Bishop Terry Dance looks to past and future

Bishop Bob Bennett, in consultation with Archbishop Colin Johnston, has accepted the request of the Rt. Rev. Terry Dance to retire, effective Dec. 31. Bishop Terry was deaconed May 1, 1976, priested April 25, 1977, and consecrated bishop on June 6, 2009. He has served the parishes of St. John the Evangelist, London; the Norton Estates-Westmount Experimental Ministry; Holy Trinity, Chesley, Church of the Ascension, Paisley and Christ Church, Tara; St. John’s (Sandwich), Windsor; Trinity, Simcoe; and St. Paul’s Cathedral as well as on diocesan, provincial, and national committees, councils, and task forces.

bishop terry and diane - sp15

Bishop Terry Dance and his wife Diane and grandson Lion at the Synod barbecue in May. – Photo by Jason Dance, Have Heart Photography

HCN: What has it been like being a bishop?

Bishop Terry Dance: It’s been incredible. I was ordained 32 years before I became bishop and there was a dramatic change in my ministry when I became a bishop in terms of being able to be part of giving leadership in the diocese and beyond. It has opened up so many doors and possibilities and given me so many extraordinary experiences I would never have had.

Being on the joint ­Anglican-Lutheran commission — that’s been one of the best committees I ever served on in the church and I met some wonderful, committed Lutherans and Anglicans from across the country

But I know when Dec. 31 comes, what I will miss more than anything is Sunday mornings. I just love Sunday mornings being around the diocese and worshipping with different parishes. That’s the greatest joy of being a bishop.

You’ve talked about wanting to continue to do the contextual Bible studies that you started to do on your sabbatical. 

That certainly is a hope. It’s an opportunity to offer something to the diocese and the church. When you’re the rector of a parish, you’re always looking for resources.

What is different about contextual Bible study that you find helpful?

It’s designed to really get people interacting with one another. It really is designed to use appropriate questions to engage people in conversation. But it also involves looking at the Scriptures in terms of historic sociological context, in terms of literary context and then apply it into our contemporary context. I have never found another way of working with Bible study that creates more conversation and more enthusiasm. It really becomes hard to shut it down.

What do see as Huron’s strengths and its difficulties?

I think Huron’s strength in terms of our size, we have the potential to have a lot of supported ministries with clergy and parishes working together at the deanery level.

We’ve got an awful lot of parishes at this point in time that are starting to see real value in that and are starting to understand that together we can do more than we can individually.

And there’s some really exciting stuff that’s beginning to emerge in London, in Cambridge, and around the diocese with parishes beginning to say, “Together we’re better.”

And I think our difficulty would be that we’re a diocese that is probably about 60-per-cent rural and a lot of our rural communities, through changing demographics, through rural depopulation, are starting to struggle in terms in having the critical mass required to maintain congregations.

It’s part of the situation where a lot of smaller communities have been losing their hospitals, they’ve been losing their schools, and their churches — not just Anglican — are struggling. It’s going to be one of the most significant challenges the diocese faces in the next decade. How do we continue to provide ministry in areas that are dealing with demographic change and decline?

It reminds me of the list of churches you have served in and there was a Westmount Shopping Centre storefront ministry. 

The great thing about that is that I worked with a group of about 30 lay volunteers. We were there from 9 o’clock in the morning to 9 o’clock at night every day the mall was open. By the time it wrapped up, we were getting over 200 people a week in. People were coming in just to have someone to talk to.

Unfortunately, as marvellous as it was, it was really expensive and it didn’t have any income coming in. The cost of maintaining a storefront in a mall that size was prohibitive.

It struck me as a back-to-the-future moment in terms of the lay ministry we may be looking at in Huron in rural areas.

We were ahead of our time.

This interview has been edited and condensed.