So…lesson learned…write the post in one’s document file first, then post…avoids the frustration that happens when you think you’ve written and posted and the darn thing’s ended up somewhere in cyberspace, never to be found again! Thanks to my daughter for the helpful advice. No thanks to the WordPress help desk who has yet to respond to my queries.
The journey of the first week of October was over 5 days duration, so took me another 5 to get to the iPad to write! Sorry for that. One of the realities of a full and busy life. And then it took a few days for me and WordPress to make it post! Just a little more frustration!
Anyway…the journey began on October 2nd, as my spouse and I travelled to my sister and brother-in-law’s beautiful summer home on the north end of the Shuswap. It’s equally beautiful in the fall, and much more peaceful than in the busy summer season! We enjoyed 2 quiet days there, which included a trip to a couple of local wineries. Related purchases to be shared with our Thanksgiving dinner.
Oct 4-6 saw us in Kamloops, where my spouse had time to explore the city while I attended “Holy Shift! Size-Mic Upgrade’ at Kamloops United Church. This event was sponsored and facilitated by folks from Pacific Mountain Region of the United Church, who through their Leadershift Program, put on a few events each year that help build leadership capacity in the church for both clergy and laity.
The keynote guest for this event was Alice Mann, a church consultant from the US, with roots in the Episcopal Church. The title of her talks was “We Just Can’t Do This Any More: Smaller Congregations Facing Choice Points.”
This intrigued me right from the word ‘go’ as it put a much more positive spin on the realities of churches facing change as our contexts change.
Mann reminded us that small is the norm when it comes to church size, especially mainline church size. Her stats are based on American figures, however when it comes to church size, we’re in a very similar boat here in Canada. In fact, as she told us, in the US, 2/3 of all congregations have less than 100 weekly worshippers on average. Mann did not herself assume that we follow that here in Canada, however most of us at the event certainly see that as a fair comparison. She spoke of how the church in general, needs to get better at resourcing small congregations.
I wouldn’t be the first one to say that it sometimes seems that church resources tend to be created for larger urban centres and often need to be adapted to suit our smaller church realities.
Mann gave us another piece of learning – that smaller churches operate in a very relational manner. She illustrated this with a cartoon of two women seated at a table having coffee, and a caption that read “The kitchen table is more influential than the board table.”
We all know that can be a blessing…and sometimes not. The key is in managing the kitchen table conversations, and living in relationship based on trust and honesty.
In addition to Mann’s 3 sessions, there were several workshops, resourced by folks in Pacific Mountain Region. The first I chose was led by the minister, Ken Jones, and board chairs of Osoyoos and Oliver United Churches. It was on sharing a minister with another congregation. These two are in the early stages of that, Oliver “renting” 1/2 of Ken’s time from Osoyoos, as we did in Olds and Sundre at the beginning. There was lots of wisdom shared, by both the facilitators, and the gathered group…however for me this was somewhat of a been there already experience. The positive from that was that I was able to encourage those who are exploring this idea to do so, and know that with careful management this can be the first step in the process towards healthy partnerships.
The second workshop I attended was facilitated by Jennie Carter – minister at First United in Salmon Arm. She shared the story of how First has, over the last four years, been on a journey of transformation from a small struggling congregation to a place of community outreach and engagement, community gathering and sharing of spaces, and discovering ways to live into adaptive change. Lots of exciting ideas that could be adapted and tried in our context here in south-central Alberta.
The Saturday evening ended with some good music, by rEvolve and Dawn Pemberton, who also led the music for worship on Sunday morning.
As I’ve written before – being in the pews as a worshipper, instead of worship leader, is a wonderful gift of sabbatical, as is the opportunity to worship in a variety of settings. Worshipping in this setting, at Kamloops United, with over 150 people was enriching and spirit-filled. That number is not the norm for this congregation, our event added many to their count. It was a day of warm welcome, AND warm weather!
The journey home was lovely, fall in the mountains, with good weather! Much to be grateful for.
On the personal side of the week – my family has suffered more loss – my dad’s youngest brother, and my cousin’s spouse, within the last few weeks. These losses remind us of how much we miss mom, yet also how much family connections mean in these days. It was good to be able to take time with my sister to take dad to High River to spend the afternoon with his one remaining sibling – another younger brother. And this weekend – Thanksgiving, we will create some new traditions, and hold dear to some old ones, as we experience this first holiday without mom.
Hold dear to those you love, and may these days of thanks be filled with blessing and peace.