I knew right away I had come to hear a presentation on the future of the church. There was the screen set up at the front of the church and the requisite laptop on the podium to power the projector.
The presenters, Scott McLeod, Christopher Parsons, and Lucy Reed are the three bright energetic Anglican priests on the leadership team for the newly formed “Three Saints Parish.” This is a bold new experiment in doing church being explored in the Lakehill, Royal Oak, and Cordova Bay areas of Greater Victoria. They have been working together since August to establish “an evangelically driven mission” from three separate congregations “doing church together in new ways using a Fresh Expressions style of ministry.”
My notes from their presentation follow below.
The real work of this project began in September 2011. We needed to let the communities around the churches know that we are are still alive. The rumours of our death had been greatly exagerated. So, we tried to find ways to become visible in the community and to initiate programming that would connect us with the community.
1. We put up signage on the large white wall outside one of the churches facing a busy road. A scrolling text said, “You have driven by every day. Isn’t it time we met?” This was followed by an announcements of service times.
2. Messy Church is an effort to include all ages in a shared activity. It is a program not just Sunday School. It is not necessarily intended to draw people into church on a Sunday. It is designed to reach out to families as a whole so that parents as much as children are being drawn into a spiritual experience. It is a time to connect with people. We are gradually building up a group of people who are learning about the church again.
The key is that in the midst of doing crafts and singing songs, there is an invitation to discover God and God’s mission for us.
There is a temptation to feel we must do Messy Church in all three locations. But we are learning that it is ok for things to happen in just one place.
3. Saturday night Spanish Eucharist is an initiative that had already begun at St. Peter’s. We took it on as a project of the Three Saints and have supported this initiative together. This works particularly well as two of us speak Spanish and can serve as celebrant.
4. At St. Michael’s we had begun a Family Service initiative before the Three Saints began because we had about six children per year whose families wanted them baptized but after baptism had no on-going contact.
As Rector of St. Michael’s I had convened a coffee focus group with these families asking what the ideal church might look like for them. They said the service should take place no later than 9:00 a.m. and that there shold be no expectation that there would be attendance more often than perhaps once a month.
This service that continues once a month at St. Michael’s has been transported to St. Peter’s where there is now a family service on a monthly basis.
5. Theology Pub gives people an opportunity to socialize while engaging in thinking and talking about God.
How many of your here engage in talking about God on a regular basis? Do you have any idea how many people in your parish would feel uncomfortable having those conversations in a public place? Far too many people are too scared to have these conversations.
We are trying to get people to overcome their fear of speaking about their fatih. We are so used to the structures in our church that it is a challenge to get poeple into this conversation. We are trying to engage people so they will say that dreaded word that starts with an “e”. Evangelism is scary.
Theology tends to be talked about in an inner circle. But food and drink is almost a primordial experience. It can loosen up talk about faith. It gets people asking, but what do we do?
6. At St. Michael’s we have started a Thursday evening meditation group. We are addressing the SBNR group (Spiritual But Not Religious). We in the church need to move forward by recovering the idea of spiritual practice.
We offer a simple introduction to Christian meditation. This is a doorway that is not too threatening for people who know they are seeking. Most people who come are not Sunday morning church goers. The participants just want to be silent together in community.
7. We are seeking ways we can interact with the community. Being in a team lets you discover your own gifts.
I called all the names on old parish lists from St. Peter and St. David. I really enjoyed doing this. The rest of the team couldn’t believe I would be happy doing this task.
At St. David’s there were no children around. We started Messy Church as an invitation that continues to be put other there. There are more interactions happening.
We wanted to have a celebration and invite people to the church. A local farm donated a pile of daffodils and we filled the church with them and sold them to raise money for Cancer research.
Community is built in various ways – through weddings.
There are lots of ideas and lots of opportunities to fail and we would all rather fail than never try.
8. In Victoria there is a well developed bicycle sub-culture. Every second Friday a group meets at the City Hall to go on a Moonlight and Mystery Bicycle ride. Now before the ride a group of us meet to pray and eat before going on the ride.
We are going where the people are and being the presence of the church among the people. We are tying to meet at different times and to meet people where we might not normally meet them. We are being with them in a missional sense.
9. When we talk about teaming and scheming and Messy Church, children are the best evangelists. In Primordial Ooze we talked about God’s creation and found that it was fun. Every church says they want to have children. But they seldom realize what that means.
The vision is that we will have three full dynamic churches who can give birth to a fourth church that will be a church plant from the other three.