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In combining our three choirs, we have realized that together we create a depth of voices


By Rev. Canon Grayhame Bowcott

The Deanery of the Saugeens has twenty-two congregations representing the northern-most part of the Diocese of Huron.

For the most part, there is an expression of Anglican ministry in each village, town and city, even though sometimes we’re stretched to balance the needs of pastoral oversight with resources to cover the financial demands of keeping our staff and buildings sustainable.

With each congregation, each outpost for ministry focusing on its own needs, challenges and survival, sometimes congregationalist habits prevent us from recognizing that there is a strength that can be found when congregations work together, either at a regional level or within their participation in a deanery.

Some questions that I have found that prompt interesting conversations at the congregational level are these: How well do you know your neighbouring Anglican church, congregation or parish? How regularly do you partner with them, dialogue with them, or even visit them? Do you ever sing together?

In a day where Anglicans are more linked together through social media, email, and communications than we have ever been, it is astonishing how often congregations choose to not work together. Sometimes we might even consider our neighbouring church or parish to be a competitor: we don’t want them stealing our members!

This sentiment is generally referred to as congregationalism: the tendency of a local church to focus inward, choosing not to relate to, or participate with, other congregations or church groups.

This outlook is often justified with arguments like: “We need to take care of our own business/ministry,” “We have our own way of doing things.” One of the deficits of a congregationalist outlook is that it prevents us from the inherent gifts found when congregations work together.

Over the past year, three congregations in our deanery have made a deliberate effort to work together, not because there is any pressure to do so, but because we enjoy the positive energy in sharing our resources with each other.

This partnership has been taking shape around special worship services hosted outside of our normal Sunday service routines. They have included the teamwork of clergy, the formation of a mass choir and the planning of Evensong services hosted at each of the participant congregations.

The initial idea was sparked by The Rev. Brendon Bedford of Christ Church, Meaford to team up with St. George’s, Owen Sound and St. George’s, The Blue Mountains. In combining our three choirs, we have realized that together we create a depth of voices, overflowing the choir pews with all four parts of harmony being well represented. For choristers singing in small ensembles, it is rewarding to be able to join together with other Anglicans around familiar worship music and the beautiful tradition of Choral Evensong. 

Working as three congregations together, we have experienced an increase in attendance at these services. It is a joy to worship in a church filled with people, and when members from the wider community hear that choirs are working together, often non-members join in the worship with us!

Our next project together is to host an Advent Lesson and Carols service at St. George’s, Owen Sound on December 17, again joining together our Regional Mass Choir. 

While singing together is just one way that congregations can partner together, it opens up a horizon of new possibilities when local churches have the courage to look beyond their doors and reach out to neighbouring congregations in asking the question:

“What new thing might God enable us to do, if only we work together?”   

Rev. Canon Dr. Grayhame Bowcott is passionate about fostering congregational relationships and sharing our Anglican vocation with others. He serves as Rector of St. George’s, The Parish of The Blue Mountains and as Program Director for the Licentiate in Theology program at Huron University.