As I look back over the first year of the East Central Ontario Regional Council there are a few things that I would highlight. The year was very busy and the development of policy and the governance structure has been important work. The committee structure has been developed and the committees are getting into the swing of the work. I am today working with some of the best constructed committees of my career. Our nominating committee is doing exceptionally good work. There are some great examples of cooperation that can be seen, both between pastoral charges who are working together in new ways to attract clergy and in pastoral charges working closer with other entities to support ministry in new ways. Yet, we are faced today with the results of many years of declining membership. We live in a time of change and the support of local congregations is, if anything, more complex as expenses raise. Of course the real answer is more membership. We have to find a way to change the way we talk about churches. Particularly where the struggle has taken centre stage. Too often it is our fear for the future that people see rather than a living faith.
I could share my real exhaustion when my down time has been limited and the work all encompassing. Or, I can talk about the very real privilege of being here on the ground, building a new way of being the United Church of Canada. I could speak about the deep faith of folks as they find their way into new relationships. About the all too real work of the new pastoral relations system which is, I am fully convinced, leading to better pastoral relationships. I could speak about a new freedom to gather as clusters and networks. Where, while we can not force others into action, we can invite people, find common ground, share resources and make new things happen. I ask you: What is more attractive, more likely to draw people in: my exhaustion or my excitement?
I do see the strong church that we are building. It is no accident that each community of faith is expected to spend time and energy in each year on the consideration of your ministry. The living faith story that is required for the HUB is an opportunity to speak and write about who you are, what you are doing and what you hope to accomplish. At its best, this is an opportunity to do a shift in our thinking from maintenance to mission. It does not mean that the struggles will disappear – but it does mean that we can find our way to build energy and look for the God-given opportunities that are real and present in every community.
The last year has seen many changes and it can be hard to keep up. The policies of the Regional Council are on our website ecorcuccan.ca. You will find them under the policies tab and, especially, under the governance handbook. The policies of the national church are on the united-church.ca website, published in both the manual, and many different handbooks. As a rule any document of the church with a date earlier than 2019 should be checked against the national website and the latest one should be downloaded. If you are dealing with a national United Church handbook that does not have a date, it is out of date. The search button in the upper right corner of the screen on the national site is very helpful. As 2020 unfolds, I will be interested to see where the new possibilities of our new system will take us. For I am convinced that God is still at work in us.