Canon to the Ordinary’s Report

Submitted by: The Rev. Canon Debra Low-Skinner

Submitted to: the 174th Diocesan Convention, 25 September 2023

As head of the Congregational Ministries Working Group (WG), the Canon to the Ordinary (CTO) assists the Bishop in facilitating and supporting the operations and missional activities of all our 71 congregations (i.e., parishes, missions, and ethnic worshipping communities) with especial oversight of our missions (of which there are currently 24). 

As CTO, my responsibilities and activities are myriad, wide-ranging, and time-sensitive.  These include multi-tasking several activities of varying priorities; coordinating with the Diocesan staff, other diocesan bodies, and outside organizations on different projects; performing troubleshooting, analysis, and problem-solving; and many times handling sensitive situations requiring strict confidentiality. 

Over the past twelve months, my efforts have been devoted to:

  • Providing project management support
    • Vital & Thriving Project (currently 16 churches are participants)
    • Bluebird and Jubilee Farm Projects in Brentwood
    • Drafting policy briefs that recommended: closure of Holy Innocents in Corte Madera (HICM) and accepting the purchase offer of St. John’s, Clayton by their current tenant Clayton Community Church.
    • Finalizing the Canon for Racial, Social, and Environmental Justice (CRSEJ) job description and forming a selection committee to determine the final candidates by end of October 2023.
  • Provide parish administration advice/assistance
    • Advising the rector of Episcopal Church of Our Saviour (ECOS), Oakland regarding their response to the arson/murder/graffiti incidents in April-May and their on-going concerns regarding restoration/repairs.
    • Assisting three mission churches with responses to roof & water damages from severe winter storms.
    • Approving applications for remarriages, licensing agreements, and letters of agreement, memoranda of agreement.
  • Support the Bishop at monthly governance meetings (i.e., Finance Committee, Executive Council, and Standing Committee. Participating on the Assessment Appeals Committee and Convention Dispatch of Business.
  • Provide oversight & financial support of our mission congregations
    • Convene bimonthly Vicars Meetings
    • Provide salary subsidies for 13 vicars and two lay assistants.
    • Provide financial assistance for vicars for workshops or continuing ed.
  • Provide pastoral care as requested for clergy & lay leaders and assist with conflict resolution.
  • Assist the Vocations Officer with advice/suggestions regarding aspirants and postulants.
  • Assist the Transitions Minister with advice/suggestions regarding changes in clergy leadership and challenges posed by lack of available clergy.
  • Work with the Transitions Minister to design & facilitate the new monthly ReStart/ReSet program (formerly Fresher Start) starting in Sept 2023.
  • Provide liturgical support & coordination. This included special worship services, such as the installation of Diocesan Senior Staff Canons and Regional Deans, the closing Eucharist for HICM, and worship during the Diocesan Convention and Bishop Coadjutor Electing Convention. In addition, I attended Grace Cathedral’s PRIDE Mass and the Diocesan/UBE Juneteenth Eucharist at St. Paul’s, Oakland.
  • Served as supply presider/preacher at 16 churches over the past 12 months. Monthly I preside/preach at Grace Cathedral’s Wednesday noon Eucharist.  Also assist Bishop Marc at Celebrations of New Ministry, ordinations, and at clergy funerals.
  • Provide articles & photos for DioCal News & Events
  • Convene Emergency Response (formerly COVID Response) Team meetings. Keep current on latest COVID and DHS security recommendations.
  • Represent the Diocese as General Convention Alternate Deputy and as a member of Deputies of Color; last year served as member of the Prayer Book, Liturgy, & Music Legislative Committee.
  • Represent the Diocese on the San Francisco Interfaith Council (SFIC) and currently serving as Vice Chair of the Board of Directors; was filmed in public service announcement bringing attention to Anti-Asian Hate
  • Serve as Diocesan point of contact for AAPI issues or matters involving multi-ethnic congregations.

Finally, I want to express my gratitude for the exceptional gifts and skills and great work ethic of my awesome WG team members of Canon Denise Obando and Dr. Travis Stevens.  Though WG member The Rev. Gary England chose to resign this past February, thankfully he has agreed to help us from time to time with our ReStart/ReSet meetings that address human resources or business acumen topics.  Though our WG is few in number, we can accomplish a lot because we work so well together.  Furthermore, this is true for our entire Diocesan Staff.  We are all supportive of one another and are united in our goal of being of service to the people and congregations of our Diocese.