Do What is Right

A Letter from the Executive Director

There was only one rule for my college football team: do what is right. Despite how broad that might seem, I can’t remember a time when a player felt he was able to argue with our head coach’s opinion about a situation. Being committed to the team – and a vision of what this sport offered for the journey of life – removed ambiguity from many aspects of the college experience.

I have been thinking about this rule in the context of CVN’s journey, desires, and strategy. I love that CVN does not fit neatly within many categories. We are grounded in Catholic faith – but have other Christian members and an ecumenical stance. We value members and partners from across the theological spectrum – as well as secular service movements. And we are being intentional about what we don’t know – and what we can learn that impacts what we discern to be right. 

Doing what is right to keep order and prevent rule breaking (like on a team) is different than doing what is right to honor faith and mission. I believe CVN staff and board have stepped into a stance of doing what is right that provides proper focus. Our approach is faith in action that cannot be measured in neat ways and time frames. And it’s not evaluated by short-term “good or bad” or “succeed or fail.”

At times that is scary. But more often it is freeing because we are not questioning faith, tradition, or theology – but instead pursuing new ways to be more effective in our witness, message, and impact. That may not always be strategic or safe, but it honors how we think the Spirit is moving in us. We have tried to invite you into that; to learn from your sense of how the Spirit is moving; to create space for discerning what focus and actions are right.

CVN’s attempt to do what is right has led us to affirm a Diversity and Racial Justice Statement – and that has led to even more challenging conversations. We have focused this year’s National Conference in some new ways – which may raise questions. We are exploring how to provide leadership on big questions about the future, sustainability, collaboration, and more.

This all feels right. But little about how to evaluate it is clear. It’s harder than reacting to breaking curfew or sleeping through class again. That’s where relationship with you and understanding your needs matters.

For CVN, doing what is right means having an expansive, longer-term vision about faith-based service – while also acting now in concrete ways that are important. That includes accepting that we can’t control outcomes, or even sometimes know what options may be. I laugh when I think to myself: Is doing what is right strategic or not?!

Last week, at a National Dialogue gathering, Bishop Frank Caggiano (Bridgeport, CT) challenged attendees to think about how they define success in ministry. Then an audience member added: how do we define effectiveness? There are many good questions to help us find the right focus.

What does it mean for you to do what is right? To be successful? To be effective? What change, trust, and risk are required? How can CVN help?      

With you in service,

Yonce Shelton
Executive Director

P.S. Nope, I never had to explore with my coach if a situation was right!

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