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Facilitated by Bishop Melissa Skelton, seventy clergy (priests and deacons) of the Diocese of New Westminster met at St. Dunstan’s, Aldergrove for a day of discussions and reflections primarily about liturgy.

The meeting began with Morning Prayer led by the Reverend Jeremy Clark-King, rector of St. Mary’s, Kerrisdale and regional dean of Point Grey. 

After worship, the Bishop moved into the centre flanked by the customary flipcharts. After welcoming the group and thanking them for their attendance she thanked the parish, staff and clergy of St. Dunstan’s and asked those who had not previously attended a clergy day in the diocese to stand. There were four who stood up: the Reverend Philipa Segrave-Pride, Assistant Priest at Christ Church Cathedral; the Reverend Karen Urquhardt, rector of St. Catherine's, Port Coquitlam; the Reverend Robin Ruder-Celiz, vicar of St. Martin's, North Vancouver; the Reverend Howie Adan, currently providing sunday supply at Church of the Holy Spirit, Whonnock. Each of them shared a little bit about themselves, how they arrived in the diocese and their current ministry. 

Bishop Skelton began by presenting the themes for the day - themes that had emerged from the small group conversations that took place at the Clergy Day October 24th, 2014. At that meeting the Bishop reminded the group that “we did some work around some deep questions concerning liturgy and today the plan is to delve deeper and move to action.”

The themes were grouped under the sub-headings: Our Strengths as Parishes in Liturgy; Areas Needing Strengthening in our Parishes in Liturgy; Clarity and Flexibility on Roles in Liturgy; Criteria and Process to Gain Authorization for Liturgies/Texts; and then the question “What is strong and needs strengthening in the way you function in the liturgy?”

Bishop Skelton went through these themes, clarifying and extrapolating many, and illustrating with examples. She discussed the role of preaching in liturgy regarding content and teaching. At the end of the presentation of the themes the Bishop asked the clergy if they recognized this content and “did they see themselves in this?”

Then the Bishop’s delivered a response to the themes. The following is a summary of her response:

  • She wants this to be a place of liturgical excellence in the Anglican Communion
  • We are a place of incredible diversity. Many of you are seeing among us those born in different parts of the world. So let’s work to connect that to our listening and learning and then to our liturgy
  • The Bishop mentioned her meeting with the Reverend Dr. Bill Crockett one of the chief architects of the Book of Alternative Services (BAS). 
  • She is curious about the differences in worship around the diocese and the differences in worshipping communities in the same parish.
  • The Bishop wants a culture of learning and exchange within the Diocese and particularly in liturgical development.
  • While she is asking the Regional Archdeacons to assist, she would not be comfortable giving up her role as Chief Liturgical Officer of the diocese because someone will be succeeding her and it is important to establish consistency.
  • The Bishop wants us to make the availability and sharing of resources a priority. So if a liturgical text is authorized for use it will go up on the website. The use of the website as the place for liturgies is going to develop and become part of the movement toward resource availability. If something is in draft it will be on the website with additional learning materials.
  • The next Clergy Day will be all about training and coaching
  • She urged the clergy to be trainers and educators in their parishes. If there are aspects of the liturgy which need to be worked on, then clergy should be organizing the necessary trainings.

 Bishop Skelton then asked the clergy to form small groups of three and four and answer the question: What likes, concerns and wishes do you have about this (her response)?

After 20 minutes of lively discussion, a representative of each group responded and gave the Bishop a variety of responses to her question.

  • The responders were happy about material being available on the web.
  •  They were pleased about the desire for openness and flexibility.
  • They appreciated the Bishop’s leadership and her desire to direct the diocese to excellence in liturgy.
  • There were questions about using liturgies that are authorized by other parts of the Anglican Communion.
  • There were concerns about intinction and the ongoing problem of extended exchanges of the Peace.
  • Parishes desire to maintain autonomy, to do things they want to do and not feel pressured or constrained.
  • There was a suggestion to develop a liturgy for seekers, a middle ground of liturgy that creates an openness to doing Christian worship.

To fulfil the next item on the agenda, the Bishop handed out a sheet with seven questions to explore what is happening in parishes liturgically. She asked the plenary to form parish groups. There were a large number of clergy present who were the only representatives of their parish so they answered the questions independently or formed into small groups each filling out their own form.

The questions:

  1. What Eucharistic rites is your parish currently using?
  2. During which seasons or on what occasions? What other liturgies and/or liturgical rites is your parish using with some regularity? (Daily Offices - - Morning Prayer/Night Prayer, Noonday Prayer Compline – The Rite of Reconciliation, Healing Rites, Devotions such as The Rosary or The Angelus, special liturgies such as The Blessing of Animals etc.)
  3. How is your parish observing Christmas? Holy Week and Easter?
  4. On what Sundays does the parish baptize? On the Sundays referenced in the BAS (Easter, Pentecost, All Saints, and the Baptism of the Lord) or on other Sundays?
  5. Are any of your parish liturgies or portions of your parish’s liturgies done in languages other than English? If so, which liturgies and what portions of liturgies?
  6. In what, if any way, are children involved in liturgy?
  7. As you look at the breadth of your liturgical life as a parish, what, if you worked on it, would most strengthen your parish’s liturgical life?

After the lunch break, the Bishop then asked the plenary to break up into groups of 3-5 with the sheets they had filled out answering the 7 questions and to discuss the following two questions:

1. What did you learn in compiling the information, then listening to this material?

2. What are you going to spend time on to strengthen what you’re doing? 

This exercise took up most of the early afternoon part of the program and was followed with a report from the Executive Archdeacon, the Venerable Douglas Fenton on the progress of the renovations underway at the Administration Building on the grounds of St. John’s, Shaughnessy to house the Anglican Archives, the Synod Office and teaching and meeting spaces for diocesan functions. After the Archdeacon’s report, the Director for Mission and Ministry Development, the Reverend Ruth Monette using St. Dunstan’s projectors led the plenary through a brief tour of the new diocesan website that was scheduled to be launched the next morning.

By 2:30pm the agenda had been covered and clergy donned their coats and said good-bye until the next time. The next clergy day will again focus on liturgy but will include workshops and more specific focus on various liturgical facets. The next clergy day is scheduled for May 7th.

PHOTOS: Bishop Melissa presents the themes: The Reverend Gordon Shields, priest-in-charge of St. George's, Maple Ridge and the Reverend Stephen Muir, St. Agnes, listen carefully to the Reverend Christine Magrega, deacon of Holy Trinity, New Westminster: The Reverend Ruth Monette records the responders reports: The afternoon discussion groups examining liturgical practices in parishes.