In general, the goal of a Holy Manners document is to help develop a positive atmosphere within the parish – including values of transparency, courtesy, clear communication, and pastoral care. These processes are not clear to everyone.
What is it?
“Holy Manners” is an agreement, or covenant, about how we work together as leaders. These covenants typically touch on such subjects as participating as a group, what do to if there is a disagreement, listening to one another, and so on.
Council members need to make a decision about whether or not to have such a covenant. If we do, then we need to decide together what this covenant will say.
Why have one?
There are two reasons why this could be useful.
First, there are times in the life of every parish when people could have phrased their comments more thoughtfully. Sooner or later, it is likely that someone will be unnecessarily hurt.
Second, parishes in this diocese face significant challenges in the next little while. These are not just questions like, “What colour should the rectory bathroom wall be painted?” or something like that. We will likely be facing big questions: “How can we help people be drawn into parish life more effectively?” “What sort of leadership, lay and ordained, are we being called to have?” Having a clear understanding about how we will work together will help equip us to undertake the challenging work ahead of us.
Where did “Holy Manners” come from?
The archdeacons first became aware of this process because Bishop Sue Moxley drew it to our attention. She became aware of it from the Diocese of Huron (London, ON and the surrounding area). A parish called “ELAM” had decided to form from four small parishes which were struggling. Some people were unhappy with the plans. It made it difficult for everyone when there was tension in the congregations. People did not know how to move forward. Eventually, coming up with this covenant helped ELAM.
Do we have to call it “Holy Manners”?
No – you can call it whatever you like, as long as its purpose is made clear and the document is widely available and used consistently.
Where do we go from here?
- Decide whether or not we want to have such a covenant.
- If “yes”, decide what we want to agree to.
- It’s easiest to start with work someone else has already done, and then change the wording, if necessary, to what we would like better. Here is a Development Outline. And here is an Example.
- Add any points we want.
- Take away any points we don't want.
- Come up with wording everyone is reasonably content with.
- Adopt it as a motion.
- Make sure all Parish Council members have a copy. We can also post it in our Church buildings if we like. If someone asks us about it, explain briefly it’s to help us as a Council. Other groups may find it helpful too.
- Hold one another accountable to it. This is not just the job of the incumbent. It is everyone’s job. Ideally we can do it in good humour. But once Council has adopted it, none of us (including clergy) can decide we do not want to abide by it. It is a given for our lives as the family of God here.
- We can choose to review it periodically (perhaps once or twice a year), especially at first. Sometimes we learn improvements through practice.