An Observer’s View of Chapter

This is the transcript of a conversation between Dean’s Warden Donna Perdue and Stacey Klaman, a relatively new parishioner who has been sitting in on Chapter meetings.

Donna             Hello St. Paul’s.  It’s that time of year again, when we ask members of the St. Paul’s community to discern if they feel called to serve on Chapter.   Today, I have the privilege of speaking with Stacey Klaman, a parishioner who is currently in the process of discerning whether to seek nomination as a candidate for Chapter.   

By way of introduction, Stacey is a relatively new member of the St. Paul’s Community.  She serves as the Chair of the Adult Formation Committee and hosts the Sunday Forums. She also participates on other Cathedral ministries and committees. And, she has been attending Chapter meetings fairly regularly during this past year.

Stacey recently received her PhD in public health and is currently a research fellow at Family Health Centers, where she oversees a project that encourages our unsheltered neighbors with injection use behaviors, to get tested and treated for hepatitis C.

Welcome, Stacey

Stacey             Thank you, Donna

Questions

You started sitting in on Chapter meetings pretty soon after you joined the cathedral community. What drew you to do that?

  • Before I answer that question, I think it might be of interest to note that I had just returned to San Diego in March of 2020 after being away for 7 years. The pandemic had just begun, and we were all on lock-down. I was seeking a faith community and on Easter Sunday I Googled “San Diego Churches” and up popped St. Paul’s Cathedral. As soon as I saw the words, “Wherever you are on your journey of faith, you are welcome here.” I thought “Wow, that’s friendly” so I watched the Easter worship service.
  • After attending a few more Sunday morning worships, hearing Dean Penny’s sermons, and watching the pre-recorded Evensongs, I was secretly smitten.
  • It wasn’t long after that that I signed up for the Waking Up White book discussion, and then Sacred Ground in Action. I started to attend Morning Prayer and last fall I decided to join the Cathedral community. All of this was on Zoom. I’d never been inside the Cathedral, and I had never met anyone in person.
  • So, to come full circle, and answer your question about what drew me to sitting in on Chapter meetings, one particular event stands out in my mind.
  • Last November, I registered very, very late for the Ingathering. Jairus contacted me to ask if I wanted a boxed meal and since I did not pre-order, I did not want to accept one, but he insisted on delivering one to me. Now, mind you, I had been living here alone for 8 months. I had no family in San Diego and at that point very few friends, and they were living in their own family bubbles.
  • So Jairus showed up at my home the night before the Ingathering with a boxed meal in hand. I cannot begin to describe how touched I was by this simple act of kindness, to the point that when he left, I closed the door and literally broke down in tears. 
  • In the very next eBulletin there was an announcement about the December Chapter Meeting, and it said, “All are invited.” That’s when I attended my first meeting. I wanted to know more about this amazing community that was so welcoming of me.

One way to describe the Chapter is as the board of directors of the Cathedral. How do you see that playing out?

  • I think that akin to a board of directors, Chapter has legal and fiscal responsibilities that must be taken very seriously.
  • I also think the role of a board of directors is to ensure the organization’s prosperity by collectively directing the organization’s affairs while at the same time meeting the interests of its shareholders.
  • So, on the one hand, I think that Chapter can be viewed as a Board of Directors, and we can look upon the Cathedral community as the stakeholders, but I also think that Chapter is much more than a Board of Directors.
  • From what I have observed, Chapter is made up of spiritual leaders from the congregation. And, unlike other profit and non-profit boards, the work of Chapter can be done because it is grounded in the Holy Spirit. To me, Chapter is about doing God’s work. The members are more intentional and reflective about what they do. They find common ground centered on the spiritual life and they partner with one another, and the Dean, in mutual discernment.

How would you describe the general group dynamic, compared to other leadership groups you have experienced?

  • I have experienced some very interesting leadership groups throughout my career. In one group, the CEO wore sunglasses which created an intentional atmosphere of intimidation. In another group, individuals would take credit when things went right and point fingers at others when things went wrong. I think we’ve all experienced how individuals in leadership groups don’t always listen to one another but are just waiting for an opportunity to present their own or their team’s agenda. In my experience, when individuals in leadership groups listen, they, more often than not, listen with their minds and not necessarily with their hearts or with the God’s guidance.
  • By comparison, I have observed Chapter members to be attentive, engaged, compassionate, and collaborative. I believe that members strive to see that of God in one another. They are loving, kind, and gentle, and they don’t shy away from asking difficult questions. I think it would be fair to say that I have witnessed the Holy Spirit at work in Chapter.

The Dean generally presides at Chapter meetings: how would you describe her style?

  • I am going to be honest here. From what I have observed, I think that Dean Penny has the most challenging role on Chapter. I have no idea what pre-work or post-work she does, but during Chapter meetings I have found her always to be present – both physically and emotionally. I think she has created a safe atmosphere where members feel comfortable to say what is on their mind and to ask difficult questions. I have perceived that she listens attentively to everyone, and she takes notes. I have noticed how, when there have been challenging discussions, she has to discern whether to let the discussion move forward or whether to table it for another time, all while trying to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit and to everyone’s feelings.
  • She is honest when she doesn’t know something, and she can also laugh at herself as well.
  • Sometimes I think she tries to take up as little room as possible but helps others to speak their minds.
  • I think Dean Penny runs Chapter meetings with incredible grace and with generosity of spirit.

What would you say are the biggest challenges for someone thinking about standing for election to Chapter?

  • A few things come to mind. I’ll use myself as an example as I am discerning whether to stand for election. While I think that I might be qualified and I am certainly motivated, I needed to spend time in Chapter as a guest to understand some of what goes on.
  • I also know that current Chapter members are available for conversation to talk with me.
  • As I discern, I am weighing whether being on Chapter will be personally fulfilling, life-giving, and to be honest, fun!
  • We all have busy lives and lots of demand on our time and energy and I am no exception. Sitting in on Chapter during this last year has been amazing! I have seen a sense of joy when members are engaged in service, even if there are challenging discussions. Being present in Chapter has helped me to recognize that there are amazing opportunities for innovation and new ways of being the Body of Christ.

What do you think are the rewards of this kind of service?

  • I think that as a Chapter member, you are engaged in holy and important work.
  • It’s a unique opportunity to become more spiritually grounded and help advance your journey of faith.
  • I have noticed that nobody is alone when serving on Chapter. Everyone is contributing their time, talent, and treasure for the good of St. Paul’s community.
  • I have found that God is at the center of Chapter and for me that is pretty awe-inspiring. It motivates me to want to become more a part of the life of the St. Paul’s Community.

______________________ 

It’s been a pleasure speaking with you Stacey.    

As a Chapter member coming to the end of my three-year term, I wanted to add that serving on Chapter is not a large time commitment.  We hold our regular meetings by Zoom, and documents for Chapter members to read before the meeting, are available on-line.  With this flexibility, it is easy to serve on Chapter while honoring your other commitments to your family, work, and community.  

______________________________ 

In closing, I want to remind everyone that we are now accepting nominations of candidates who are willing to stand for election to a three-year term on Chapter. 

Please see the weekly St. Paul’s bulletin, and in particular the letter from Justin Lewis, the People’s Warden and Chair of the Chapter Nominating Committee, for information about who to contact for a nomination form, or for more information about Chapter.   

Nominations are due by the end of November.  The election will take place via mail-in ballots like last year, to allow more people to participate.  Election results will be announced at the Annual Meeting on the fourth Sunday of January, scheduled for January 23, 2022.  After the election, new and returning Chapter members will attend the annual Chapter retreat on a weekend in early February.

__________ 

See you on Sunday! 

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1 thought on “An Observer’s View of Chapter”

  1. Thank you for sharing your insights and experiences with chapter. In reading this it seemed to me that Stacey would make an excellent candidate for chapter. I have served on chapter before and it is an enlightening and positive experience. I much agree with Stacey on her observations.

    Reply

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