Vibrant in faith – and sustainable

By Davor Milicevic

“Jesus did not plant buildings – He did call us to a relationship with God and relationships with one another expressed in worship and service”, said Bishop of Huron Rt. Rev. Linda Nicholls in her charge to 176th Synod of the Diocese of Huron on Monday at the London Convention Centre.

In her address to the clergy and lay delegates who represent all church congregations throughout Huron, Bishop Nicholls laid out her vision of a diocese of “vibrant, sustainable communities of faith that offer holy and lively worship, that care for one another and the community around them and live the Five Marks of Mission in all their activities.”

Bishop Linda with Huron Youth Group on Sunday. Photo: MJ Idzerda

In order to realize this vision it is necessary that local congregations come up with their realistic ministry plans. “Each congregation will, over the next nine months, give birth to a mission and ministry plan that will engage clergy and laity in thinking about the life of their community and setting out their goals and plans, including for their buildings and financial sustainability”, said Bishop Nicholls.

This imply different forms of ministry for different congregations: “Some will offer worship in churches of traditional design with pews, stained glass, well-trained lay participants (…) led by a full-time priest”, said Nicholls, but others will offer “more informal approaches – in a rented space; shared church; or hall; (…) led by a lay reader; with a priest for oversight and sacramental ministry.”

Regardless of the type of ministry and ministry resources, said Bishop Nicholls, all congregations “will reach out into their communities to tell the Good News – Evangelism – and to care for their neighbours.” And in all congregations, according to her vision, lay people will use their gifts to lead congregational life, offer pastoral care, assist in worship and proclaim the Good News.

Bishop Nicholls was clear that every parish must show its capacity to meet: a balanced budget; full apportionment paid; full stipend/housing paid; and not be drawing on the capital of reserves for annual operating costs. “This may be a big leap for some – if not achievable in one year:  a plan, with benchmarks, showing how you will work towards that will be necessary”, said the bishop.

Synod plenary session, Monday. Photo: Davor Milicevic

“To assist us to reach the goal of every parish vibrant and sustainable we want you to know that TEAM HURON is on your side! Team Huron is the whole team of staff, Archdeacons, Regional Deans, committees and volunteers who are available to work with clergy and congregations to grow in vibrancy and sustainability”, explained the Bishop of Huron.

Bishop Linda also emphasized four other key commitments “that will support and enhance our diocesan life”: a commitment to discipleship; a commitment to a devoted work with children; a commitment to the TRC Recommendations; and commitment to our share in the life of the Church locally and globally.

Bishop Linda expressed her profound thanks to the clergy and people of the diocese: “Over the past year you have welcomed me with warmth into congregations large and small in every corner of the diocese… Everywhere I travel I meet Anglicans deeply committed to their parish, who share in worship and loving care of one another and the community with a feisty perseverance.  This diocese has a deep sense of family across the diocese, especially among the clergy who have served in so many areas within it.”

Synod continues its work over Monday and Tuesday.