The Diocese of New Westminster lives out its mission and ministry through the mission statement: “Growing communities of faith in Jesus Christ to serve God’s mission in the world”, held fast by the diocesan priorities highlighted below. The on-going work in the diocese presents exciting opportunities and challenges, shared in this section using the lens of the five diocesan priorities:
1. Our God is a relational God, and so we seek to foster, build and strengthen our relationships with one another in all we do in diocesan, parish and community circles.
We do this at a diocesan level by ensuring that communication is transparent, frequent and timely, inviting dialogue and collaboration on topics large and small. For example, in the Fall 2016 and Spring 2017, the diocese held archdeaconry meetings to share the work of the Assessment Task Force, actively inviting questions and feedback from parishes so that delegates could make an informed decision at Synod. Diocesan leadership works hard to connect with parishes in their places, inviting parishes to make use of available synod resources, and also encourages parish leaders to adopt a similar style of openness and communication within their parishes by training parish leaders in collaborative decision-making processes and by offering parishes diocesan consultants who assist parishes in facilitating listening sessions related to major parish initiatives or issues.
2. Through the action of the Holy Spirit, our God creates the Church as Christ’s continuing presence in and for the world.
We do this through a commitment to parish development, and through the organizational culture and structure of the diocese: an on-going opportunity for the diocese is to offer systems of support to help healthy parishes thrive and take the next steps towards growth. In a very real way, parish development is a central purpose of our diocese.
The Bishop, the Executive Archdeacon, the Director for Mission and Ministry development, the Missioner for Congregational Development, the Missioner for Faith Formation, and the Screening in Faith Facilitator are the Synod staff roles that directly support parish development. Other staff members support parish development in a more indirect way Programs and resources that support parish development include the Diocesan School For Parish Development – a two-year program, of an annual week-long or four weekend format - which provides an opportunity for teams of both clergy and lay to develop skills in congregational and organization development to equip them to look at their current reality, answering the questions, “Who are we? Where are we?” and to discern their future, “What is God calling us to be here in this time and this place?” and then, work on their plans to get to the future, “How do we get there?”
The Diocese has also formed the Consultant’s Group, a network of consultants who are trained in organization and congregational development, who can come alongside parish leaders to help build capacity regardless of parish size, condition and location. An emerging area of focus in Parish development is helping congregations through the process of articulating who they are, who their neighbours are and how they might actively work to reveal Christ to their neighbours in appropriate and relevant ways. Part of that work is the formation of an Innovative Ministries cohort—a group of clergy and laity that are working on new expressions of Anglican faith communities. The diocesan practitioner groups serve to support and develop wisdom, skills and practices in specific important developmental areas. Currently there is a practitioner group for: interim ministry; membership growth; and a Godly Play Enrichment Group.
The Diocese has brought a new focus to recruiting and training new clergy leaders (priests and vocational deacons) as an essential part of parish development. The diocese is passionate about attracting talented candidates for ordination, offering regular vocational days for those discerning priesthood or the diaconate, reinventing the Process for Discernment for Holy Orders for both priests and deacons to be a parish-based, action-learning experience, and increasing the financial support for curacies. The goal in all this work is to provide parishes with highly motivated, well-trained priests and deacons who, alongside lay leaders, can develop parishes into healthy, faithful, and effective communities of faith within a lively Anglican ethos.
3. Our God seeks justice for the oppressed.
Being part of the world around us requires us to get to know our neighbours. The diocese has made it a priority to build and strengthen our relationships with our Indigenous brothers and sisters; the work is supported in the Synod office by the work of the Indigenous Justice Ministry Coordinator. A challenge is how to help congregations do this important work as a local priority.
There are many examples of work already being done in parishes around the diocese: the parish of St. James, Vancouver hosted a Reconciliation Feast in 2017 to bring together parishioners and survivors of Canada’s Residential Schools. Several parishes participated in the Walk for Reconciliation in Vancouver; the parish of All Saints, Mission, created an active Truth and Reconciliation Committee which has initiated a number of local initiatives, the parish of St. George, Fort Langley held a Walk in the Spirit of Reconciliation in 2017 timed to coincide with the second anniversary of the publication of the TRC Report and Calls to Action. This ecumenical effort was supported by several local churches, and was repeated in 2018.
There is much work being done in our diocese in other aspects of social justice, with room for further work; examples include: community meal ministries, DTES ministry, Westside Neighbourhood Ministry, Refugee sponsorship, advocacy work, and more.
The Diocese is a Sponsoring Organization of Metro Vancouver Alliance (MVA), which is a broad based alliance of community groups, labour, faith and educational institutions working together for the common good; the diocesan Eco-Justice Unit and five parishes are members of MVA and engage in their activities on a regular basis.
The area covered by the Diocese of New Westminster includes one of the most diverse populations in Canada in terms of ethnicity, culture, tradition and religion.
4. Our God delights in the diversity of humanity and yearns for all humanity to be one.
We seek to increase the diversity of the leadership in our diocese and to strengthen the ability of our parishes to engage the diversity of the people in their parishes, in their neighbourhoods and in their regions.
We have done this through increasing the diversity of our leadership at the Synod office and in our Regional Archdeacons, Regional Deans, in our committee membership and in the Trainers in the School for Parish Development.
Diocesan Synod made a commitment to Anti-racism training in 2010. Bishop Ingham asked that an Anti-racism program and Training Team be put in place and a team began to offer trainings (the first of their kind in the Anglican Church of Canada) in October 2013 beginning with North Vancouver deanery. The training is an interactive, participatory workshop for clergy and lay leadership, Synod Office staff, Archdeacons, Dean and Regional Deans. The Archbishop mandated that all clergy holding her license must be current in their training.
The challenge for diocesan leaders is how to support congregations as they work to reflect and serve the diversity of their neighborhood, and to include all voices in their parish decisions. Several parishes already reflect the diversity and needs of the neighborhoods in which they are situated, for example: the Church of the Epiphany, Surrey, has shared its building and developed a strong relationship with the local Chaldean Christian community, many of whom are recent immigrants to Canada from Iraq. The parish has celebrated worship together with the Chaldean Christian community on several occasions, and on 26th May 2017, the Reverend Ayoub Adwar was received as a priest from the Chaldean Catholic Church into the Anglican Church of Canada.
In November 2017, the youth group from the parish of St. Michael Multi-Cultural Anglican Church in Vancouver held a successful concert in to raise funds for musical instruments and to attend the Episcopal Asiamerica Ministry (EAM) Multi-ethnic Consultation in Hawaii in October 2018.
Other parishes have responded to local needs by providing a new form of worship, for example, the St Brigid Community at Christ Church Cathedral, which is an emerging, LGBTQ-affirming Christian community rooted in the Anglican tradition; and, St. John the Evangelist in North Vancouver which offers a Café Church once per month on Saturdays. St. Hildegard’s Sanctuary, an inclusive, trauma-informed, arts-based, contemplative Christian community offers a service on Sunday evenings which allows those who gather to engage as they wish with stations set up around the worship space that have creative/kinesthetic elements.
The Diocese of New Westminster has established a companion relationship with the Episcopal Diocese of Northern Philippines (EDNP), “to establish a companion relationship of compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, forbearance, love, and harmony to further God’s mission in each diocese”. The relationship is about creating an environment where members of both dioceses are enriched by the realization that the worldwide Anglican Communion is a vast and diverse faith community. One way that the diocesan Companion Diocese Committee (CDC) oversees and supports parish companion relationships is through Parish Liaisons who assist in making connections between their parish and the partner parish in the Episcopal Diocese of the Philippines.
Archbishop Skelton has made diversity a focus in 2018 and spoke of her plans at the November 2017 Bishop Friends’ Dinner to use donations to: underwrite the attendance of a group of leaders from our diocese at the 2018 ECAM (Episcopal-Canadian Asian Ministry); fund a trip of a group of leaders from our diocese to travel to the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles to learn from the work on diversity there; fund the training of a group of leaders in our diocese in the use of the Intercultural Development Inventory, and lastly, to fund consultative assistance in mapping out a plan for the diocese related to the engagement of and ministry among diverse peoples.
5. Our God entrusts us with the stewardship of our lives and our communities.
We seek to work on the overall sustainability of our diocese and of our parishes through our program, the initiatives we undertake and through the culture of transparency, collaboration, consultation, courage and increased choice that we nurture. A strong programmatic component of the diocese has been in the area of Stewardship education. This will continue to be a priority for the future in that our parishes continue to need support and training in their parish stewardship efforts. With regards our assets and the financial sustainability of parishes and the Diocese, the Assessment Task Force worked collaboratively at a Council and deanery level to offer options related to decreasing the assessment. This, coupled with the work of the Financial Sustainability Working Group, assisted Synod in making a decision to lower the assessment rate, the “Fair Share” parish assessment, and assisted Council in making important decisions about the sale of properties. In terms of financial transparency, diocesan leadership reworked the diocesan budget by reviewing and simplifying Diocesan funds to allow Council and Synod to be better informed when making financial decisions. Great care was taken in presenting the budget to Synod, so that there is a greater clarity and transparency for both Synod and Synod office staff. In terms of sustainability at the parish level, the Standing Committee on Management, Finance and Property has struck two sub-committees to help congregations look at property assets: the sub-committee on Property Development and the sub-committee on Property Maintenance and Construction. Currently there are three parishes actively engaged in property redevelopment projects, reimagining how their parish property might best serve the current and future mission and ministry in their place.
The future challenges in this area are many. Parishes are trying to determine how best to use their properties and assets – both material and people – to help them to re-imagine possibilities for mission and ministry. Further work is needed to encourage and help congregations consider new models and new ways of being to allow them to live within their means and resources available (financial, people, resources). This will require working to increase capacity to embrace change, and build the capacity for growth.