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Transformation in Congregations. Some examples from the Conference of Manitoba and Northwestern Ontario. Altona . choir that respected the interests of the 50 something age group talents in other musicians hidden overhaul to the children’s music

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transformation in congregations

Transformation in Congregations

Some examples from the Conference of Manitoba and Northwestern Ontario

  • choir that respected the interests of the 50 something age group
  • talents in other musicians hidden
  • overhaul to the children’s music
  • guitar, drums, sax, keyboard, vocalist became a worship band
  • mentoring for new talent
  • hope for a brass group

People now ask, “when is the worship band playing?”

  • band has rejuvenated the identity of Altona United by simply adding more voices and more giftedness to music programming
  • uplifting the priesthood of all believers within this context

About 6 years ago, Mission statement created:“Our Churches are welcoming and inviting communities of faith seeking to share the Gospel in word and deed with people of all ages." 

  • Basic Working assumptions-
    • a radically inclusive Gospel
    • a ministry/service of all God's people within geographic region
    • a lifelong learning focus on life

Used to guide a broad swath of related activities and events

    • use of technology
    • accessibility: e.g. ramps
    • attended to appearance of church buildings
    • concept of
      • wheel (worship and educational programing for members and adherents) and
      • spoke (connection to the community regardless of church connection)
  • Advent gifts for all families

(Whether attend church or not)

    • Cover letter
      • Christmas a time for thinking of others
      • We’re thinking about you
    • Hand quilted bags
    • Activities from Sunday School curriculum
    • Christmas story
    • Home baked cookies
    • Hot chocolate

Honored contributions of many

    • Quilters
    • Bakers
    • Sunday School
    • Distributors
  • Raised questions
    • Not just about bringing people to the pews
    • Bring a bit of the church to them
    • Outreach with no strings attached

i.e. without asking for anything back

  • Future -expand on idea
    • Easter another package
    • Elders
    • Shut-ins
  • embarked on 3 programs to attract youth to learn and share about God and Jesus.
  • most of the kids involved come from non- faith backgrounds
  • intention:
    • create safeand fun atmosphere
    • provide a community connection and
    • offer a place of learning about God

After School on Thursday

    • attracts 25 kids from Grades 1-6
    • hear and tell stories, sing
    • fund raising project -55,000 pennies collected
    • Christmas concert
  • adults involved who have never been involved with children/youth before
  • connection makes the community more inclusive

The Junior Youth group

    • for Grade 7-9
    • dedicated group
    • regular outings

Youth Drama

    • Grade 7-12, graduates from the youth group
    • write and perform dramas for Church each Sunday
    • safe place for friends and community connection
  • wonderfully creative group seen as making a contribution and as a faith expression
  • encouraged new ways of worship
crescent fort rouge
Crescent Fort Rouge

Raza Family

  • call for immediate safe shelter for a family of eight who are going to be deported to Pakistan
  • no time to consider or deliberate
  • minister who received the call, consulted as many Council members as she could reach

renewed sense of our relevance as a faith community

  • new people became part of congregation stating they applauded expression of faith in action and wanted to be a part of it
  • broadened horizons, support arose from unexpected sources
  • gained an understanding of the Muslim faith and traditions

“We won’t deny that energy and spirits flagged at times for the family and for us as the months wore on. Yet, having risen to the challenge and being amazed by what could be accomplished when we poured our hearts and souls into it, there was never any sense of giving up.”

  • a small core group of people remains actively involved with the family as await their hoped-for status of Permanent Residency in Canada.
  • embarked on a New Building Project back in the mid-1990s
  • idea on backburner for a number of years as congregation gained some stability and some momentum
  • early 2000s: project revisited
  • 2006: old 106-year-old church torn down
  • construction began on new building
  • worship in Christian Education Building during construction

new church cost $1.3 million

    • before new church opened over half raised
    • 20-year mortgage for the remaining cost
    • in three years, paid off a quarter of the principle
    • at the same time remaining healthy in church’s financial life and M&S commitment
  • first service in the new sanctuary on Thanksgiving Sunday, 2007

entered into project with much care and prayer

  • very good committee structures were in place
  • involvement of many different members ensured ownership
  • sense of community extremely high, fostered through worship, fun fundraisers

positive attitude

  • future focus: potential and future participation of non-church people
  • present reality: maintaining responsiveness to pastoral, educational, and worship needs of current members
  • carry over from building project in terms of drawing people in, and getting people involved in the church in fulfilling ways
knox brandon
Knox, Brandon

Knox Affirming Ministry Process

  • 3 people Conference led workshop on Affirming Ministry
  • generated incentive to initiate affirming process
  • involved lots of discussion
  • avariety of resources were used, including videos and discussion questions, as well as speakers from the community
  • One of the frequent questions that arose was “aren’t we already affirming?”
  • Discussion around reviewing Mission Statement and the importance of making a formal declaration was helpful
  • Along the way, Knox continued their involvement with LGBT activities and services in the community

affirming Celebration Service was inspirational!

  • received congratulations from a variety of groups
  • some of the positive outcomes:
    • strengthened partnerships within community, including PFLAG, the LGBTTQ* Collective, SERC.
    • the office of the Mayor and other churches are seeking to become more affirming
    • positive publicity solidified image as affirming, welcoming congregation
    • resulted in some new attendees

Governance Structure Wasn’t Working

  • meetings too long
  • bogged down in ‘housekeeping’ tasks
  • recruiting difficult
  • no time for visioning
  • too many reports
  • attendance was inconsistent
  • members were frustrated
  • Fatigue and discouragement was evident

Sabbatical...formulated a plan

  • Described the new structure
  • A short time for consideration
  • Annual Meeting decision
  • Introduced the New Structure

Kenora Model

  • Leadership team
  • Committees and interest groups
  • House groups
  • more people involved
  • new people involved
  • LT is fun
  • House Groups have enabled people to get to know one another...have helped new people ‘to belong’
knox winnipeg
Knox, Winnipeg

KNOX Winnipeg

  • Aging, declining membership
  • In an area considered unsafe, thereforelittle prospect of attracting suburbanites
  • The neighbourhood began changing – and is now largely immigrant/refugee

Realization: didn’t have a clue what God was calling us to do, but figured that God knew, so just be open to whatever walked through the door

  • Realization: Knox and Central Park were like the cathedral and the piazza – and cathedrals belong as much to the city as to the church, are as much public space as sacred space, therefore simply open our doors as much as possible
    • friendship with Islamic Mosque
    • idea of a Central Market, economic development for families
    • Women’s Resource Centre
    • Sewing Cooperative 

Lines between community and congregation became obscure

  • Partners in the vision of a restored park
  • Congregation became much more international
  • Vision of a truly intercultural community
st john s marathon
St. John’s, Marathon
  • Going Green
    • impetus
      • oil leak and threat of contamination of ground water
      • growing concern in the congregation about the environment
    • desire to green the building
      • front lawn: garden plots for the community
      • low energy light bulbs and fixtures
      • “paperless” worship
      • composting
      • recycling
      • replacing furnace with a high-efficiency model
      • solar energy project
      • several members of the congregation also install solar at home
st paul s virden
St. Paul’s Virden
  • encouragement and motivation from the Emerging Spirit initiative
  • innovations in worship
    • Renovated, expanded sanctuary
    • Recruited a cross-generational worship band
    • Used PowerPoint extensively to enhance the spoken word with visual image
    • Enhanced liturgical decoration
  • Hope: enlivened worship experience enlivens and empowers congregation for their ministry in the community.
selkirk united church
Selkirk United Church
  • talked about a reno/rebuild of the fellowship space for well over a decade
    • inaccessible but elevator costly
    • explored the idea of building an apartment complex
    • maintained and patched
  • change in Pastoral Charge configuration in 2009
  • 2010 AGM engage a capital campaign consultant and an architect to clarify their vision

Operation Faith Lift

    • the capital campaign raised $535,000.00 in pledges over 3 years from 155 of the 183 households
    • a renewed sense of excitement, vision of ministry and spiritual growth among the membership
    • reminded of how important this space is to the community as numerous non-profits use the building
    • creating a healthy, accessible space is more than bricks and mortar. It is about living out of the church’s mission statement “to live and celebrate God’s word in a changing world.”
southwest interlake
Southwest Interlake
  • five years ago: intentional discernment about what called to do and be
  • study re: definition of social ministry in context
  • often voiced concern for those oppressed or marginalized
  • need for food security and Women’s Resource Centres recognized
  • chose to become involved in own communities
    • a food bank located within the bounds of pastoral charge
    • connection to Christmas Hamper programs
    • partnership with the Women’s Resource Centre
mission that is based on matthew 25 31 40 when did we see you hungry
mission that is based on Matthew. 25:31-40 “when did we see you hungry, ”
  • small pastoral charge with declining numbers and decreasing finances: easy to become insular
  • as looked beyond own need and saw neighbours: sense of being refreshed
  • experiencing growth: not because words spoken but because actions spoke
  • recently workshops to seek and to pray what it means to be an inclusive, welcoming and affirming pastoral charge
  • Jesus has indeed “Come to the Lakeshore”
sparling winnipeg
Sparling, Winnipeg
  • Located in CPR lands (Weston/Brooklands neighbourhoods) of Winnipeg
  • decreasing numbers
  • a change in the socio-economic character
    • decline in home ownership
    • increase to lower income rental
    • community began to age
    • established businesses and services began to relocate
  • decade of deficit budgeting
  • growing costs of an aging building

decided to sell building and seek more appropriate accommodation

    • bought a house to serve as office and ministry space
    • forged a partnership with the Brooklands Pioneer Senior’s Community Centre for Sunday Worship space
    • re-located Sparling’s physical presence into a greater catchment area of Inkster
    • expanded ministry while at the same time preserving presence in Weston/Brooklands

The future was uncertain,

but accepted that uncertainty as part of identity

  • developed new understandings of ministry
  • governance structure was streamlined
  • survey material enabled clear picture of community context
  • emphasis on the identity of small church with a strong local mission
  • community conversations with established groups
  • hospitality: expanded
thunder bay united churches
Thunder Bay United Churches

Present reality

  • Declining membership.
  • Many of 11 congregations running operating deficits
  • In the next 2-5 years most of our congregations will have no reserve funds left
  • Not many outreach activities due to a pre-occupation with “paying the bills” for our aging buildings
  • Need to “do something”, but what???

Gatheringof 11 Churches

  • To have open and honest discussion amongst the congregations to discern “what is the ministry and mission of the United Church of Canada in Thunder Bay”
  • to consider ways of meeting those needs cooperatively and collaboratively.


  • To identify common vision
  • To explore where the visions and values of 11 congregations are compatible/incompatible
  • To identify possible amalgamation partnership(s)
  • To identify what kind of leadership is needed
vision and critical reflection committee learning
Vision and Critical Reflection Committee Learning
  • diversity in changes and approaches
  • transformed to what? answer not entirely clear
  • difficult to judge transformation –size, magnitude?
    • Deck chairs, fiddling while Rome burning?


    • Mustard seed, leaven?
  • difficult to claim transformation
    • not big enoughchange
    • not dramatic enough, more gradual
  • when is transformation a matter of inadvertent change and when intentional, conscious renewal?
  • context shapes what can be and what is transformed

importance of honest congregational self-awareness and sense of identity

  • absence of confession, conversion, repentance
  • what role does transition theory –grief, loss and lament– play
  • place of mission orientation; difficulty of claiming mission due to mission history
  • place of faith, not fear, (abundance, not scarcity), in moving into future with courage and vision
  • less protection of the old days of Christendom and willingness to risk