In order to gather information quickly from clergy and parishioners across the diocese, the Nominating/Search Committee developed a 12-item questionnaire with open-ended questions and made it available through the diocesan eNews, website, parishes and local clergy. By providing open-ended questions, the survey allowed respondents to offer as much or as little information as they desired. The Committee devised questions so as to develop a picture of the diocese from the perspective of the individual, the parish, and the convocation. Over 800 people completed the survey online. An additional nine respondents completed a hard copy of the survey.
The data produced by the survey were examined in two ways. First, each question was analyzed qualitatively in order to identify key words and themes across all responses per item. Second, the results were sorted according to demographic distinctions—by respondent, by convocation, by whether the respondent was clergy or laity—in order to understand how the larger picture was composed of unique voices.
The results provided information in two main forms. First, the Committee received demographic and statistical information about the Diocese. Second, the survey provided numerous narratives and testimonies from parishioners and clergy of experiences, expectations, and beliefs. Three examples can help illustrate.
First, the Committee heard in the survey responses numerous stories about past and current relationships between the parish and the diocese. Many stories focused upon help offered by the diocese during times of clergy transition (“We are currently searching for a new [rector], and the direction and support from the diocese has been exceptional”); others, especially those in rural areas, felt the diocese lacked a discernible presence (“I feel that our church has largely been forgotten by the Diocese”).
Second, and related to the first, the survey responses showed the desires and aspirations of the diocese. For example, a sizeable number of responses indicated desire for greater communication between the diocese and the local parish. Additionally, a large number of respondents recognized the need to minister more effectively to younger generations.
Third, the responses showed the variety of senses of calling for individuals, parishes, and the diocese, including: Christian education (e.g., “to teach and live a theology in the vernacular”); recruiting and training new clergy; increased racial and generational diversity; technological adaptation and innovation; and new cultural engagement and outreach.
Results from the questionnaire were presented and discussed at “listening sessions” that were held in each convocation. The listening sessions were an opportunity for clergy and laity both to hear the data from across the diocese—summarized in tables, charts, direct quotations, and generalized statements—and also to ask questions and offer comments to members of the Committee while members of the Committee took notes. The Committee also used the data to generate three “validation statements.” The validation statements were attempts to formulate broad readings of the questionnaire data in a manner suitable for discussion at a local level. As each validation statement was presented, attendees were asked to indicate whether they “strongly agree,” “agree,” or “disagree” with the statement. After the tally was taken, attendees were then given the opportunity to offer thoughts, reflections, and present additional questions.