Friday, November 6, 2009
Once again the diocesan office in Syracuse is trying to change diocesan structures without consulting with those who live and move and have their beings in the diocese. News comes that the council of Deans is looking to dissolve the Ithaca-Owego-Cortland District without a bye-your-leave to those who work or live in that District.
One might ask the rationale behind the development of deaneries or districts. Originally the district was a way of attending to the needs of an area of the diocese. Clergy and laity would meet with some regularity to support the ministry of Jesus Christ. Clergy met to support one another in their vocation. They were also ways of disseminating information from the diocesan office and national church. One hundred years ago these districts revolved around the main mode of transportation, mainly train lines so that clergy could be mobile. I know that St. Peter’s, Bainbridge and St. Ann’s, Afton were yoked in the 19th century simply because the train ran regularly between the two. Later as automobiles became the mode of travel, districts developed along the routes of highways. The districts were not developed as extension of the diocesan office, but as ways of gathering the clergy and laity in discrete areas together to extend the mission of Christ. The districts were to serve the laity and clergy of the diocese, not necessarily the bishop. And deans, until just recently were elected by the districts that they served.
It seems that today the diocesan office would realign districts simply because they can’t find like-minded clergy to be dean. Rather than have the districts be a listening post for the bishop, the diocesan office would rather the district be broken up than attend to the needs of the people of the district. Once more I hear the goal of “flattening the hierarchy” being trod upon by those who are appointed rather than elected to office. Once more it is for the diocesan office that changes are made, not the needs of those in the pews who pay the salaries of all of us. If there is one thing that serves to distance the laity from the diocese is for the diocese to make unilateral decisions affecting them.
It is probably an appropriate thing to review the boundaries of all the districts in the diocese. Travel patterns and communal patterns have change over the past 100 years. Perhaps Owego should be in the Binghamton district; however, the people of that parish should be the ones who make that decision rather than those in far-off Syracuse or deans from the North Country who have never driven the back roads of the Southern Tier. Perhaps Courtland and Ithaca and Whitney Point have more in common than Whitney Point has with Binghamton, but it should be the parish that should make that decision. To eliminate a district because of politics is an unworthy reason. To append such a place as Candor or Speedsville or even Ithaca to Elmira is nonsensical and Cortland doesn’t have much in common with either Binghamton or Syracuse and would work hardship on clergy and laity alike.
There are clergy in Ithaca-Cortland who are willing to be a part of the college of deans. There are clergy who are more than willing to work with the bishop in the Ithaca-Cortland District. They have their take on the needs of their parishes and area that is needed by the diocesan office. The district is quite capable of providing capable leadership to the district and the diocese. It is time to re-think these actions.