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"Vision 2019 is an opportunity to say 'here's what I think our church needs to be about.'"
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Message from Suzanne L., Cobourg ON

Contribution to Vision 2019 from Suzanne Lawson, Council of General Synod Member

While the national church since 1995 has focused its mission and ministry on doing what dioceses cannot…international partnerships and development, ecumenical relations, theological reflections/advice, holding national-wide meetings/consultations etc., it is time for a change, for a revisioning of the role of the national church.  Dioceses and parishes need more help than they are getting in areas such as conflict transformation, congregational development, fundraising, parishioner engagement, congregational merger/collaboration, clergy selection, training for practical and effective ministry, human resource management, skilled interim ministry etc. As diocesan coffers shrink, and as problems get more and more complex, bishops and the reduced diocesan professional and support staff become more swamped, burned out, and feel inadequate.  And parishes and dioceses in trouble get little help in time to do something to change their situation before it is too late.

The national church needs to get seriously into the field of provision of support to bishops, ecclesiastical provinces, dioceses and parishes (the latter at the request of dioceses).  While I understand that there is not money to do this nationally either, I do think there is a fundraising capacity available for launching supportive mechanisms to local and regional church leaders and bodies.

So, my wish for the national church is that it build and maintain a Diocesan Services hub that has a stable of experts to match with needs expressed.  And that there be national church funding for the promotion and matching functions of this.  Some of the experts in the Diocesan Services area will need to be people that are paid staff (such as currently in the Philanthropy Department);  but perhaps the better hope given our short supply of money is that these services are provided by skilled volunteers functioning like CESO volunteers in Africa, or Doctors Without Borders or like a modified Volunteers in Mission with shorter term tasks…travel, accommodation, meals provided but no fee, or telephone access to bishops when they need advice.  Some may need to be paid experts such as the Potentials organization, or various professional church consultants already on the roster in the Philanthropy Department.  There are many models that could be developed to take advantage for instance of retired folk, or underemployed/unemployed professionals who might give telephone support and advice by phone in the evenings. Retired leaders either in the church or outside could provide ongoing support to archbishops, bishops, archdeacons etc.

God has given us the gifts to manage our problems/challenges.  What is missing is our capacity to recruit these helpers, properly train them for assisting in church situations in various geographic centres across Canada, and a top-notch “matching” service centrally that can seek out the resources needed and monitor the match. There are, I’m sure, people working with the House of bishops, and with staff such as Jill Cruse and Geoff Jackson who have been doing related work,  who could set this “brokerage” role up at low cost and then ensure that the management and training needed actually happen.

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One Response to “Suzanne L., Cobourg ON”

  1. Par Eberle says:

    Thank you, Suzanne. I know I speak for many others when I say that your recommendation meets a great and growing need. It also connects us, in a number of ways, to the early Church, where leaders gave direct and ongoing support to the small church communities. At a time when we feel keenly the threat of fragmentation your ideas suggest new models of unity.

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