Bishop Terry’s “State of the Union”-February 7, 2016

I want to begin today by saying that this will not be a homily so much as a State of the Union Address and I am going to do this in three parts.

First of all, in order to keep building a context of transparency in our community, I am going to read a recent letter to our parish from Bishop Poole. A copy of the letter will be made available to everyone after the service today and it will also be on our website. I think you will find it is a bit surprising but also creative and forward-looking.

Secondly, after reading his letter, I want to touch briefly on how we have been working towards healing and rebuilding. And finally I will list   approaches that yet need to be tackled if we are to be a healthy community of followers of Jesus of Nazareth.

So, let’s begin and I shall now read the letter from Bishop Poole.

(Click on the pages below to expand)

120208 Poole Letter 1160207 Poole Letter 2

When I arrived a little over five months ago I found a parish with marvellous people, people committed to their faith and to living that out each day, but many were hurt, unsure of the future and deeply divided. We began by trying to put in place the necessary structures that the bishop’s commission was surprised to find did not exist here. So we set up a Parish Advisory Board composed of representatives from every segment of our parish, which has the responsibility of meeting every couple of months with the purpose of discussing and advising on parish matters, and being a first step in transparency and shared responsibility for the life of the parish.

I was surprised to find that the full time curate, the capable and creative Megan, was to be moved a month after I arrived. I am grateful to God that I found out that the Rev. Dawn Leger was back in town and her ministry among us, her wisdom, her energy and her delight in the faith has been a joyous gift to this community. A new set of wardens was appointed and elected to take on overwhelming responsibility in trying to heal this congregation.

Shortly after, we realized that we would be saying farewell to our popular secretary, Sarah. She was loved by all of us and as tough as it was, we got through it as best we could. We now have Rosemary who brings new skills and has bravely taken on the position of Parish Operations Co-ordinator at ASK.

Now looking to the future. I am hoping in early March that we will take full advantage of the consultation that the bishop has recommended in his letter. I have invited Rob Voyle, the consultant, to preach and to begin a process to equip ourselves with skills to build a healthy, productive faith community.

On a different point, I noticed when I arrived at ASK that there is a real lack of knowledge about the ways parishes are to be administered and a lack of clear understanding about what offices are necessary in a parish and diocese and what their responsibilities are. Terms were used without being clearly defined so I suggest that we put together a brochure that clearly outlines the administrative side of parish work of both clergy and lay.

Finally I want to say that Dawn and I are working our hearts out on behalf of this parish. We grieve when we see emails that people send to each other with sniping comments, so unnecessary. We puzzle over people who thrive on conspiracy theories. They hurt us and they hurt this community. I want to be very clear, the wardens are not influenced by any outside sources, I can say that with great assurance. That is nonsense. Our paramount motivation is to nurture with compassion and hope, the spiritual life and witness of this community. Please do not continue to spread rumours of conspiracies. It is not the way I work and I would not allow it to happen.

Dawn and I are trying to build a community of bridge builders reaching out to each other, a Christian parish where people are kind to each other, a place where there is trust and goodwill, where people can stand outside themselves and ask, “Why am I saying or doing this?”  “Where is my understanding of Jesus in the midst of all this?”

I want to close by saying how grateful we are to those who have been supportive in our efforts to rebuild, we are grateful for those who have come to us to talk about their concerns and to trust that we can work together to make this parish the leader, the model, the light on the hill that it has been and can continue to be.

Thank you for listening and be sure to pick up your copy of the Bishop’s letter. Dear friends, may God bless us as we journey together. Amen.