This is my final report as Rector of the Church of the Holy Trinity. I would like it to be as helpful as possible as the parish moves into a period of transition. It will be a time of conversation and consultation, research and reflection, and deep discernment. You will have to make important decisions about the shape and content of your future mission and ministry, and then about the kind of priestly leadership that will be most appropriate.
I first want to urge you to be very intentional about asking God, the Holy Spirit, to be part of that process. It is by the action of the Holy Spirit that the bread and wine of the eucharist become, sacramentally speaking, the Bread of Life and the Cup of Salvation. In the same way, the Holy Spirit is able to transform discussions about buildings and budgets into a vision of the Kingdom of Heaven. Prayer, as individuals and in the groups that you will form, is absolutely essential. Ask for the gifts of wisdom and insight and, as you will not always agree with one another, the gifts of good humour and patience. Regular participation in Sunday worship will help. Listen carefully as the scriptures tell us how the Hebrew people, the early church and Jesus himself moved forward in challenging times and situations, with faith and strength. The words of the Absolution after the Confession, the sharing of the Peace and the Dismissal make it clear that everybody (and their thoughts and opinions!) is equally important in the eyes of God. We are all members of the Body of Christ. We all have the same status – a forgiven sinner and a commissioned servant.
Since I came here in 2003, I have tried to make spiritual growth my top priority. I believe the first task of a priest is to help his or her people engage thoughtfully and courageously with the ancient texts, the historical creeds and the traditions of the church, so that these can become a source of inspiration and motivation for men and women of the twenty-first century. If you agree, then make sure this is named in the parish profile as something you want to see in the next rector.
Talking of parish profiles, the one Holy Trinity prepared in 2002 stated that it wanted, as a congregation, to develop and enhance lay leadership. I have worked on doing this since the day I was inducted. In fact, the service of induction makes it explicit that ministry is shared between the priest and the people. Getting involved in the activities of the church is not a matter of “helping the rector out”, but of each person fulfilling what is expected of a baptized Christian. We don’t have to look very far to see magnificent examples of this. This document records many hundreds of hours of faithful stewardship of time and talents. Do thank God for that as you read this report.
In this regard, the one ministry of which I am very proud is pastoral care – particularly of our seniors and shut-ins. If individuals are no longer able to get to church, church comes to them! And it does so in many ways – lay home communions and visits, flower delivery, hospital ministry, services in residences and at Weatherby Pavilion, and a vast informal network of phone-calls, cards, e-mails and ride-sharing. All this is underpinned, as it should be, by our prayer chain and the intercessions at Sunday worship. This “Caring Connections” ministry is undertaken by Deacon Paul and myself, as clergy, and a deeply committed group of lay people.
I think it was Bishop Michael Ramsey who said, “the church which lives for itself will eventually die by itself”. In other words, survival for a parish depends upon its outreach. We should always be seeking to address the needs and concerns of the world outside, locally, nationally and internationally. Holy Trinity is involved in a number of community projects, including the Food Bank, A Rocha and the P.W.R.D.F. I want to highlight another in the profound hope it will continue to survive and thrive. I am talking about FOCUS, the neighbourhood association that we co-founded, and which has already done some impressive work on community-building through social activity. Please be passionate about our neighbourhood.
In 2017, a small group of us worked with The Rev. Janice Lowell, a diocesan consultant, to think about ways we might grow and enhance our work with children and young people. We are looking at an exciting program called Godly Play, which aims at Christian formation through story-telling, guided activity and social connection.
It would be foolish and unhelpful of me to ignore the fact that Holy Trinity, along with many other churches, is facing some challenges. Currently, it has a gap between income and expenditure, a smaller congregation size than it would like, and some real concerns about the sustainable long-term funding of its mission. But it faces those challenges with some amazing resources:
- The rectory and the church building itself. Both are structurally sound, well maintained, safe, warm and clean. We need to thank Robin Inglis and Bob Ives for their care and attention.
- Three amazing staff members. There cannot be many parishes where the organist is prepared to clear snow, where the rooms are dusted and vacuumed bv a great-grandmother and where the office manager is as handy with a drill as she is with a computer!
- A financial team that has careful attention to detail. Mary Ponsford has agreed to continue as our Bookkeeper, and Helen Davison as our Treasurer. We thank Peter Johnson and Donna Shultz for their hard work as our Envelope Secretary and Counting Co-Ordinator, respectively.
- A wonderful icon of servant leadership in our Deacon, the Reverend Paul Richards. He is a man of deep compassion, great dedication and unswerving loyalty.
- I wish to thank our two People’s Wardens, Letta Lewis and Lenore Richard. They have been totally committed to the parish, diligent about their responsibilities and always encouraging. Bob Ives is an excellent Rector’s Warden – good humoured, practical and supportive.
- Of all the ministries in the parish, the one which is the most typical of Holy Trinity is the Prayer Shawl Plus. It was the inspiration of one of our former clergy, but is now totally lay-led. The shawls and lap-robes show how, in the hands of the prayerful and careful people, the physical can become spiritual. These garments bring practical help to those who receive them, but also remind them of the comfort, warmth and security provided by God. May those reassuring gifts be yours as you move forward.