Life's Lessons of a Lay Leader

By Gomez, Pamela Wesley | Anglican Theological Review, Winter 2010 | Go to article overview

Life's Lessons of a Lay Leader


Gomez, Pamela Wesley, Anglican Theological Review


Almighty God, give us wisdom to perceive you,

intellect to understand you,

diligence to seek you,

patience to wait for you,

vision to uphold you,

a heart to meditate upon you,

and a life to proclaim you.

- a Prayer of Saint Benedict

For the past twenty-two years I have worked as a lay professional in the Episcopal Church and spent most of my free time serving on national and international committees and boards, or in mission. My ministry did not begin with a major moment of call. Instead, a series of life experiences and lessons compelled me to learn more and offer more for what I gradually recognized as the mission each of us accepts once we say "I believe." Through my work as a counselor witíi runaway kids and with cancer patients, a corporate consultant, and a staff stewardship director, I have learned to serve, to be authentic and trustworthy, to identify talents, to develop effective strategies, and to take a long view of ministry and mission. I have been lucky to work with clergy who valued partnership. Their goal-setting and my ability to create simple sustainable plans for achieving mission established me as a professional equal in our partnership. In the past twenty-six years, mentors have appeared in unlikely and unexpected places. Yet they catapulted and transported me on my spiritual and professional journey. I have been blessed with a clear yet uncomplicated sense of how my lay leadership might uphold God's mission through the Episcopal Church. Throughout these years, I have always attempted to stay true to my desire to seek, uphold, and proclaim God.

My leadership in the Episcopal Church has primarily been in identifying and securing resources for ministry. As Director of Development and External Church Affairs at Berkeley Divinity School at Yale University, I have worked very hard over a long period of time to develop trust and be an authentic partner. It is imperative that development officers and fund-raisers have clear vision and concrete plans for achieving goals. My ability to work on projects, communicate in other than church language, and recognize how to engage laity has allowed me to be an integral part of leadership teams. Only twenty years later, do I feel as if my career has been a ministry and not just creating and implementing a strategic plan.

Along the way, I have learned that effective life and leadership require a personal spiritual practice and discipline which help to identify and clarify purpose. What has helped me to ground my lay career has been a spiritual discipline adapted from a lifetime of mission, retreat, and worship. It is only my annual mission work which prevents my professional life from getting stuck in my intellect and lacking passion and enthusiasm.

Serving on the board of die Consortium of Endowed Episcopal Parishes has taught me the true value of connectedness and the power of proclamation, It is here that I have learned most of what I know about leadership for mission. I am grateful for the community of lay and ordained who strive to grow together in leadership and mission. The Consortium will celebrate its twenty-fifth anniversary in 2010 and I have watched it evolve over twenty-one years. Together we convene conversations, offer continuing education, and look ahead for opportunities to serve God and die church. It is among the few places in the church where clergy and lay leadership seem to function in true partnership.

Dr. Bob Johansen, in his newly released book Leaders Make the Future: Ten New Leadership Skills for an Uncertain World,1 describes a new leadership that will be required for the coming decade. It is a leadership based on agility, connectedness, and the ability to seed, nurture, and grow shared assets. The Map of the Decade outlining the future for the Episcopal Church, commissioned by the Consortium with the Institute for die Future, indicates a rapidly shifting society and world. …

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