By DEIRDRE C. MAYS
A year into existence, clusters are taking on life in the Diocese of Charleston and Cluster I in the Coastal Deanery hopes to give its group more of an identity by sponsoring a logo contest.
Kathy Sweeney, a member of the cluster leadership at Christ Our King in Mount Pleasant, said the artistic endeavor will be an educational and promotional tool for their region which includes: Stella Maris on Sullivan’s Island, St. John in North Charleston, Divine Redeemer in Hanahan, and Bishop England School.
The winning logo must graphically depict the member parishes/faith communities in a manner which suggests teamwork, interdependence, mutual support — an extended family concept. The logo will be used by all the parishes on all of their publications as a symbol of unity. The deadline for submitting art to the Christ Our King parish office is June 15.
Cluster I’s leadership will select three logos which will then be sent to the member parishes so parishioners can vote on their favorite work. Sweeney said this route was chosen because they are trying to be as inclusive as they can.
The desire for a logo was inspired by what seems to be a lack of awareness about clusters. Currently, the diocese has 21 of the regional groupings of parishes or faith communities within each of the deaneries.
“We got a sense that it wasn’t filtering down,” said Sweeney, who is the Synod Implementation director and office manager at her parish. “We want the word to become as common as parish.” Sweeney came up with the logo idea because people can identify visually with the artwork.
Displays about the contest have been set up in the four parishes and the information has been placed in their bulletins. Christ Our King School has even become involved so children can enter the contest.
“We want to attack this from two ways, if the kids understand, it will filter up to the parents,” she said. “The children are the generation that will have to live with it.”
The regional groupings are a result of the Synod process and were officially formed in 1996 to extend the concept of the faith community beyond the boundaries of a parish. This allows regions to address issues that affect multiple parishes. Clusters also will improve implementation of the six foundational issues including: Prayer and Worship; Christian Formation; Evangelization; Social Outreach; Stewardship; and Community Building.
Though they began a year ago Sweeney said they have had to proceed with what she calls “baby steps.”
“We had to understand the process ourselves before we could preach it and live it,” she said.
Cluster I has already begun to share its resources. They started out with a bulletin exchange and worked up to helping out with Christian Initiation at St. John, a marriage retreat, youth ministry, to the planning of a cluster-wide youth leadership retreat. They are also considering having pastors or parochial vicars visit other parishes so the parishioners can get to know them. Sweeney said it’s been a learning experience of giving and receiving.
The new location of Bishop England is also a source of excitement for the cluster because it will provide a centralized location making it easier for the representatives to meet.
It’s difficult to coordinate all of the member’s schedules for meetings which is why they opted to rotate locations. John Carroll, the facilitator for the leadership group, said that this has had a positive side by allowing them to become familiar with their fellow members’ environments.
Their biggest challenges thus far, however, have been start-up and continuity but Carroll said the attitude has been “marvelously cooperative.”
“We’re all struggling with our own faith communities and throwing in three or four more doesn’t automatically fix what we’re working on in our own faith community,” he said. “But now that added dimension is the beauty of the cluster. That very issue can be enhanced by other cluster members and what we’re starting to learn. We are now working together on projects instead of separately, combining resources.”