Vision Sharing    

Visioning day 1

May 8, 2002, held at the Fireside Room, Beverley Hills United Church

Visioning day 2

May 22, 2002, held at the Fireside Room, Beverley Hills United Church

Visioning day 3

June 26, 2002, held at the Fireside Room, Beverley Hills United Church



Visioning day 2

May 22, 2002, held at the Fireside Room, Beverley Hills United Church


Present (some people wearing multiple hats)

Cheri DiNovo (Executive/Toronto West), Sue Howard (Executive/Toronto South), David Allen (Conference staff), Barb White (Simcoe), Amy Downs (Executive/Toronto South), Vince Alfano Executive/TUCC), Bob Oxley (Executive/Toronto South), Paul Browning (presenter/Muskoka), Norman Greene (presenter/Dufferin and Peel), Anne Gajerski-Cawley (Executive/CFCD), Stan Bradley (finance and extra appeals/Toronto Scarborough), Allan Ferguson (finance and extra appeals/York), Allan Parker (finance and extra appeals/Muskoka), Alan Rush (Toronto Scarborough), Tim Dayfoot (Executive/York), Bill Howes (finance and extra appeals/Grey), Marina Brown (finance and extra appeals/Grey), Lawrence Pushee (Executive/Toronto South), Connie denBok (presenter/Toronto West), MJ Perry (TUCC/York), Dorothy Amos (finance and extra appeals/Toronto South), John Lee (Executive/Toronto Don Valley), Marlene Amonsen (Toronto West), Bev Burgess (Executive/York), Chang Lee (Toronto South), Nancy Waterman (Executive/Dufferin and Peel), Nancy Monteith (King City United/York), Joan Rossiter (King City United/York), Alma Fiendell (King City United/York), Vicki Cousins (presenter/York)


Ralph Taylor (Executive/Toronto Don Valley), Drucilla Travnicek (Executive/Toronto Scarborough), Betty Ward (Executive/Dufferin and Peel), Doug Long (finance and extra appeals/York), Elizabeth Lundy (Executive/Grey), Cheryl Curtis (Conference staff), Barbara Lloyd (Conference staff), Wendy Cranston (Conference staff)



Anne Gajerski-Cawley welcomed people to the event.  Opening worship consisted of a reading from 1 Corinthians 12 about the parts of the body and their concern one for the other.  With Lawrence Pushee at the piano the group prayed and sang #400 and #402 from Voices United.

Sue Howard said that as a Pentecost people, we are Martha Stewart’s worst nightmare; we are not a tidy people, but are ones who seek to break out.    Sue outlined the shape of the day and asked people to think about questions as they hear from the five presenters..

Sharing of success stories

Five “success” stories were shared with the group, and opportunity was given for people to ask questions or make comments.


Emmanuel-Howard Park United Church – Toronto West Presbytery:  Cheri DiNovo began by talking about one of the ideas that came from the planning group, i.e. there could be a group of “circuit riders” who could go from congregation to congregation telling the good news stories that are happening within the church.  She then proceeded to tell the story of revitalization within her congregation, and related it to her recently-completed doctoral thesis.



At Emmanuel-Howard Park they asked, “What is United Church evangelism in our church?”  The answer was that it’s inclusivity, hospitality.  The Bible calls us to open our doors and welcome all people.  How do we do that?  These days evangelism goes from God to the marginalized to the church. 


The United Church of Canada has become the object of evangelism, not the subject.  Emmanuel-Howard Park church holds 800 people, but when Cheri arrived there were about 50 in the services; not many were in the church school; hair was gray; and the church survived on rentals and trust funds.  Cheri was hired as an outreach minister with the plan to reach out or close.  They asked first whether they had a good nursery, and they didn’t.  They looked at small group activities and asked, “What are the needs of the community not being addressed?”  They started a single mothers’ brunch; a God-talk group Bible study, changed the liturgy to meet the needs of the neighborhood.  With many Roman Catholics in the area, they have a high liturgy because of their context with so many Catholics.  A Polish prayer group will be started soon, and there are multi-cultural meals.


They started a poor service which now gets 60-100 during the high holidays.  Poor people sit on committees.  The Sunday evening service doesn’t use a lot of written material or music from books because some people can’t read or their eyes aren’t great in the evening.  They use call and response and Taize material. Now the church has 50 children in the church school and 100 in the service; 30-50 attend  the evening service regularly.  Givings have gone up 60 percent.



How did you advertise the second service? 

There were banners and free community supper Sunday nights.  They give tickets for community suppers rather than cash to panhandlers.  The evening service people look after the worship now and leadership has emerged.  Cheri said that when she discovered the United Church, “I wondered why everyone doesn't know about this place”.


When asked about resistance to change, Cheri said that if the church wants to die, then you make it happen around them.  Look to the community.  People in shirts and ties are few at the moment, though there’s a group in their 20s and 30s who are getting more involved.


Cheri has sat on community groups who might be natural allies of the United Church.  It was a good way of getting to know the community and what the needs are.  Congregants were the ones who knocked on doors. 


How do we overcome fear and change in patterns in people’s lives? 

Look at the community and see what the community looks like; involve those people.  We shouldn’t be putting limits on the level of our hospitality, and see how we can minister to people.  How do we minister to people who comes from other groups like Greek Orthodox or Portuguese?  There are huge groups who are open to spirituality.



Wesley and Temperanceville – York Presbytery: 

Vicki Cousins described two very different congregations; both have a rural sense about them; both are debt-free and both had an older male ministry for the previous 17 years.  Average attendance was 35 at Wesley when she arrived two years ago; now there are 70 attending; Temperanceville went from 23 to 40 in the last two years.  We look at numbers not for the sake of numbers, but for what it can tell us, she said.


The church school uses Whole People and the liturgical year, e.g. color.  There’s a visual arts team in both congregations now that are warming up the sanctuaries. 


Vicki visited everyone she could get to in the first month, getting to know the people.  This helped the people to get to know her too so it brought trust and respect in worship.  When she initiated change, the people were generally open with some trepidation.  People can see that she is dedicated to her faith and taking care of herself and being honest about who she is. 


She gathers “successful” people who are supportive, more experienced than herself.  She described herself as being green in years of ministry, but not in life, and that helps in worship with her past experiences.  Some things had to change, she said, e.g. a communion liturgy from 1965 was being used.  Children read scripture, others use gifts in drama, re-writing stories.  Honoring the traditions while learning to embrace the new is a huge challenge.


Addressing conflict is important, i.e. not allowing things to lie.  Projects to get excitement flowing included a talent night; $800 in $10 bills was given out to members of the congregation, and when the money was returned, $9,000 came in.  The anniversary services were a time to celebrate.  They had visioning days at each of the congregations and involved Presbytery people.  A photo directory was produced with both congregations in one book.  There’s a woman’s spirituality group now that involves both women from the congregations and the community. 


A men’s group is about to begin, and they are looking for a youth leader.  Six were confirmed last year and 12 this year. They have used newsletters and flyers in wider mailings.  Temperanceville has a web site.  An administrative assistant has been hired for 10 hours a week to do bulletins and phone calls.  People in the congregation are key because of their dedication to their churches and growth.

Parking is a challenge, the manse is falling apart; the buildings are 120 years old.  Closing one congregation for a special service doesn’t work because the numbers dropped right off.  A Christmas Eve service was instituted and 200 showed up. 



Most of the visiting is still done by the minister.  The church school at Wesley is 25 and Temperanceville a little less.  There is no proper nursery because of space problems.  Some of the new people moving into the area church shop, and some have said they like the smaller church where they are known.  The web site was created by a person in the congregation. 

What happens when the churches are full? 

Both are talking about parking problems and possible expansion.  The churches are concerned that she’ll just up and leave.  Quite a few are coming from the Catholic tradition and some people from the wider community who are exploring their spiritual hunger. 


North Bramalea – Dufferin and Peel Presbytery: 

Norm Greene said that Brampton has over 300,000 people, and their congregation has one lawyer, no doctor, but lots of truck drivers and school teachers.  Norm arrived in 1983 and the building was constructed in 1987.  The people who attend came from other United Churches, or were people who had fallen away from the church, but arrived and stayed.  He described a number of individuals: A retired person arrived feeling broken because of death and a marriage break up.  One person spent much of his life in front of the television.  Another wanted stability within her life.  One person has never grown up but has a spiritual hunger.  These are the people the church serves.


He described a spirituality hungry people who are looking for good news and transformation in Christ.  Five to 10 people changing makes a change in the congregation, Norm said.  The congregation is very heavily Christocentric in all its ways.


The worship service has about 40 percent music, and all of it’s done on overheads.  They sing “We are One” at every service.  The songs are chosen to link “to” God not to be “about” God.  They almost never use the organ, but have a variety of musical talents and instruments.  The choir is there and a couple of voices are miked because of the kind of music they do.


They use symbols like rocks and velveteen to help remind people during the week of what they heard on Sunday.  In preparing for worship they ask, “What is the felt need of the congregation and what is the desired outcome? What is the key word or image you want to offer to people?” 


The mission of the congregation is to receive and live the life of Christ. There are about 60 small groups, e.g. a book group, men’s groups, Alpha studies.  The people of Brampton matter to God, Norm said, so they matter to us.  One on one talking with people is the best method of growth, but they also use occasional advertising or handing out tickets. 


They have a lot of people up front during worship to allow for a variety of expression of faith.  People tell their stories during worship.  They are trying to build the governance structure around the spiritual gifts people have.  In stewardship they use a discipleship growth mentality.  We want you to grow as a disciple of Christ.  As a result of the program they had a 28-38 percent increase in envelope givings.    They added a second service a couple of years ago, and have had a five percent increase in attendance.



They have emphasized small groups for three or four years; some were already there, but others are new.  The intention is to encourage people to be in the groups.  Some of the groups are only social, but they hope to have them move to consider service, prayer, study and spiritual life in all of their groups.

Alpha is a 13 week program with lectures on video followed by study groups. They’ve had outreach days to the community, e.g. working with the homeless, visiting extended care  facilities.



Vince Alfano took approximately fifteen minutes to discuss how to use demographics in our work to foster real growth in the Church.  He began with some thought-provoking statistics.  For instance, from 1947-1960, the biggest selling items in North America were baby products.  Today, the fastest growing pastimes are birdwatching, golfing, and gardening.  Every 90 seconds in Canada someone is turning 50.  These statistics clearly illustrate the ‘graying’ of our population.  Vince distributed a chart visually representing the ‘baby boom’ generation, the huge demographic bulge that began in the late ‘40s and early ‘50s. The leading edge of these boomers are now turning 55 this year.


Vince cited two books: Boom, Bust & Echo: How to Profit from the Coming Demographic Shift by David Foot and The Pig and the Python: How to Prosper from the Aging Baby Boom by David Cork as great resources for church growth.


Vince then alluded to a comment made by Allan Parker from the first visioning meeting where he said that we are not even reaching our ‘main market group’.  These folks are not necessarily falling away but are perhaps moving away.


Vince quoted some passages from Boom, Bust & Echo.  The quotes focused on three main points:

             - the movement of baby boomers from urban centres

             - the need for specialty stores where staff know the names of clientele

             - highly skilled professional managers will be available for non-profit

organizations - this is when you go back to church, after the corporate world –

prior paid talent will now be available for free; there will likely be improved fundraising efforts due to increased levels of disposable income among aging populations


What does this mean for the future of The United Church of Canada?  Vince quoted this to illustrate the impending lifestyle changes that will be taking place within the context of the wider church.


Vince then presented a case study, Georgian Villas, where 6000 new people will be introduced into a new community complete with golf course, town centre, huge marina, townhouses, near Sarawak, just north of Owen Sound.  Sarawak United Church, however, is ‘kitty corner’ to this new development.  The sales centre is four times the size of the church. This is an interesting dilemma that the church faces in light of the dramatic increase in population in the area.


Large groups of folks are moving into these communities, bringing with them an idealistic side to them. However, when they arrive in Sarawak, they will find a small church in a three point charge with a different worship style than what they may be used to.  There are myriad rural churches that will be near these burgeoning communities where potentially thousands of people are moving in.  We should not be satisfied with a few dozen folks showing up in light of the numbers that are moving in. Other denominations are also moving in and doing a better job at meeting the needs of the community.  We must be sensitive to this kind of opportunity in our church development programs.  We must be clear about a strategy.  TUCC has put together resources for a workshop on demographics. This will be part of the mission strategy process including educational opportunities.


Cheri asked Vince for his comments on the trend of moving back into urban centres.  Vince referred to this growing trend as manhattanization.  He cited the example of Metropolitan United where TUCC has co-operated with them in an outreach program for marginalized urban communities.  Allan Parker expressed his plans to move back to the urban centre after a few years in a rural area.  This appears to be a significant trend as well, whereby those who took an earlier retirement moved out of the urban centres but are now 10 years older, and are back now seeking better health care, easier transportation, etc.


John Lee asked how such demographic learnings would influence discussions on multiculturalism and encouraging ethnic groups to participate within the church.  At times, we tend to focus too much on target groups separately from each other and sometimes this focus generates conflict and confusion.  Paul Browning mentioned that there are three different worship services for three different groups of folks at his church. MJ Perry said that part of the problem is that we are not reaching out or focusing enough on everyone.


Alderwood – Toronto West Presbytery: 

Connie denBok talked about the church growth pattern where a congregation grows quickly, then plateaus, and then has a long decline.  Alderwood was in the long decline stage, and the congregation made a conscious decision to not move toward death.  Evangelism is part of our heritage within the United Church.  When an organization is stressed, it tends to turn to its roots.  Being anti-evangelical is a form of self-hatred.  Connie quoted Reginald Bibby, saying that there is no easier place to evangelize from than the United, Anglican, and Catholic churches.  Most of the people out there think they are ours and will go to other churches if they are “excellent”; we only have to be “good”.  If you feed an organism what it needs, it will tend to thrive.


Alderwood used the Natural Church Development program from Germany which measures eight different aspects of congregational life to see what is needed.  Those areas are: leadership, ministry, spirituality, structures, worship services, small groups, evangelism, relationships.  If the weakest areas are addressed, the rest benefit.  The program’s surveys provide a snapshot of where the congregation needs growth, and those were addressed.  When churches are unhealthy, they tend to get cranky, Connie said.  Comparing the eight congregational needs to staves on a barrel, the program focuses on the lowest stave in the barrel.  When that lowest “stave” is addressed, there is often growth in other areas. 


The attendance has grown at least 40 percent.  The congregation has tried to grow or to market, but is focusing on getting their stuff together.  They have a group of recovering addicts in the congregation now.  The congregation has used Alpha a number of times. 



Alpha has a conservative theological orientation.  Are there other methods available? 

Connie outlined a Trinitarian formula where congregations tend to lean toward one member of the trinity – Father/Son/Holy Spirit.  Congregations tend to lean in one direction or another, as do denominations.  If all three persons of the trinity overlap you’re still in the fold, but if we go all the way to one side we fall into heresies.  Church health comes from moving to the centre where the three persons overlap.

Another resource they have used is Following Jesus by Harold Percy. 


St. Paul’s, Orillia – 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 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 with 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.  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. 






You are part of the face of this website.

Your participation by story sharing will shape this web site.

Please write to the webmaster Hannah Lee

Updated April 27, 2005