Thursday, July 31, 2014

Is Your Church a Safe Space?

I am blessed in that I have a few places that are ‘safe space.’ They are places where I can go, and just be, whatever my mood. They are places where I know that I can go to, no matter what else is going on in my life, and I can just be. Whatever my mood: contemplative, quiet, feisty, sad, elated. However I am, in my safe space I can just be ME.

I think it is important – very important – to have such a space. We live such open lives, where it’s now normal for people to ask for/expect to have open access to every aspect of our lives. We expect to have our names run through a search engine when we apply for a new position, we know that everything we post – and have posted – online is there for the world to see. No questions are too personal to be asked; discussions of all manner of things can – and do – happen in public (even when they ought not be overheard by anyone else!) Our culture is one where we do need to exercise caution, and discretion, with all that we say or do. So to have a safe space is important, a place to not feel judged or critiqued or scrutinized.

And this is not simply a physical space, though that can sometimes be a component as well – ask anyone who has lived in a rectory or a company-owned home – they’re always on call. The space is a mental and spiritual one, where our true selves can exist without fear or trepidation or concern, instead our true selves can simply BE.

I’m blessed to have a number of these spaces, in the homes and companies of friends. These are places where it doesn’t matter if I’m having a bad hair day, or can’t articulate my thoughts. These are people who will let me rant, and challenge me on issues that are bothering me. These are environments where I know I can just come and be accepted for who I am – there won’t be embarrassing photos or a horrible out-of-context quote showing up on my socmed, there won’t be a criticism coming the day after a heartfelt conversation. These are places where laughter and tears are free to flow, where hugs are normal, where there is blatant acceptance and love.

These places do not just pop up, but come to be based on the time and effort put into building relationships. The connection with the people is what makes the place safe; the location is merely an extension of that. Folks aren’t looking for a way to put me down, rather they are offering an environment in which to help build me up. And, of course, with all healthy relationships, it goes both ways. As much as I trust these people and spaces, they equally trust me. It’s a good thing to have, it’s a healthy way to be, it’s something I think everyone should have.

It’s also something I think that the church should be – a safe space. The church is not just a building, it is the community gathered together in worship. As such, that whole community (on Sundays and on every other day) should be a safe space to one another, based on the relationships they have developed. Church should be a place where a person can walk in a stranger, and immediately feel that they are going to be welcomed for who they are, not judged by arbitrary (and usually unexpressed) expectations. Whether a person is feeling great and wants to share that joy, or is depressed and needing help, church should be a place where anyone – everyone – can come and know that they are welcome, they are part of the family, they are loved.

And this can only happen if church, as community, is a true gathering of Christ followers. Folks who are willing to cast aside the judgement and harshness of the secular world, and trust that others will do the same. Folks who will engage with one another around the common goal of loving and serving our Lord, instead of gossiping or criticizing. Folks who will really aim to seek out the Christ present in each and every person, rather than provide excuses for their emotional disconnect.

It’s not easy, to be sure, and it takes time and effort and trust. But if – when – it happens, it is a success. It means that the church has moved from a building to a community, from a service time to a place of service. It means that people have truly heard the message of the Gospel, and are living the Good News by being that safe space.

Would you consider your parish to be a safe space? How might it improve?

Source: The Community

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Why Anglican Youth Ministry is Unsustainable

A few weeks ago, someone passed me a job description for a new part-time youth ministry position, and asked me to pass it around. I took one look at it and summarily refused.

At the top of the job description, the parish listed their proposed wage. Do you know how much they wanted to pay? A dollar above minimum wage.

Maybe you think that’s generous. Or maybe, like me, you find yourself seething. It would be one thing if the position was for a child minder, or someone to watch after the children. Even still, I could easily be convinced that such a way was too low.

But the job in question required training. It required skills. It required leadership and facilitation experience. It required that the successful candidate act as a team leader, manage relationships with young people, with parents and the clergy team. And it required that they do so at an abysmal rate of pay.

And this, dear friends, is why youth ministry is unsustainable in our church.

We can take the responsibility to disciple young people ourselves. We might conclude that the responsible thing to do is to hire someone to lead the charge. But if we do that, we need to be similarly responsible to the parish, our young people and to the person we hire.

In response to this job description, a colleague of mine shared:

I would call it short-sighted. If churches want talent, energy and charisma to attract youth, then they will need to compete in *that* employment market, not the broader “anyone who can spell youth ministry” market. At $XX/hour, you often get what you pay for. The really good youth workers will pick where they want to work…

Another followed up, saying:

…or they will take their gifts and talents to the secular world who will be much more likely to compensate youth workers at a sustainable rate (along with giving them a reasonable and realistic job description and position expectations)

We all say that we want youth ministry to be sustainable. Whatever our reasons, we want this to succeed. I simply don’t know why parishes continue to shoot themselves in the youth ministry foot with hiring practices that are blatantly disrespectful, unrealistic, and unjust.

If you’re looking for further resources to prepare your parish to hire a youth minister in a way that respectful, realistic, and just, consider reading this article:

9 Signs You’re Not Ready to Hire a Youth Minister

If you want to go deeper, be sure to dig deeper with the Youth Ministry Foundations module on Trailblazing: 

Trailblazing: Theological Formation for Youth Ministry.

Source: The Community

Friday, July 18, 2014

National Worship Conference Begins

From July 18 to 23, Edmonton will host more than 200 Anglicans and Lutherans passionate about worship for a time of fellowship and learning at the National Worship Conference and related events.

A pre-conference symposium with David Cherwien, an internationally acclaimed organist, conductor, and composer, will give participants the opportunity for personalized feedback and features an organ crawl of some of Edmonton’s best pipe organs.

Other pre-conference events include opportunity to hear well-known preachers throughout the Edmonton area and a workshop on singing, storytelling, and sharing the faith.

Notable conference speakers include the Rev. Dr. Ruth Meyers, who will deliver a keynote on the intersection of liturgy and mission and the Rev. Paul Fromberg, an active participant in emergent church conversations, who will offer workshop and worship leadership.

The gathering ends with an optional post-conference workshop on Anglican Church of Canada trial use liturgies.

For more information about the NWC, please visit

For updates from Edmonton throughout the week, you can connect with the NWC via Facebook and on Twitter. The conference hashtag for all social media is #nwc2014.

“Weaving Strands: Liturgy for Living” is the seventh joint Anglican Church of Canada and Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada worship conference. The biennial gathering is originally an ELCIC initiative, but has been celebrated conjointly since 2004. This year marks the most significant Anglican presence to date.

Source: Anglican Church of Canada

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

The Church of England to Allow Female Bishops

The Church of England broke with nearly 2000 years of tradition and agreed to allow women to become bishops. Women have been allowed to be priests for two decades, but up until now they have been prevented from becoming bishops.

The historic vote in favor of female bishops easily secured the required two-thirds majority among the laity. Only 45 lay members of the synod voted against it and 152 voted in favor. Among bishops and clergy there is even greater majority.

John Spence, a blind evangelical Christian gave a closing speech in which he said, "Your faith is my faith, is all of our faith, and every one of us has a vital role to ensure that the searing vision of the risen Christ is taken out into this country, trust not misplaced. You, like me, will come to see … I am confident that we can walk hand in hand, and return the risen Christ to his rightful place at the centre of this country, its conscience and its culture."

Archbishop Justin Welby urged the synod to vote in favor, saying that the move would show the world how Christians could practice "good disagreement".

Monday, July 14, 2014

Ten Survival Strategies for Small Churches

While there are countless numbers of websites and blogs dedicated strategies for effective ministry, very few are applicable to smaller churches. Here are ten strategies for smaller churches by Outreach Magazine's Nathan Rice:

1. Develop a strategy to minister to both current members and potential members.

One way to guarantee that your small church stays small is to only think about, minister to, pray for or pay attention to your current members. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting you ignore them, but you have to look beyond the needs of just the people in the building and start looking at the community.

2. Get a website.

Hear me out. Some of you may think that this is a big church strategy, but it’s not. Web hosts are cheap, and most churches can afford them. The design part can be a little tricky, but there are many Web people out there who would be more than willing to help out. Here’s the key though: You have to use the website. Pastors, use the website as a way to connect to those potential members. I’m sick and tired of seeing pastors be lethargic concerning technology. You need to be the one who pushes the idea. You need to be the one who encourages your people to visit the site. You need to be the one who organizes programs to promote and utilize the website. If you don’t do it, who will?

3. Think smaller—as in height.

The kids are the single most important part of your ministry. Spend a lot of time, money and effort on having a good children’s program. Make church a place they want to be every week. If that means asking Betty, the lady who has been teaching children’s church for the last 30 years, to step aside, so be it. You have a responsibility to those kids to give them a good foundation. Ever wonder why you have 15 4- to 12-year-olds, but only have three teenagers in your church, and absolutely no 18- to 30-year-olds? Somewhere along the line, they got bored with church. Use the core group you have now to develop a good group for the future. Trust me, if the kids like church, the parents won’t have any choice but to bring them. And for heaven’s sake, don’t make the kids sit through the regular service. Give them something that they will enjoy, and let the grown-ups worship in peace!

4. Be willing to make the tough decisions.

If that means canceling the Wednesday night service because only a handful of people are coming, grow a spine and do it. If that means standing up to “that family” who tries to run the church, be a man and do it. People will follow leadership (more on that later).

5. Utilize your strongest assets.

Every church has someone that has a talent. Maybe your church has a great singer, or a good financial manager, or a great pianist, or a computer geek, or a great manager. Whoever they are and whatever they can do, take advantage of it. Find out who has a passion to serve and what their talents are, and develop a relationship with them. Call them into your office and share your vision with them, instill your passion in them, and demonstrate your leadership to them. People naturally respond to passion, vision and leadership, and when goals are clearly laid out, talented people with passion usually respond in a big way.

6. Use media to compensate for lack of resources.

If you don’t have the greatest singers in the world, use things like videos and soundtracks to open up the service or play during the offering. We did this for the Christmas Eve service at my dad’s church, and it worked wonderfully. However, there is a right way and a wrong way to go about this, so be careful. If you don’t have a video projector, just use your P.A. system. The effect won’t be quite as dramatic, but it will still work.

7. Teamwork.

Pull together a team from your members and brainstorm. What are you planning on preaching next week? Run it by them to see if they have some good ideas to add. Let them give you creative ideas to help the message be clearly transmitted. Give them copies of your notes and give them a couple of days to critique it. Using a variety of minds to develop a service will help your church communicate more clearly.

8. Put it on a screen and/or put it in my hand.

Give me something that I can take home and continue to digest through the week. Put the summary and notes (with blanks to fill in) in the handout to encourage involvement during the message. Use perforated cards on the bulletin that can be torn out and given to friends as an invitation to upcoming services.

9. Themed Message series.

I visited Marathon Church here in the upstate probably over a year ago, and I still remember the message. Why? Because the stage was creatively decorated and the pastor came out dressed as a police officer. Like it or not, themed sermons help the audience retain information. You do want them to learn something from your service, don’t you?

10. Have lunch with pastors and church planters.

Let some of their passion and vision rub off on you. Unfortunately, many pastors treat the ministry as a competition with the pastor down the road. It's not. Realize that we all have “special teams” that we are coaching, but we still work for the same “Head Coach.” Swallow your pride and pick up the phone. You’ll be glad you did.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

The Little Parish that Could

“I’ve got something you can write about!” was the energetic greeting from a friend. “If I write it, it might be bragging – but you write for The Community…”

Indeed I do! And there are times when inspiration is short and someone else’s story is a delight to share. So here’s a good news story from a small rural parish.

The parish is small in numbers but strong in faith. They’re facing the same challenges that many of our churches know: aging population, declining numbers, increasing expenses, physical structures in need of repair. They’re also experiencing the internal challenges that many of our churches know: with decreased revenue, we start focusing more on inreach than outreach; we start focusing on our limitations rather than our opportunities.

The rector had an idea to change that focus. They had received the Gifts for Mission resource from the national church, selected a few of the options, and spent a couple of weeks on each. The overall plan was shared on Sunday mornings, they discussed the needs themselves at coffee hours, they reflected on biblical passages that supported the contribution of these needs.

Fully aware of their own situation, and more ware of the situation outside their own four walls, the parish pulled together with enthusiasm and commitment. They knew they couldn’t do everything, and they knew they couldn’t do it alone. But they all pulled together and contributed a little at a time, and were able to make a difference. The ‘gifts’ they contributed to ranged from $35 to $125, and in some way touched someone within the parish.

The gift bucket was always placed at the back of the church, where people could contribute if they wanted to, but not feel guilty if they didn’t. There were nickels and dimes, and bills and cheques. And it all added up.
The last week of the challenge, the rector announced at the beginning of service that they had indeed done a good work to glorify God; and that they had collected enough funds for almost all of their challenges. Apparently “almost” wasn’t good enough for the congregation at that point, as they had been moved by the Spirit to this challenge, and by the end of the service a few additional donations were made to exceed their goal.

This is good news. This is good news because it means that the folks recognized a call to serve the broader church, and responded with enthusiasm. It’s good news because these folks came together in mission and ministry, finding new ways to build God’s kingdom. It’s good news when people celebrate the shift from “we’re too small to make a difference” to “we have been involved in something much bigger than ourselves – and are the better for it!” It’s good news because they ignored the temptation to only think of themselves – they still need to think about the heat and the stipend and all that. It’s good news because it shows that great things can happen no matter how many are gathered together – be it 12 or 1200. Jesus changed the world with a small church of only 12 – we can impact our communities and our world with our churches.

This little parish knew that it could – and so it did – reach out in faith. Imagine if this year all of our churches challenged themselves with the same commitment and energy! They knew – know – that it’s not about the number recorded in the vestry book; it’s about the strength of heart and faith reaching out into the community.

The Gift Guide is shared and promoted in the fall, but with some searching can be found online year-round:

Source:  The Community

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Stewardship, Giving, and Mission: New Anglican Video Resources

Keeping Anglicans Talking (KAT) is a new online video resource featuring short, compelling talks by notable Anglicans. Each talk touches on a different aspect of how Anglicans are living out the Marks of Mission locally and globally. The first round of ten videos is now live at the KAT website and focusses on stewardship, giving, and mission. The videos can be used individually or in a series as a resource for groups and parishes.

Each video is accompanied by a short introductory description that can be used for promotional purposes or to help you decide how and when to use each KAT message in your ministries.

Please visit to watch and share the following videos:

“Solomon Islands” with Archbishop Fred Hiltz
“Ministry to Migrant Workers from Mexico” with the Rev. Canon Ted McCollum “Spreading Some Juicy Gossip” with Suzanne Lawson
“Hospitality and Resources” with the Rev. Greg Carpenter
“Gift Planning Makes a Difference” with the Ven. John Robertson
“Looking Forward” with the Rt. Rev. Mark MacDonald
“The Power of Giving” with Monica Patten
“Consumption” with the Ven. Dr. Michael Thompson
“How I stopped worrying and learned to trust God” with the Rev. Susan Spicer “Building Relationships, Transforming Communities” with the Rev. Helena-Rose

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Canadians named to Anglican Communion Ecumenical Dialogues

On June, 25, 2014, the General Synod Communications announced that two Canadian Anglicans have been appointed to serve on international-level ecumenical dialogues.

The Rev. Dr. Tim Perry of the Diocese of Algoma has been named to the new round of theological dialogue initiated between the Anglican Communion and the World Communion of Reformed Churches. The dialogue will explore issues that emerge in areas where Reformed and Anglican churches work closely together, discuss what it means to be a communion of churches, and review the reception of the dialogue’s 1984 final report, God’s Reign and our Unity.

The first meeting of the new Anglican-Reformed International Commission will be in Hanover, Germany, in early 2015.

Perry serves as rector of the Church of the Epiphany in Sudbury, Ontario. He is also a lecturer at Thorneloe University, Sudbury, and at Manitoba’s Providence Theological Seminary. He earned a doctorate from Durham University in 1996.

The Ven. Edward Simonton OGS of the Diocese of Quebec will serve on the new iteration of the Anglican-Oriental Orthodox International Commission. This dialogue was recently reconvened after a 10-year suspension, with new delegations appointed by both families of churches. The commission has circulated an agreed statement on Christology, will address questions about the nature and work of the Holy Spirit, and will discuss the exercise of authority in the church. The dialogue’s next meeting will take place in Cairo, Egypt, in October 2014.

Simonton is rector of Saint George’s Church in Lennoxville, Quebec, and Archdeacon of Saint Francis. A graduate of the University of Edinburgh and Cambridge University, he is completing a doctor of ministry degree at the University of the South (Sewanee).

The pair joins three other Canadian Anglicans already serving on international-level ecumenical dialogues. Bishop Linda Nicholls is a member of the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission. The Rev. Canon Philip Hobson and Ms. Natasha Klukach are members of the International Commission for Anglican-Orthodox Theological Dialogue. The Rev. Canon Alyson Barnett-Cowan, another Canadian Anglican, serves as co-secretary to all of the international dialogues in her capacity as the Anglican Communion’s Director of Unity, Faith, and Order.

To learn more about ecumenical conversations between the Anglican Communion and eight other Christian world communions, please visit the Anglican Communion website.

For more information on these appointments and Anglican Church of Canada participation in ecumenical dialogue, please contact Archdeacon Bruce Myers, Coordinator for Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations at

Source: Anglican Church of Canada