Parishioners from St. Cuthbert's, Delta, at the Diocesan Task Force on Physical Resources second round of archdeaconry meetings to hear the draft proposal. The parish delegation felt the scheme outlined should include more time for people to buy into the process and to engage in prayerful consideration as to what their future ministries should be

The Diocesan Task Force on Physical Resources at six archdeaconry meetings last month presented their draft of a process to assess the health and decide the future direction of parish ministry.

The task force’s “parish ministry assessment process” could have several possible results:

  • Adding to a parish’s size with a new or reconfigured building;
  • The creation of new congregations or missions;
  • A parish partnering with, merging with or amalgamating with one or several other parishes;
  • The closing of a parish and the use of its assets for ministry elsewhere in the diocese.

“No matter which option is recommended, the focus will be on growing or transplanting [parish] ministry,” the report states.

Bishop Michael Ingham attended several of the meetings. At the first one at St. Dunstan’s, Aldergrove, for parishes in the Fraser Valley, he said that the task force’s final recommendations -which go to Diocesan Synod in May-will guide the future of the diocese.

He said mainline churches like the Anglican Church, contrary to some reports, have good reason to be confident of the future. Many of their congregations in the US and Canada are “flourishing,” especially where there is clarity of mission and ministry.

But to get to that clarity at times is not easy, he indicated.

“Some decisions are going to be made which are going to be painful. The only reason for us to make painful decisions is to further the Gospel of Christ,” the bishop said while opening the meeting.

At the Aldergrove meeting, several members of smaller congregations expressed concern that because they were small, they might be closed. At the end of the meeting the bishop assured them that small churches, as well as large, will have the full support of the diocese.

“We are a Church of small parishes. It’s where we find community - it’s where we find God. We will be conscious that we are a diocese of small parishes- and this is a good thing.”

Speaking later to Capilano archdeaconry representatives meeting at St. John’s, North Vancouver, he likened the Lower Mainland to a large chessboard. The board has grown, but our pieces-our churches-have remained in the same place.

Bishop Michael Ingham spoke at five of the six archdeaconry meetings

“We need to build new churchs-we need to go where the people are.” As envisioned by the task force, going through a “parish ministry assessment process” is something that parishes would do quite regularly - not just when a crisis arose. It would routinely take place before finding a new rector. The beginning could be initiated by a parish,or group of parishes. It could be started by the bishop when a particular financial or structural challenge arises - for example, when a parish can no longer afford a priest, or when operating costs begin to eat into capital reserves.

The design of the process would be tailored to each situation. The bishop would appoint a local person, with a stake in the parish, as coordinator. A mentor would be appointed to give outside advice and perspective. A chaplain could be appointed. Representatives not only of the parish or parishes involved would be brought in, but also possibly those from the deanery, region, the diocese, ecumenical partners, community agencies - whoever is needed. The meeting with the bishop would decide parameters and timelines.

The story of each parish would be developed, not only with facts and figures but also qualitative data - parishioners’ stories. There would be opportunities for a prayerful listening to the Spirit.

The future is then imagined.

Will the ministry be like the old, or something new? To carry it out, should parishes form partnerships, merge or amalgamate? Should parishes or buildings be closed Should a new mission or church plant be set up?

The bishop would have to approve any plan that the process produces. Implementation would take place. There would be provision for periodic review. Diocesan support would be provided. The parish would then “make ministry happen.”

This is a very sketchy summary of the draft, which will most likely be revised. (The Task Force’s entire draft proposal is available at