Home > Bp. Breidenthal, DSO News, Fisks > A clump of fully digested horse food by any other name.. [UPDATED]

A clump of fully digested horse food by any other name.. [UPDATED]

4 May 2010

Elder’s Note:  For the benefit of the reader, I will preface this recent letter sent out from the bishop with what he said during last year’s diocesan convention:

First, about our beloved Procter Camp & Conference Center, faithfully administered by Penny Buckley and her staff. As you will recall, our exploration of common ministry is funded by a generous grant from the Jessie Ball DuPont Foundation. We are focusing on three areas of common ministry: in congregations, at Procter, and in ministry to college campuses and young adults. At the moment, we are still focused on congregations, but
 we will soon begin to turn our sights on Procter as a place where common ministry is fostered, formed and nurtured – or, as one might say – where we deepen our sense of connection with one another, with the earth, and with God.

In anticipation of a wide-ranging diocesan conversation about Procter, I have appointed a task force to assess Procter’s current strengths and weaknesses…

– Bp. Breidenthal

With that duly noted, here is the letter that our bishop sent out via email today:

A message from the Bishop
to the people of Southern Ohio 
 
May 3

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

I am writing to tell you about some changes at the Procter Camp & Conference Center.

As you may know, Procter is one of the three areas to be addressed in our grant from the DuPont Corporation. With that in mind, I asked the late Chris Stires to convene a task force to help us think about Procter and its future in the diocese.  I am very grateful to Craig Foster, John Harris, Rob Konkol, Eileen O’Reilly, Robert Rideout, Marilyn Sessler and Randy Young for their diligent attention to this work.

As a result of conversations with the task force and others, I have made a significant change to the governance of the center. It may not be obvious to you, but I believe it’s important that you know about it. I have dissolved the Procter Board, and reconstituted it as the Procter Commission. This brings it in line with other working groups in the diocese dealing with particular program areas, and removes the chance for a misunderstanding that the center acts independently of the diocese and diocesan funds. More importantly, it brings Procter front and center as a major program of the diocese which touches on almost every aspect of our common life.

I am grateful to the Procter Commission for its commitment to reflect deeply on a long-range vision for Procter. Procter is already a place of hospitality, where many groups of people find welcome and the opportunity to focus on particular tasks. And it is already a place where an excellent summer camp program occurs year after year. But if the center is to reach its full potential, it must attract a broader constituent of groups and agencies who are aware of all it has to offer as a venue for conferences and retreats. We cannot maintain Procter as a place for vestries to strategize and young campers to claim their identity as Episcopalians if we don’t ensure that the facility is in constant use, not only on weekends or in the summer, but throughout the week, every week.

As a diocese, we must also explore ways in which our presence as a major landowner in Madison County offers us opportunities for partnership with the surrounding community. For instance, our 1200-acre farm might well provide an opportunity for young farmers to engage in cutting-edge “green” agriculture, emphasizing sustainability and diverse cultivation. Inviting this kind of experimentation will involve us in broader initiatives aimed at re-developing Ohio’s local economies, which will, in turn, help us to reclaim a role for our county-town parishes in a changing world. It will also support our present camping program’s commitment to train up young leaders who care about the common good. At the very least, it will establish Procter’s identity as a center for study, formation, and missional engagement reflecting our diocese’s commitment to engagement with our local communities, Ohio, and the world.

This brings me to another change. As Procter moves into its next stage, the job of Executive Director is bound to change considerably. In light of this, after thirteen years of service as Executive Director, Penny Buckley will be moving on to other endeavors. I know this will not be an easy change for the diocese. Procter’s reputation as a place of extraordinary hospitality is due to Penny’s passion for and skill at making people feel welcome, and Procter would not be poised to move onto new challenges had Penny not made it the diocesan gathering place it is today. I am personally indebted to her for the many ways she has helped to make my own entry into Southern Ohio easier. I speak for all of us when I say that we will miss her welcoming presence in the conference center lobby and dining hall.

Needless to say, it is difficult to make this decision in this economy.  Some of you may be worried about the Buckley family.  But I can tell you that my policy is to grant a month’s salary for every year served, up to twelve years.

Please join me in thanking Penny and Leo for everything they have done to bring Procter to the place it is today.
 
Yours in Christ,
 
+ Tom
 

Some thoughts:

A)  Who in their right mind would have ever held the “..misunderstanding that the center acts independently of the diocese and diocesan funds.” ??

B)  RE:  “We cannot maintain Procter as a place for vestries to strategize and young campers to claim their identity as Episcopalians if we don’t ensure that the facility is in constant use, not only on weekends or in the summer, but throughout the week, every week.”  

Okay, so, more stuff needs to be done at Proctor.  Which means .. hiring (as opposed to say, letting people go) more people, right ??

C)  RE:  “For instance, our 1200-acre farm might well provide an opportunity for young farmers to engage in cutting-edge “green” agriculture, emphasizing sustainability and diverse cultivation.”   

Um, since when is agriculture, not green? 

Also, permit me to give some of our readers a lesson in basic business.  What the bishop is proposing is simple –  leasing Proctor land out to farmers during the growing seasons.  Now, I don’t care if they do that, but why on earth would we put the stipulation that the type of agriculture be, “cutting-edge” ? 

Cutting-edge agriculture involving horticulture usually requires … buildings.  And, it makes sense for the entrepreneur (aka, the “young farmer,” who we hope will allow him or herself to be bossed around by the leaser) to use their own land for the buildings. 

Cutting-edge agriculture involving alternative livestock would make more sense.  I guess, you’d need to find a farmer within a 3 mile radius who would like to raise ostriches, or something like that.   Shouldn’t be too hard (?). 

D)  RE:  “I have dissolved the Procter Board, and reconstituted it as the Procter Commission.

Note:  When the set of directives for an organization has changed, it is not always necessary to change the people in charge of the organization – particularly if the people in leadership are in line with the new directives. 

So my question is, does this re-organization reflect a change of initiatives, or a change in personnel

E)  RE:  “This brings me to another change. As Procter moves into its next stage, the job of Executive Director is bound to change considerably. In light of this, after thirteen years of service as Executive Director, Penny Buckley will be moving on to other endeavors.

Let’s see if I can make the math work on this one.  If it takes X amount of man hours to produce Y amount of product, and I want to increase the amount of product to (e.g.,) two times Y, I have to decrease X by Z-percent. 

(???)

No, wait … that doesn’t sound so good, does it?

Hmmm…

F)  RE:  “But I can tell you that my policy is to grant a month’s salary for every year served, up to twelve years.” 

[UPDATED – Thanks for catching that Qaus – Actually, one month per year worked severance is outstanding.  Even I have to admit that.  ]

G)  I’ll just say it.  I’ve been around the block in the corporate world, and it sounds like a competent professional “got let go” because they were a square peg that needed to fit in a round hole. 

H)  Finally – (recapping the thoughts of one of our readers)  He’s announcing the termination to the diocese via email ??!!!!??

.. Ahh.. 

Bp. Breidenthal, You stay classy !  😉

– Elder

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  1. Quasimodo
    4 May 2010 at 1:36 AM

    Elder,

    Not to quibble, and not to defend by any means, but I think that Penny is getting a month per year served. That would be at least 10 months salary. I think. Still not done correctly, but a better package than most.

    My thought on the “green” agriculture bit, is how many folks on the board, or whatever it is, actually have any experience in agriculture? Have they ever planted a field, or harvested, or know anything about agribusiness? Have they ever run a farm?

    I assume that the “commission” or “soviet” or whatever it is called is different from the advisory group listed above, but based on what I see this is another limousine liberal group with no real life experience in this type of endeavor.

    Have they ever run a hotel or a conference center?

    How many groups want to go an hour and half from Cincinnati, 45 minutes from Columbus, 1/2 an hour from Dayton to Procter for meetings that can afford to pay what is necessary to keep the facility open for the Diocese. The Methodists have camps, the Catholics have retreat centers, and businesses won’t use the space.

    Besides, I’ve heard how difficult it already was for Vestry’s and churches to schedule times for meetings due to all the other groups.

    Speaking of “green” how much carbon do the fine folk of DSO consume/spew when traveling from their four corners to meetings there? If they want to be green why not close the camp, choose electronic meetings with less of a footprint, and let the land go wild? Sounds like it would save on all ends.

    One more thought, as the vision for DSO is increasingly being put in place piecemeal by piecemeal why is Procter this large of a priority? Churches are dying, money is tight, SSB’s a go, and now Green Agriculture at Procter? Sounds like the priorities are straight in the Diocese, or maybe that was the wrong term to use.

  2. Quasimodo
    4 May 2010 at 1:41 AM

    I should have quit a while ago, but…

    I know they tried to get going on the green kick last summer with an “organic garden”. The gurus, who never had farmed or planted a garden larger than their small backyard patches, put it in a location that was totally wrong. They could not even get water to it, even though Procter is on a well, nor did they put in rain water barrels to collect.

    They also refused to allow the high grass next to the garden to be mown, which we all know provides nice habitat and breeding grounds for pests.

    Add to this, the mission project for the summer camps was to form a people’s labor battalion to weed and harvest the garden.

  3. TheLamb
    6 May 2010 at 6:16 AM

    I feel that these choices where not well thought out on the Bishops behalf. I do understand that change is a good thing sometimes but when you feel that change should be as large and as fast as what has happened here then it will only lead to one thing and it is not good. I am concerned about who will be over seeing the up keep of the center since Pennys husband was the grounds keeper/Maintance supervisor. I personally have seen Pennys husband Leo there both night and day, on weekends and holidays, insuring that Procter is something that a new visitor will never forget. Who will take his place and at what cost?

    I fear that when you say that going green is good you really do not understand the real cost of going green. For instance. The organic garden that was planted last year was more of a dog and pony show than a real effort to produce organic vegetables.

    I wish the Buckley family the best and thank them for there true committments to the church.

  4. Elder Oyster
    6 May 2010 at 11:03 AM

    RE: “I am concerned about who will be over seeing the up keep of the center since Pennys husband was the grounds keeper/Maintance supervisor.”

    I suspect that the bishop will be faced with that task sooner or later. But, perhaps he’s hoping that the group of wandering 21st-century farmers who will magically appear out of the cornfields will step up and fill in the gap left by the dismissal of the Buckleys.

    Say, Jed, when you’re done milking that ostrich, would you mind handing out name tags for such-and-such vestry that will be over here today? Make sure to get every bit of your own work done too, btw. Oh, and be sure to pick up all of the animal dung, too. The bishop has been receiving complaints from visitors about that.

    RE: “I wish the Buckley family the best and thank them for there true committments to the church.”

    Me too. Especially because .. I have heard many good things about the Buckleys since the bishop’s announcement was sent out. I really had no idea then that they are good people; the whole thing just seemed fishy to me.

  5. TheLamb
    18 May 2010 at 9:56 AM

    Is there any word yet on what Bp. Breidenthal has planned for Procter. I know a few of the larger farmers in the area and have spoken to them about what they thought of procter going to this techno farming and would they consider trying it. The one gentleman told me that it is hard enough to survive off of conventional farming let alone trying what he called SIFI farming. He did however tell me that what Bp. Breidenthal is either not aware of is just hoping will be over looked is that Procter farm needs quit alot of money put into it before it would even be able to accomidate this type of farming. The drainage systems are out dated and before you can even start a organic farm you must let the ground stand idle for 2 to 3 years. If I stand correct the gentleman that farms Procter now pays 150 per acre. That means that if the ground must stand idle for 3 years the church will stand to lose $450,000 of profit. Who is going to pick up that slack. The reason I keep harping about this issue is that Procter was a place that we all looked forward to visiting and it was a place that our children could go and form memories of there own. I believe that it was such a memorable place because of the way it has been ran. I have already heard in the community that the local businesses and schools are going to have nothing to do with Procter due to the sudden change of management and they do not take kindly to these big delusional ideas. Some part of me just can not get past the idea that this Diocese is being ran into the ground just like this our great country is being destroyed.

  6. Elder Oyster
    18 May 2010 at 10:34 AM

    RE: “Is there any word yet on what Bp. Breidenthal has planned for Procter.”

    If there is, I haven’t heard it. It sounds like he wants Procter to be both a meeting place and a (as your friend termed it) ‘sci-fi’ farm. But it doesn’t sound like he understands what needs to go into the “high-tech” venture, let alone what “low-tech” entails.

    When I was a teenager, I had the wild idea of starting my own turtle farm. I was going to breed turtles, and sell them to pet stores. I dug a hole in my back yard, about a dozen feet in diameter to a depth of two feet. I put several turtles in the hole and then called it a day. The next morning, I walked up to my “farm” and found that all of the turtles had escaped.

    Funny thing though – Now that I’m grown up, I see the same mistakes played out in assumptions that professionals have for other trades. As if excellence in one trade can be immediately transferred (or even better – bifurcated) to a completely different trade.

    Meanwhile, this city-slicker already suspected that there was more to sci-fi farming than digging a big hole.

  7. Elder Oyster
    18 May 2010 at 10:42 AM

    And by the way Lamb, if you know the Buckley’s and are in contact with them, you might direct them to the new (De)Motivational poster I have posted.

    (and yes, they are and it is). 😉

    • TheLamb
      19 May 2010 at 5:09 AM

      I will make sure they recieve a copy and greatly appriciate everything you bring to light. Don’t give up on turtle farm idea. I am sure if you present the idea to Bp. Breidenthal or his task force/Procter Commission it would have a chance.

  8. Elder Oyster
    19 May 2010 at 4:33 PM

    ‘preciate it. 🙂

    RE: “Don’t give up on turtle farm idea. I am sure if you present the idea to Bp. Breidenthal or his task force/Procter Commission it would have a chance.”

    (chuckle) Could be, but he’d probably want to promote someone to that position who was more like him theologically.

    On the other hand, if the turtles escaped again, I could either spin it so it sounded like good environmental stewardship, or blame it on polarization in the church. 😉

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