’s Whitaker Institute. Over the last seven years of friendship and support with Mitch, I have witnessed firsthand the work of the Holy Spirit in his life as he traveled this journey. Anthony Estes serves on Diocesan Council’s Resolution Review Committee with me and has contributed some Nuts and Bolts posts recently. While I was not one of the facilitators of Anthony’s EYSJ program, I have heard that he was an eager participant a few years ago. I know that the ordination of these two fine men is not the end of their steps but a turning of the next corner to discover where the Holy Spirit is leading next.
Exploring Your Spiritual Journey is only one of the important programs sponsored by the Whitaker Institute and supported by our diocese. Last Wednesday evening, June 5th, almost one hundred of us gathered together at the Cathedral to celebrate the successful completion of this year’s programs and honor those graduating. We began the event sharing Holy Eucharist and followed by a delicious dinner and the distribution of certificates to all the “graduates.” It was a lovely evening for all present!
I’m pretty sure that many of this blog’s readers are aware that Whitaker exists but are you all aware of the many inspiring programs and events available to you? With the celebration last Wednesday and the ordinations yesterday, I decided that maybe it’s time we highlight this great resource!
About the Whitaker Institute
The Whitaker Institute activates lifelong learning!
We are the educational arm of the Bishop’s office and our purpose is to educate, equip and empower faith communities with fresh ways of learning.
The Whitaker Institute for education imagines the Episcopal Church community of faith where:
- Every parish is equipped with the tools and motivation to offer foundational education (baptismal, catechetical, Episcopal church) and faith formation in their own context,
- Those persons discerned for ordained ministries are academically, spiritually and practically prepared, as required through canons and Commission on Ministry to serve the wider church,
- Lay persons are fostered in discerning their call to serve Christ and do God’s work in the world,
- Lay persons participate in group spiritual direction that guides discernment for God’s call on their lives,
- Lay persons engage in formation in lay pastoral and social activism ministries,
- Clergy persons participate in lifelong education and empowerment for pastoral, prophetic and priestly/diaconal distinctions in their ministry,
- Parish leaders gain insights and implement canonically required formation programs that create healthy environments of vibrant faith communities
- Communication about educational, inspirational and formative events are fostered between the parishes, the diocese and the wider Episcopal Church
Academy for Vocational Leadership
Baptized for Life
Diversity and Inclusion
Eating Together Faithfully
Exploring Your Spiritual Journey
Epiphanies Speaker Series
Whitaker Online School
One very special feature of the annual Whitaker Celebration is the awarding of the Servant Leader Award. Each year, the Whitaker Advisory Council under the leadership of Whitaker’s director, the Rev. Vicki Hesse, chooses that person in our diocese who has demonstrated the true heart of a servant as taught to us by Jesus. This year, we unanimously selected the Bishop Gibbs as the recipient of this award for his unwavering support of Whitaker. Over the last ten years at least, Whitaker has gone through many changes of directors, programs, vision and operation. Bishop Gibbs has provided wise council and encouragement from the background – not in the spotlight – through all these transitions. This is truly servant leadership.
In receiving his award, Bishop Gibbs spoke of the importance of Whitaker’s role in the diocese, reminding us that as part of our baptismal covenant, we are all called to be open to the leading of the Spirit. While it is indeed exciting to ordain individuals called to the ministry of priest and deacon, we all must acknowledge the importance of being life-long learners, eager to seek the knowledge and training that enables us to serve as faithful disciples of Jesus. Whitaker’s programs are designed to make this possible for us.
A new feature at this year’s celebration was the opportunity to sponsor a table for your congregation and to share the story of your congregation’s favorite outreach program for a donation to the Whitaker Scholarship Fund. This year’s sponsors included:
- The Wendell & Karlah Gibbs Youth and young Adult Legacy Fund
- Christ Church Cranbrook: Translucent: Thriving as a Trans Family
- Christ Church Detroit: 2019 Reading Camp
- St Clement’s, Inkster: Fredrick Boyd Williams UBE Interest Group
- Whitaker Institute: Saturday Series
- Holy Cross, Novi: Social Justice Ministry
- St Stephen’s, Wyandotte: Wyandotte Ministerial Assoc.’s Brown Bag Blessings Project
The Whitaker Institute is a rich resource we are blessed to have in our diocese. I’m delighted to continue facilitating EYSJ this coming year and look forward to meeting all who want to travel this journey with us. I’m also excited to see what other great learning opportunities I can attend through Whitaker and I hope to see many of your along the way! For more detailed information, check our Whitaker’s website or contact Whitaker’s Director, the Rev. Vicki Hesse at 313.833.4412 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Let us pray –
Almighty and everlasting God, by whose Spirit the whole
body of your faithful people is governed and sanctified:
Receive our supplications and prayers, which we offer before
you for all members of your holy Church, that we all would be
open to the leading of your spirit, that we would be willing
to try new things for your Gospel, and that in our vocation
and ministry we may truly and devoutly serve you; through
our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with
you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.
~ The Rev. Judith Schellhammer, chair, Resolution Review Committee, Diocesan Council