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Question: How many volunteers does it take to maintain a parish?
Answer: as many as there are actively participating parishioners!

A year before COVID restrictions came into place, the number of volunteer commitments in our parish were counted.  These included, but were not limited to, porch and pavement leaf sweepers, door greeters, readers, musicians, choir, altar guild, child-minders, coffee makers, cleaner up-ers, parish library, A/V tech, gardeners and grass cutters, maintenance, outreach committee, miscellaneous sub committees, treasurer, prayer team, shawl knitters, wardens, parish council.

Our parish pays for a cleaner. Excepting paid clergy and parish secretary, as well as the deacons who are ordained for service… wait for it…the number of volunteer tasks was greater than the number of active parishioners.  To get it all done, many folks sign up for double or triple “jobs”.

Even before restrictions, we had already closed the Sunday School and dispensed with teas, bazaars, quilt raffle and other fund raisers. Then out went parish dinners and concerts. In went the Zoom techies.

Now where are we?  We are an aging congregation.  Some of my brothers and sisters are older than I am and seem to have more energy and time than I have. I plan to resign from some of my roles in a year or two. I will look for my own replacements. But where?

I can’t ask the younger families. It’s hard enough as it is for them to get to worship on time.  I can’t ask visitors. Nor do I dare ask others who are already doing too much. We don’t have newcomers. Taking on parish jobs is good for bonding, but if we did attract more members, we don’t expect them to jump right in.

In the larger community of our town, service clubs we used to take for granted no longer function.  It’s widely surmised that a younger generation, even if we had them in the parish, do not commit. The parish is not alone in realizing things will have to change.

Almost every Sunday, the Altar Guild tells the congregation it needs more volunteers for that beautiful ministry. The coffee sign-up sheet is blank. The flower calendar has one signature for the next two months.

What are the options? Can we scale down our worship and parish life so not so many people are needed to continue. What? No more choir? No more Altar Guild? Unthinkable? So, what will we relinquish? 

And how do we nourish our communal parish life if we don’t also socialize together? When the current social restrictions are lifted, will there be enough people/energy to have a parish Thanksgiving Dinner again?

Who will sign up?

(Hannah Main- van der Kamp worships at St David and St Paul in Powell River where she sings in the choir, organizes the library, participates in committees, bakes when asked and will soon be looking for others to replace her.)



Graphic: Christian Chan, iStock ID:536414336