This webpage is for the people of the Toronto Conference for story sharing and networking.


A Story of


St. Paul’s United Church

 Muskoka Presbytery

 Paul Browning described how Orillia is politically a Tory/Reform area which also has social assistance/working poor and artists.... 


The congregation is about 170 years old, and there were problems with a couple of ministers in the past.  Two intentional Interim Ministers went in, and there was a good process of describing what they wanted to do.  250 people were going to church; 156 people participated in a process which led to 97

They looked for a team of equals, and the team works...

objectives for a series of changes in the congregation.  They looked for a team of equals, and the team works because they chose each other and have a covenant to speak directly to each other and to the community with one voice.  They have very different skills. 


The growth has been in numbers and the variety of people attending.  Paul says the major issue in the church is not racism but classism.  In 1981 the photo directory had 221 families; the numbers rose and dropped over the years, and now they have 430 families now.  575 attend worship now; they are the fourth largest in Canada today.  They have not focused on children and youth, but have worked on changing the culture of the church through working with adults.


Thy have 443 volunteers doing over 800 ministries.  Most pastoral care is done by volunteers; 98 phone contacters call throughout the congregation five times a year; shut-ins are visited twice a month; contacts are made after funerals; contact with young people in college are made; and there are ride-to-church teams.


Paul said that the churches without life and energy are usually small-minded and judgmental.  If you go to United Churches you generally experience boredom and bullshit. 

The United Church is dead on when we say there are many ways to God, and we build on our foundation of being inclusive.  At St. Paul’s they are trying to be lively and are trying to build a church where people can be loved and accepted.    The church is not built on orthodoxy; we believe on orthopraxy; our guiding principle is love. 

There are many ways to God, and we build on our foundation of being inclusive. 

If you’re not loving, you’ll be challenged.  As we’ve been able to present different options, people are more accepted within our congregations.


People are looking for connection; freedom from guilt and shame and meaninglessness.  PALS - prayer, action, learning, sharing - is the model of their small group ministry.  The backbone of the church is music; they will use every kind of music as long as it’s done well.  They signed up as a venue for the local jazz festival. They hired a band for $550 a week and got 20 people out as long as the service was in the sanctuary.    People share their stories in a talk-show format.  They use AA language a lot, e.g. higher power.  They now have about 70 people a week since the service moved to the hall and out of the sanctuary.


A Wednesday evening new age service with guided meditation attracts about 30 people a week.

Corrine Ware has developed a way of assessing the needs within a congregation.  Mind/emotion/definition or doctrine/mystery and practice are the four major quadrants.  We have to provide programming in all four of the areas.    They don’t advertise on the church page, but the focus is on having people inviting others to the congregation.  They’re in an assessment mode now because they’re losing one person out the back door for every one that comes in the front door.



Until we can be honest about what we mean in our spiritual hearts, our message is mixed and confusing.  How does it happen that 14 small groups get started? 

The prime directive is based on “What is your passion?” That’s your ministry.  As long as there’s sharing and prayer, that’s a small group. 




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