History of the Mission Institute

The concept of the Mission Institute began as a part of the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts’ Diocesan Mission Strategy that called for providing resources to congregations in our urban communities. In 2009-10 Bishop Tom Shaw convened a Task Force of a diverse group of clergy serving urban congregations. Out of these conversations came two guiding principles. First, there should be an emphasis on hands-on practical tools and offerings that would translate easily in the local context. Second, resources should not be spent to build or purchase space to house an institute.

When the Together Now campaign began in 2010, a portion of it was designated for the purpose of developing an Institute. In early conversations the initiative was often referred to as the Urban Institute, but as the anticipated scope of its work expanded, the Rev. Timothy Crellin suggested calling it the “Mission Institute” and the name stuck.  Conversation also emerged around having a collaborative partnership that would include Episcopal City Mission (ECM) and Episcopal Divinity School (EDS).

A Steering Committee was established in the spring of 2011 with four representatives from each of the three partnering institutions. The Steering Committee met over a six month period and produced a report, with the help of consultants from Criterion Ventures, which outlined the way forward with recommendations about governance, budget, operational models, staffing, measurement tools, and a five year strategy.

A Task Force phase followed with two sub-committees. One worked on developing pilot program offerings, the other focused on structure, governance and budgeting. The Pilot Task Force engaged in a period of sustained listening, intentionally seeking diverse voices and perspectives to help identify the resources people were seeking and potential offerings of the Institute.  This group also developed three possible pilots each focusing on an interest area of one of the three partners: the Diocese of Massachusetts on Leadership Training, ECM on Deep Listening and EDS on Urban/Small Church Development.

The Structure Task Force developed a preliminary budget and looked at multiple models for governance and staffing. In May of 2012 they determined that to continue the work effectively, it would be best to hire a part-time director. The position was posted in September 2012 and in January of 2013, Dr. Diane D’Souza was hired as the first director.  

During the first few months of Dr. D’Souza’s tenure the Institute launched the first pilot, as part of the Diocese of Massachusetts’ Regional Learning Events. Dr. D’Souza also developed a Five Year Plan and Program Goals for the Mission Institute. A Management Team was formed with one representative from each of the three partnering institutions: William Judge from EDS, Alexandra PIneros-Shields (subsequently replaced by Mary Beth Mills-Curran) from ECM, and Sam Rodman from the Diocese of Massachusetts, signaling the end of the Task Force phase.