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 3

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



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 Don Valley), 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.


Brief History 

During a recent Conference Executive meeting, the Executive noted that United Church 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-Howard Park, 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 riders.




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.


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 context?


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 11:45


Shaping the Process

Following the break, Paul Browning suggested that there were two spiritual principles that could guide the process: 


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 find it)


Secondly, the 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 out?


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 Don Valley - 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”.




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