Deep in Our Hearts
Update of the One Entity project as of June 30th 2016.
The concept of “One Entity” emerged out of frustrating conversations within the Co-operative Ministry Committee about the future of our Churches, and the realization that the present model does not work. The feeling was that there must be a better way! Which we are endeavoring to find, with God’s help.
So, what is one Entity? It is a concept of creating a new Faith Community with a vision of hope.
Who is involved? The congregations of Glen View United Church, Park Avenue United Church, Silver Falls United Church, St Andrew & St. David United Church and others.
Two critical areas have been identified – Spiritual Matters and Business Matters. The Co-operative Ministry Committee has accepted the responsibility for the Spiritual Matters and the Executive Committee (the Board Chairs & the Chair of the Cooperative Ministry Committee) have accepted the responsibility for Business Matters.
The Executive Committee has identified their first priority as “to determine a feasible way of unifying the congregations of Glen View United Church, Park Avenue Church, Silver Falls United Church, St Andrew & St. David United Church and possibly others, into one Community of Faith serving their present communities from one new location.
The extensive scope of this project necessitates the hiring of a Project Manager to manage the planning, implementation and delivery of the “One Entity” project from start to finish. It will be the responsibility of the Executive Committee to search for and appoint the Project Manager.
Following a successful “visioning” event hosted by Silver Falls in November 2013, there was a desire among Glen View, Park Avenue/Red Head, St. Andrew and St. David, and Silver Falls to explore the opportunity for collaboration among our churches. With the support of the church boards and Presbytery, representatives from each congregation formed a committee and held its first meeting in February 2014.
The committee began to meet every two weeks and spent the early months:
getting to know one another and learning more about each of our congregations;gathering information on cooperative ministries already in place within the United Church; and looking ahead to what the next one, two – and even five — years might bring.
Recognizing we needed some guidance on how to best focus our efforts, the committee invited former United Church Moderator Rev. Dr. Peter Short to meet with us. He recommended that we consider four key areas: values, realities, courage and vision. The committee discussed in depth how to proceed with his advice and agreed to seek a facilitator to help us through the process, which he continues to do.
Throughout the mandate of our committee, we are committed to sharing information and involving the members of our boards and congregations. A joint presentation was made to the church boards in June (regular updates are provided at monthly board meetings) and at a congregational meeting of all the churches in September. Both were well attended and our committee is grateful to everyone who participated.
These meetings were followed by a combined service held at Bayside Middle School in September, with guest speaker Rev. Dr. Russell Daye of St. Andrew’s United Church in Halifax. (Russ had led the visioning weekend at Silver Falls that inspired the early discussions on cooperative ministry). With a congregation of 300-plus, a choir of 50 and three clergy worshipping and enjoying fellowship together, this was the highlight of the year for our committee! And, the huge amount of preparation involved – worship, music, children’s time, audio-visual, food, decorations, logistics, set-up/clean-up – was cooperation at its very best!
In recent weeks, the committee has concentrated on the themes of courage and vision, realizing that if we are to achieve a new vision for our ministry – whatever it might be, we need the courage to try new things and the courage to accept failure when some of those things don’t work.
The Christmas Carol Sing is an example of trying something new – and it’s an example of how the spirit of cooperation is beginning to spread from our committee to our congregations. It was during the joint congregational meeting in September that someone suggested the idea of doing something together at Christmas. Once again, with the help of all the churches, 60-plus people gathered on the Saturday afternoon before Christmas to share in song, stories, warm cider and cookies! With some earlier planning next year (this would be a great project for others outside the committee to organize), let’s see if we can double that number.
Other achievements in cooperation in the past year, influenced in various ways by the seeds planted and the conversations encouraged by our committee, include:
- Shared ministry between two churches
- Support for a young female refugee
- Brown-bag lunch program at a local high school
- Joint Search Committee between two congregations
- Shared UCW meetings/activities
Sharing in worship and fellowship has deep meaning for all of us and is integral to cooperative ministry. But, in the year ahead, we need to shift our focus from simply being together to changing together. This will be a huge challenge!
If our ministry is to grow and be relevant in today’s society, if we are to make the difference in our churches and in our community that Jesus calls us to do, then we have to change. We have to do things differently – and do different things. We have to take risks.
Efforts to gain new (and younger) people, or even to revive the interest of those who have become inactive, are not working. How do we build relationships with these people? How do we reach those who need our help — and those who want to help us? Our committee has some ideas that we will be exploring (e.g. improving and expanding communication through social media), but it will take all of us, working together, to reshape and renew our mission, to restore our sense of purpose, as we strive to be the hands of Christ in service to others.
On January 12, 2016 the Committee made a presentation to Saint John Presbytery at their regular meeting. Tracy Friars introduced the Committee members and presented an overview of the committee’s journey. She offered encouragement to others as they discern the future and invited others to join us. Tracy stated the Committee’s goal of 2016 is to define “One Entity” and requested Presbytery’s support as this unfolds from a governance perspective.