the Fireside Room, Beverley Hills United Church
the Fireside Room, BeverleyHillsUnitedChurch
Barbara White (Simcoe), Cheri DiNovo (Toronto
West), Nancy Monteith (York), Paul Browning (Muskoka), John Lee (Conference
President, Toronto Don Valley), Alan Rush (Scarborough), Vince Alfano (TUCC), M.J.
Perry (TUCC), Alan Boyd (Locks Pastoral Charge), Judith Springett (Grey),
Marina Brown (Finance and extra appeals committee), Barb Lloyd (Conference
Staff), Anne Gajerski-Cauley (York, CFCD), Bob Oxley (Toronto South, AOTS), Heather Burton
(CFCD), Brad Newcombe (Toronto South), Amy Downs (Toronto South), Allan Parker
(Muskoka, Agenda Planning), Kevin Logie (Simcoe, Mission Support/CIS), Frank Elmhurst (Simcoe)
Ralph Taylor (Executive/Toronto DonValley), Cheryl Curtis (Conference
Staff), David Allen (Executive Secretary)
Opening worship, prepared by Nancy
Monteith, consisted of gathering words, Voices United hymn #205 “Like a Murmur
of the Dove’s Song”, readings Luke 2:36-38, Luke 15:3-6, 8-9, Luke 7:18a-20,
22, and John 4:25-26, 28-29, 39.These
readings focused around the theme of witnesses and proclaimers.The opening worship concluded with
prayer and song #289 from Voices United “It Only Takes a Spark”
Those in attendance were asked to fill in name
tags that were colour coded according to their demographic context.For instance, green was inner city, red was urban,
blue was suburban, and yellow was rural.
Barbara White then welcomed everyone to the
event, indicating that she expected the meeting would last no later than 1 p.m.Barbara then reviewed the agenda for the
meeting.Cheri DiNovo would begin with
a brief history of the visioning initiatives so far. Vince would then make a
brief presentation on Church demographics.Those in attendance would then break into table groups for community
building exercises. Paul Browning would then lead a process to form a new network
of presbytery initiators.
During a recent Conference Executive
meeting, the Executive noted that UnitedChurch
membership is shrinking at a rate of 3% a year.At the current rate, The United Church of Canada will cease to exist by
2040.This discussion then led to the
first visioning day in May where the following questions were asked:
Where are we? Who are we?
Where do we want to be? Who do we want to be?
Why do we want to be there?
How do we want to get there?
Cheri then reviewed a summary of the
discussion around these questions.She
noted in particular that there was a lot of ambivalence and varied responses with
respect to the first questions, a lot of good news, a lot of not so good news.Cheri was pleased, nevertheless, to see that
so many wanted to meet again and to move this process of dialogue further.
At the second meeting on May 22, those
assembled shared ‘success’ stories.In particular,
folks from Emmanuel-HowardPark, Wesley and Temperanceville, North
Bramalea, Alderwood and St. Paul’s (Orillia) shared
stories of programs that were working and were life-giving.
Out of that meeting, folks wanted to
determine where they should go from here, and to take the concrete suggestions
made at the meetings and work with them.A planning group consisting of Cheri
DiNovo, Barbara White, Paul Browning
and Nancy Monteith was formed to start work on such ideas as the circuit
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
this is when you go back to church, after the corporate world –
talent will now be available for free; there will likely be improved
fundraising efforts due to increased levels of disposable income among aging
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.SarawakUnitedChurch,
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
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.
Small Group Discussion
Following Vince’s presentation, those in
attendance broke off into small dyad group discussion for approximately ten minutes.The attendees were encouraged to speak with
someone who had the same coloured name tag.The topic of discussion was: what excites you about ministry in your
Those in attendance were then encouraged to
form larger groups and to share the excitement of their previous discussion with
different coloured groups (3 groups).
As well, the question was posed, what
puzzles you about being church today? A quote from Reg Bibby was also provided
to assist with the discussion: “There is
no easier place from which to evangelize than the mainline Protestant church”.How is this statement true/not true for you
in your context?
The groups then took a five minute break at
Shaping the Process
Following the break, Paul Browning
suggested that there were two spiritual principles that could guide the
As human beings
acting as divine agents, whatever we look for, we find (if you look for
problems in the church you will find them - if you look for the spirit you will
amount we invest in something, we will get back in similar return (for
instance, if you plant peas, you will never grow corn or if you are nice, this
will elicit a certain positive response and vice versa)
What we need to do is identify what in our
area of the world the Holy Spirit is doing, what the Holy Spirit is about.A proposal sheet (see attached) was
distributed called Networking With The Spirit.The goal outlined on the sheet is to
identify the activity of the Spirit in our midst, in as many ways as possible,
so that we can celebrate, learn, and support one another in being a part of
what the Spirit is bringing to life.
We need to find this out, albeit with
effort, and then make known to those who wish to listen, what it is that we have
found.What is the simplest way to do this?
A reasonable place to start is to find out
what the Spirit is up to in Presbytery.A contact person or group of persons needs to be established for each
Presbytery.Their role would be to find
out what programs at the congregational level are really working, what is
life-giving, where people’s needs are being met, and something good happening.The idea would be to collect specific
information on such programs, including the name of the program and the program
leader, contact information and perhaps a very brief description of the
program.A flyer for each Presbytery
would be created that lists all the particular program initiatives that are
bearing some fruit.There is no need to
think exclusively about clergy, but also social programs (e.g. Rainbow program
dealing with troubled children working well here, contact this person).The flyer should be completed by the end of
September. This will be a great show and tell opportunity to assist with the
circuit rider program (networking).How
can you go to visit and see a program at work if you don’t know it exists?Once the flyer is complete, it is to be
emailed to the Conference office where it will be distributed Conference-wide.In the fall, we will get together again to
review the process.
Paul also spoke of a spring get-together
for two days where we invite all those individuals engaged with programs in community
building, to do four things:
1. to participate in a worship celebration
extravaganza utilizing everyone’s gifts,
2. to bring in an expert for a presentation
to provide us with ‘hard information’ and the necessary tools and skills
required to engender positive Church growth, e.g. facilitation, conflict
resolution, strategic planning, daily management computer systems
3. to network ourselves
4. to throw a huge party blast blow-out
Paul wanted those in attendance, however, to
covenant first and foremost around the pamphlet and the fall meeting.
Questions from the group included how will
we pay for this? How much of this information is already known?What new knowledge will this process ferret
Since the process will be carried out
electronically at the Conference level, the anticipated costs are quite
low.With respect to the other
questions, discussions at Presbytery meetings do not handle good news about
programs but tend to focus more on litigation matters, business etc. A discussion
of positive programs and what is working is hardly ever on agendas at the
Presbytery level.This process will
enable us to seek that information out exclusively.
If we network, our time will be well
invested.Paul expressed a need, shared
by others, that he does not want to feel isolated in his ministry anymore.This is where ‘network initiators’ can assist
in reducing such feelings of isolation and frustration.
The following individuals have agreed to
act as ‘network initiators’ and to commence the process described above.The list is not exhaustive and can certainly
include others in the future.A list of
contact information is attached.A
representative from Dufferin-Peel will need to be found from past participants
to these meetings.
Scarborough - Alan Rush
Simcoe - Kevin Logie
Toronto West - Cheri DiNovo
Toronto South – Brad Newcombe
Toronto DonValley - John Lee
York - Anne Gajerski-Cauley, Heather Burton
and Frank Elmhirst
Muskoka - Alan Boyd and Allan Parker
Grey - Marina Brown
Dufferin Peel - tba
The question was asked whether the network
initiators should wait until the first meeting of Presbytery in September and get
time on the agenda.Paul responded that
folks should not wait that long but get started right away. He encouraged
everyone that every time they meet church colleagues they should get into the
habit of asking them what is working in their congregations and collecting
information continuously.He suggested
that folks start a list themselves of things that they already know about that
will encourage others to speak out when they see the list.
Others who are interested in acting as initiators
should contact Paul Browning.
A concern was raised that maybe we should concentrate
solely on the really good news stories and focus on the process itself instead
of overwhelming people with a plethora of projects.Paul responded that this is not to be seen as
an advertisement. We are not listing
these projects solely to attract new audiences.Don’t put down things that you are trying to get going in your
congregation, but things that are really working at the moment.
Paul concluded his presentation by agreeing
to send out a template to initiators that will ask folks to identify what is
working in their congregation, that will ask the leadership of that
congregation whether they are willing to have their programs listed, and then whether
they are willing to have others visit or have program leaders visit other
congregations to speak of their programs.
Barbara White then announced that a vision
statement that is currently under development by the planning team will be
distributed via email once it is completed.
The meeting concluded with the singing of
hymn #884 from Voices United, “You Shall Go Out With Joy”.
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