Reshape us O Holy God,
|Tasha Carrothers, a resource associate for the Ministry Assessment Process
Until in generosity,
And in expectation that the best is yet to come,
We are truly Christ-like.
Reshape us O Holy God...
So goes the prayer that begins the report of the task force that created the Ministry Assessment Process-which just about everybody calls "the MAP."
Is there a patron saint of "change agents"? With nearly a third of our parishes engaged in this process, there are many, many volunteers-supported by Diocesan Synod staff-who fit the description of change agent. It seems someone is watching over them and guiding their committed responses.
"Until in generosity," the prayer continues...
We are privileged to work with tremendously generous people. Local leaders are giving time and energy to shepherding their parishes through the process. Mentors are lending their support and insight, encouraging and redirecting. Parishioners are attending workshops, telling their stories and thinking about the future. Clergy are walking a careful line, engaging but not controlling the process.
Some early results are very encouraging. The first parishes to start the MAP were the three in New Westminster. St. Barnabas, Holy Trinity Cathedral, and St. Mary Sapperton came together as three separate communities without a clear understanding of where MAP might lead.
MAP in a SNAP
Almost one third of all parishes in the Diocese of New Westminster are currently engaged in MAP.
New Westminster (3 parishes)
Holy Trinity Cathedral
St. Mary's, Sapperton
Fraser Valley East (4 parishes)
All Saints, Agassiz
Christ Church, Hope
St. John, Sardis
St. Thomas, Chilliwack
North Vancouver Deanery (7 parishes)
Seven individual parishes
St. David of Wales
St. Mary's, Kerrisdale
Holy Trinity, White Rock
St. Paul's, Vancouver
St. Stephen's, Burnaby
St. Margaret's, Cedar Cottage
St. John's, Burnaby
Staff assigned to MAP
Together, over more than a year, they have met, shared meals, prayed. They have discussed priorities, assessed buildings, explored their past and present, and prayed about the future. They are getting close to completion.
The parishes in the city of New Westminster now have a coordinated pastoral care team, with participants from all three parishes, and a goal of serving Anglicans who are not able to attend regular Sunday services. Their proposed "preferred future" includes coordinated food and social justice work, supportive housing, and a full-time social justice advocate.
Showing how far New Westminster's parishes have travelled, they are now committed to a coordinated strategy for the most effective use of their buildings, including long-term plans for upgrades and replacements, based on tri-parish ministry priorities. None of them will act just on their own.
Parishioners at another of the 17 parishes in the process, St. David of Wales on the East Side of Vancouver, love their building, but have realized that time and the climate have not favoured it. Engineering and other technical reports over the last few years have generated a long list of urgent repairs.
A MAP history event gathered St. David's parishioners for fellowship and stories. Shortly after, the vestry took a leap of faith in passing a motion that asks the rector and wardens to begin discussions with the diocese and potential community partners concerning redevelopment of the parish property. Where is the Spirit calling St. David of Wales? They don't know yet, but they have faith that God will help them find out.
"And in expectation that the best is yet to come..."
The whole of North Vancouver deanery-seven parishes-is enrolled in one large MAP. Even finding a common meeting time is a challenge. But these generous, faithful people have walked through several months of preliminary meetings, as they clarify the process so that it will work for all concerned.
|The Ministry Assessment Process underway at St. Mary's Kerrisdale, one of 17 of the diocese's parishes where "the MAP" is taking place
As designed, the Ministry Assessment Process is a framework that necessarily looks different in every application. But Anglicans from across North Vancouver are putting in the hours, in expectation that together, they will be better able to discern where God is calling them to serve. We Anglicans have always functioned primarily within parishes, and it requires tremendous trust to engage a process that will change what that looks like.
At St. Mary's Kerrisdale, the parish has learned that among other priorities, they care passionately about worship. So following an early MAP event, they established a Worship Roundtable. Open to anyone in the parish, this group is exploring how more inclusive language can become part of worship. After several gatherings, they have discovered that they need to consult further with clergy and diocesan leaders. What are the limits around liturgy and God-talk?
|The process is designed to help parishes find what God's mission is for them
Of course, MAP is not all sunshine and roses. In addition to taking a lot of time, the need for MAP teams to communicate clearly and often cannot be overstated. In particular, parish councils need to stay informed of the direction their parish's MAP team is taking, or they might be surprised.
Not only surprised-we care passionately about our church communities, and the sorts of questions that get asked, and the degree of change that the process invites, all stir up strong emotions. That's why the MAP must be carried out in the context of prayer-and more prayer. We're very lucky, really: We don't know where God is calling us, but we know that God goes before us. So we continue the prayer above:
Make us passionate followers of Jesus
Rather than passive supporters.
Make our hearts as well as our churches
Places of radical discipleship
And signposts to heaven,
Then, in us, through us,
And-if need be-despite us,
Let your dream for earth come quickly.
(The prayer is from Wild Goose Worship Group, A Wee Worship Book, page 79)