ReVision and Renewal 2019: Together, Discerning God's Lead
North American religion is in the midst of a massive sea-change. While the Christian church in the world has never been larger, Protestant churches in North America have seen monumental declines over the past 45 years. The membership of the Presbyterian Church in Canada is now half of what it was at its peak in 1964—despite the fact that during the same period the Canadian population grew by more than 70 percent. Religion scholar, Reg Bibby, however, describes church decline in Canada as looking like a forest fire; in the midst of the overall devastation you also find patches of towering green vitality. In other words, some churches in Canada are thriving in this new time. The church is not dying, but being reborn for a new time.
Phyllis Tickle, American religion scholar, suggests that about every 500 years God has a great rummage sale, deciding what to dispose of, what to repurpose, and making room for new things. The last such transition was the Protestant Reformation of the 17th century. We are now in the midst of a new reformation of the church. Prayerful discernment is a spiritual compass that can help us negotiate the unfamiliar territory and the unprecedented decline in which the church finds itself. In a time of cultural narcissism and obsessive I-questions, discernment turns us to God-questions and consideration of what God is doing—shifting our focus from what we are doing to what God is doing. As American religion scholar, Dianna Butler Bass says, prayerful discernment is transformative—it has the capacity to redirect lives and whole communities in the direction of God’s will and vision.
This October, ReVision and Renewal 2019, will invite the congregation and its elders to actively engage in prayerful discernment as we seek God’s lead in listening for and articulating together God’s vision and purpose for us as a community of faith. Prayerful discernment is rooted in renewed relationship with God. To be truly blessed with God’s grace and bear fruit, a church must live and grow according to the purpose it was created for. To that end we will explore and clarify our God-given congregational DNA so that we can move forward with renewed vigour in God’s direction. When we prayerfully listen together for God’s leading and direction something extraordinary is possible.
St. Andrew’s, Calgary
Update from the ReVision and Renewal Task Force ReVision
As communicated in the April and May editions of ConnXions, the ReVision and Renewal Task Force has been busy developing a reVisioning process for St. Andrew’s. The month of October will be the time of most active participation. It is our hope that the entire congregation will be engaged, working together as a church family, collectively determining God’s plan for us in relation to each other and in relation to our community. As we explore what makes St. Andrew’s important to us and how we can be better, we will be thinking about the more important issue of where God wants our focus, what God is calling us to be.
An update on the various forms of engagement for the reVisioning process are outlined below:
1. Prayer Groups
· Two specific Prayer Groups have been established which will meet on a weekly basis throughout the reVisioning process. The groups, one led by Sharon Burrill, Ken Burrill and Thelma Wagner and the other by Marilyn Kish, Dirk Alting and Maureen Lively will pray for the Spirit of God to open the congregation and its leaders to discern more clearly God’s vision and purpose for our ministry as a congregation. The Task Force is appreciative of the prayers of these leaders and their team members who include Rev. Dr. Frank Breisch, Nicola Cameron, Linda Chalmers, Barb English, Desiree Henrichsen, Alice Post, Sylvia Shaw and Pat Tritter. The Task Force is appreciative as well for the inclusion of this work in the prayers of the Prayer Chain group coordinated by Lorie Nielsen.
2. 5-day Silent Retreat for the Ministers
· Rev. Dr. Tim and Rev. Jared have both experienced their 5-day silent retreats, preparing them for their leadership in the work ahead.
3. 4-week Study Series for Elders
· A 4-week study by the elders during the month of October 2019 will be focused on growing the elders’ spiritual leadership skills and will involve weekly small group meetings with the assistance of The Spirit Led Leader by Timothy Geoffrion as a guide for the group discussions.
4. Congregational Discernment Event
· A coming together of members/adherents/youth of the congregation in small table groups. The event will include worship elements such as prayer, singing and scripture reading and will engage the attendees in answering questions as a group – the questions designed to seek everyone’s thoughts and opinions in an effort to help us find commonality and discern our vision together.
· Each member/adherent is asked to attend one of the two scheduled congregational discernment events (approximately an hour and a half long) – one to be held at 11:15 am on Sunday Oct. 20 (regular church service will only be available at 9:30 am on Oct. 20) and the other to be held at 9:30 am on Sunday Oct. 27 (regular church service will only be available 11:15 am on Oct. 27) These times have been set with the intention that if you normally take part in the 11:15 service, you would attend the worshipful work of the discernment event at 11:15 on Oct. 20, and if you normally take part in the 9:30 service, you would attend the discernment event at 9:30 on Oct. 27. However, people are certainly welcome to attend whichever event suits their schedules best.
5. 4-week Worship Series for the Congregation
· This 4-week worship series, which will include four different Sunday sermons, will take place over a period of 5 weeks (Sermon #3 will be repeated on Oct. 20 and 27 – giving members an opportunity to choose a discernment event on one of those Sundays and regular service on the other.)
· The topics for the worship series will mirror the elder study and will focus on our being awake and alive to the presence of God in our midst, giving up on our own ego and pride to commit ourselves to God’s way, growing closer to each other to be closer to God and moving closer to the world God wills.
· The schedule for the worship series and congregational discernment events are as follows:
o Oct. 6 - sermon #1 at both services
o Oct. 13 - sermon #2 at both services (Thanksgiving)
o Oct. 20 - sermon #3 at 9:30 am service. No regular church service at 11:15 - rather, a congregational discernment event at 11:15 am(1.5 hours)
o Oct. 27 - sermon #3 at 11:15 am service. No regular church service at 9:30 - rather, a congregational discernment event at 9:30 am(1.5 hours)
o Nov. 3 - sermon #4 at both services
6. Elder Retreat · A retreat for the elders to be held Saturday, November 9, 2019, drawing the revisioning process to a conclusion with the articulation of a vision for St. Andrew’s, so that we are better able to become a living reflection of that vision and of God’s purpose for us. The clear articulation of that vision will help solidify the community of St. Andrew’s in a stronger place of purpose, presence and power.
The Task Force has also been charged with a Leadership and a Structural Review at St. Andrew’s and has been laying some groundwork over the past few months for its review of leadership and structure. We are asking such questions as how Session can be more efficient, how Session can find time for more strategic planning and thinking, what policies need to be written for the purposes of good governance, consistent guidance and clarity of roles, how large should Session be, what process do we need for adding new members to Session, should we continue to be elders for life or move to term eldership, how should staff report and interact with the congregation and Session and how can we learn from other churches’ experience in relation to many of these questions? The Task Force has selected three Presbyterian churches from across the country to interview in relation to leadership and structural issues, with a view to determining how St. Andrew’s might learn from others’ experiences. Members of the Task Force have also been reading a number of books to assist in the Leadership and Structural Review, including Inside the Large Congregation by Susan Beaumont, The Spirit Led Leader by Timothy Geoffrion, Governance and Ministry: Rethinking Board Leadership by Dan Hotchkiss, Becoming a Blessed Church by Graham Standish and Divine Renovation: From Maintenance to a Missional Parish by Fr. James Mallon.
The Task Force, under the leadership of Rev. Dr. Tim, and including Rev. Jared, Rhonda Wishart, Cathy Millar, Craig Murray, Lynn Judd, Kevin MacFarlane, Debby Dorcas and David Platt, continue to be enthused about the work ahead. We invite you to ask questions of any member of the Task Force.
Chair, ReVision and Renewal Task Force