Dean Peter Elliott and Jane Osler present the Diocesan Strategic Plan 2018. (Julie Ferguson photos)
The major focus of this year's synod was the presentation of the diocesan strategic planning document, Plan 2018, in its final form. Co-chairs Dean Peter Elliott and Jane Osler recounted the extensive grass-roots input and the remarkably consistent focus throughout the diocese on mission, and vision for mission, as the driving force for the future of the diocese of New Westminster.&aamp;lt;br />
The final version of the document incorporates relevant stories from parishes around the diocese that reflect the principles of Plan 2018. Several of these were presented: Rosemary Williams of St. David & St. Paul in Powell River gave an engaging account of her parish's journey from preoccupation with "keeping the doors open," to a focus on mission that has not freed the church from debt, but has reinvigorated its life, feeding the hungry, offering a food bank, and offering "Messy Church" for those who are not interested in, or attracted by, traditional worship.

The Rev. Pitman Potter spoke of the experiences of the parishes of West Point Grey, which have collaboratively formed teams of three to walk through their neighbourhood and offer packages of essentials to those in need. Investing together in thorough training, the congregations found themselves transformed and enriched by the contact and communication with people who might otherwise have minimal human contact.

Plan 2018 recommends some risky and challenging steps to be taken through the next ten years, which may require parishes to ask themselves whether they are vital, sustainable and focused on mission, while giving a set of strategic goals to act as a focus for parish ministry. The diocese will also need to train and care for clergy affected by a decade of radical change, and the structure of the synod office, archdeaconries and deaneries will be evaluated to ensure that they are optimally structured.

The Rev. Pitman Potter (deacon) of St. Helen’s, Vancouver, and Rosemary Williams of St. David & St. Paul, Powell River, spoke of experiences in their parishes that related to the diocesan strategic plan
Remarks from the floor of synod were generally supportive of the plan, which was received and adopted nearly unanimously. Rev. David Koe, of Saint Stephen in Burnaby echoed the concern of some in asking whether the parish screening tool would in effect obviate the pursuit of MAP for parishes "on the edge" of sustainability. He was reassured that the evaluation tool was a starting point for a parish, internally, to assess its own vitality and sustainability before embarking upon MAP.

Hannah Walker and the Rev. Jessica Schaap, both from St. James in Vancouver, urged a pragmatic approach to the recommendations of Plan 2018, with accountability measures to be incorporated into its implementation, and careful attention to collaboration within the diocese.

Dean Elliott, rhetorically asking, "How will we get there?" answered, "By redistributing resources. By growing communities of faith in Jesus Christ to serve God's mission in the world." This is the vision of Plan 2018.

Following the approval of synod, Bishop Michael noted that since 2007, the diocese has enacted, "two significant pieces of work: MAP and Plan 2018. These will be vital elements in equipping the work of the church for the future."

The Rev. Paul Strudwick is rector of Saint Catherine's, Port Coquitlam.