Christ Church Cathedral in Fredericton, N.B. FUSSBALL_89 ON FLICKR

Peer learning program for clergy takes shape

A new peer-to-peer learning program in the Diocese of Fredericton is changing the way the diocese–and now the Ecclesiastical Province of Canada–looks at continuing education for clergy.

Christ Church Cathedral in Fredericton, N.B.  FUSSBALL_89 ON FLICKR
Christ Church Cathedral in Fredericton, N.B. FUSSBALL_89 ON FLICKR

The program, known simply as 12-12-12, gathers 12 clergy together once a month for 12 months to discuss 12 different topics that affect their ministries.

Archbishop Claude Miller believes the program meets a need–helping diocesan clergy adapt to social change. “It’s to help enable priests to more fully understand the language of the culture,” says Miller, “the effects of the culture on the church, all of those things–because we as clergy are part of that same culture.”

Archdeacon David Edwards, parish development officer for the Diocese of Fredericton, leads the program.

“Part of the major success of the program is the mutual support, mutual inspiration,” he says. “They have been significant in the development of 12-12-12, and for this particular group of people.”

Each month Edwards facilitates a two-day session during which participants learn, live, and eat together in a mini-retreat.

Sessions begin on the first morning with participants reporting on how they’ve done with personal and ministry goals they set themselves at the end of the previous month’s session. Then comes a questionnaire designed to help each person take an inventory of their high and low points over the past 28 days, and what they are most (and least) looking forward to about the month ahead.

The afternoon is spent with the first speaker of the weekend, who comes in to teach on the topic of the month.

“We try to get high-calibre people who are experts in what they’re doing,” says Edwards. Examples include having recently worked with the Bank of China on strategic planning.

While the afternoon’s speaker is on the theoretical side, after supper they have a “fireside chat” with someone who has hands-on experience.

The next day begins with “deep dives”–a time for participants to help each other explore some of the issues that came up in the previous day’s ‘highs and lows’ session.

“It’s not just about problems. It can be a time where you share joys, and that’s inspirational to the group,” says Edwards.

In the afternoon another speaker spends an hour and half with the group discussing the weekend’s topic, followed by a time for the group to set their goals for the following month.

The program is currently in its 10th month, and has covered topics such as community engagement, creating vision, personal care, and conflict management.

The current run of the program is focused on clergy who are recently ordained–less than six years in ministry. A proposed second run, beginning in January 2014, would be for clergy with more experience.

Enthusiasm for the program is spreading. At last month’s provincial council meeting for the Ecclesiastical Province of Canada, a motion was passed recommending 12-12-12 to all dioceses in the province, and offer support in setting up new programs.

The idea for the program was born when Miller was introduced to Dr. Nancy Mathis, executive director of the Wallace McCain Institute (a centre for teaching entrepreneurial leadership) at the University of New Brunswick. Mathis and Edwards adapted a peer-learning program already in place at the Institute for the diocese. Edwards serves as the diocese’s program facilitator, while Mathis remains as a volunteer consultant on continued development of the program.

Miller is very happy with the program so far, and is looking forward to the future. “This peer fellowship­–just building up a level of trust–has greatly increased the morale in this small group, and their hopes for more fruitful and more engaging ministry. Those are all sort of add-on benefits, if you will, to the education component.”

Interested in keeping up-to-date on news, opinion, events and resources from the Anglican Church of Canada? Sign up for our email alerts .