Thank you for bringing to the attention of the larger diocese the struggle of small parishes in your editorial entitled "The hockey stick problem." I have a great deal of respect and sympathy for these parishes.
|The Rev. Stephen Muir|
As a teen I was introduced to the Anglican faith at St. Richard's. More recently, I served as Incumbent at St. Monica's, and now I am a parishioner at St. Mark's, Kitsilano. As a priest I do occasional Sunday supply, and it has been my privilege to visit St. David of Wales, Holy Cross and St. Agnes in recent months.
Certain questions are asked when you visit a small parish. 'How can we get new members' 'How can we attract children to our Sunday school' and often, 'What can the diocese do to help us survive'
MAP [the Ministry Assessment Process] has been the primary strategy offered by the diocese for dealing with the challenges faced by all parishes, large and small. It takes as long as two years and is very demanding on parish volunteers in terms of time and process. Most small parish churches do not feel they have the time, and the leaders are often feeling over burdened as it is. Despite its good intentions, sometimes MAP is too much to bear.
At the end of the day, small churches must face what are essentially the following choices:
Would it not be a more fair and transparent process to be honest with small parishes and put these choices on the table at the beginning of the conversation, rather than require the parish endure the demands of MAP before arriving at the same conclusion?
The diocese can do this by providing clear guidelines to assist small parishes to address the three options they have to consider. Clear guidelines will spell out the rules of the game, so everyone knows what to expect from whom, people are treated with respect, and the mission of the church can continue in a new way. It should be made clear from the outset that it is the members of the parish church, through their Vestry, that will make the final decision.
It seems to me Diocesan Council should abandon its proposed 10-point diocesan priority list and uphold this one: support the parishes. The goal for 2018 Every parish a thriving parish.