Now comes the hard part. We now have to decide what exactly we feel should be our diocesan ministry and how we want to pay for it.

The importance of the forthcoming archdeaconry meetings being organized by the Administration and Finance Committee can hardly be overstated. To a large extent the reaction of people to proposals presented on diocesan ministry and outreach will shape what goes before the November 26 special financial Diocesan Synod. That meeting will determine the shape of the Diocese of New Westminster for years to come.

The Task Force on Diocesan Ministry and Outreach headed by the Rev. John Stephens and Kathy Derksen worked hard last year to find consensus. How well they did their work was indicated by the solid support they received at the May synod.

They helped the diocese realize that the Stewards in Action program – which had served the diocese so well for many years – had finally run out of steam, as such voluntary programs of giving inevitably seem to do, and action had to be taken. They found that there was agreement we should support several diocesan ministries, and these sustained funding.

But agreeing in principle isn’t quite the same thing as actually committing the money. That’s what the special synod has to do.

The temptation of course will be to focus on the money, and especially on the assessment rate – the percentage of parish income that synod will agree should be sent to the diocese. For, at least in the short term, the more that goes into the Synod Office, the less that’s left in the parishes.

But that’s the short term. Taking a slightly longer view, to build strong parishes requires well-funded diocesan ministries. We all need an engaging seminary to train our priests; well-run summer camp and other youth programs to serve our children and families; quality adult education to train our leaders. We need to be out in the community with programs such as Mission to Seafarers which establish a strong sense of worldwide Anglican identity. We need to support our national church.

But then, of course, we need to continue the dozens of parish ministries – which we have been listing parish-by-parish in TOPIC during the past nine issues. They are extremely important too.

The hard part, clearly, is finding the balance. How much do we as Anglicans in our diocesan church do together, and how much do we do within our parishes?

That’s the question that’s really before us – not some numerical assessment rate. The figure will follow from our decisions about what we believe our ministry is really about, what outreach we really care about.

That can only be determined if people come out to the archdeaconry meetings and speak out about what’s really important. For where our hearts are is where our treasure should be also.