Our second MAP consultation on the topic of Reshaping Parish Culture to Enable Ministry was held on March 16, by Zoom videoconference, with thirty-two people present. The wonderful turn out led to an excellent discussion. 

This document contains the notes collected from our conversation, organized around the various questions that were asked. 

The team organizing this process looks forward to sharing more details about some of those ideas and suggestions in this space in the near future. Keep and eye out in the Parish News for news of this update.

About Reshaping Parish Culture

Romans 12: 9 – 20a, 21

Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor. Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers.

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but give yourselves to humble tasks; do not claim to be wiser than you are. Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” No, “if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink….” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

When the whole people of God are freed to join the Holy Spirit at work in our neighbourhoods, communities and networks, a new future unfolds: the unfolding of God’s kingdom as described in the passage from Romans. Our task in reshaping our parish cultures is to create the space for God’s work and our parishes to intersect in the most magnificent blossoming. That blossoming is grounded in faith formation or discipleship, prayer, and a discerning use of our corporate and individual gifts, skills, and passions in the service of God’s mission.

Sometimes, parishes respond to the anxiety of declining numbers, diminishing dollars, and rising age demographics with anxiety and a generalized discontent, and when that becomes the driver of change, the ensuing adjustments are like rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. Our anxiety and dread are temporarily assuaged by the busyness of changing things up until we realize that nothing real has changed except that anxiety is increasing and despair often follows. Decisions about what needs to be reshaped and how that happens must be framed within the context of discerning how God is inviting a particular parish to engage with God’s mission. A commitment to the unfolding of God’s kingdom, a missional imagination rather than a commitment to the survival of a parish is the key to a renewed future.

What does it look like to free the people of God? Renewal or reshaping of a parish culture requires a willingness to examine and disrupt the old patterns, to ask questions like “how does this practice, behaviour, or expectation contribute to God’s mission?” or “how does this help us to engage with God’s people?” or  "how does this help to transform us into a resurrection people?” And this means that parish leaders must create new space for missional imagination to weave its way into and through people and parish structures. This journey invites congregations to embrace the challenging task of living in the tension of disruption and uncertainty, of dwelling for a time in liminal space, on the threshold between the old and familiar and a future that is unknown, between a past that is comfortingly known and a shape that is as yet unknown.

Parishes will make choices along this journey guided by their readiness to live in the tension of uncertainty, by their sense of urgency around discerning God’s call to them, and by their longing for transformation. Some parishes will be ready to take big leaps and others will venture smaller steps. Remember this is a journey God invites us to make; Moses took forty years to get to the promised land – just listen to God’s voice and follow the path at whatever pace works. The most important thing is to refrain from getting mired in that sticky yearning for comfort and security! 

Other Upcoming Consultations

  • MAP Consultation on Fullness of Life in the Neighbourhood, Tuesday, April 19, 7PM.