Passion, parishes and people — A brilliant idea

Thanks Lisa Vaughan who joined Neil Mancor and me this past week for a great conversation around Anglican parishes, leadership, community and outreach. Our Facebook Live broadcast brought together folks from Spiritual Formation for Discipleship: A Network for Canadian Anglicans and connected with others from all across our Canadian Church.

Pew and Beyond is a Facebook Live conversation of the Anglican Church of Canada. Hosted by Neil Mancor (Montreal) and Lisa Vaughn (Nova Scotia) we focus on discipleship in the pews and beyond in the communities in which we all live. Pew and Beyond brings together resources from across Canada in the form of practitioners and programs to encourage us all to think more and get proactive in the whole area of discipleship and disciple-making. There are many good news stories all across our Church. So join the conversation: Pew and Beyond. Tuesdays at 1pm Eastern on Facebook Live.

Our conversation drew heavily on a blog I wrote a few weeks prior to our broadcast, a blog describing a recently published report from the Diocese of Kootenay titled A Path Forward. The report, and to some extent my blog and the P/Bd conversation continue to generate much conversation. That’s great, and it’s about time.

Near the beginning of our conversation Lisa posed the idea of relating the rites and traditions of Holy Week to the life-cycle of a parish or congregation. I thought this a most brilliant and helpful idea. To see how this might work, let’s consider the dynamics of Holy Week and make some connections with Anglican congregational vitality today.


‘Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!  (Mt 21:9)

It’s parish party time. The people gather easily and happily. It’s the honeymoon, early in parish history or not, possibly a significant anniversary. Everything is abundant, though anxiety is soon on the horizon, and coming closer.


While they were eating, Jesus took a loaf of bread, and after blessing it he broke it, gave it to the disciples, and said, ‘Take, eat; this is my body.’  (26:26)

At this stage communal life is intimate, as certain rituals are reverently  offered and community is strengthened. That said, there is a sense of increasing foreboding – how long can we continue? What will happen next? Is everyone around the table pulling together? There is a strong sense of an inside familiarity over and against an uncertain outside world.


(Jesus) began to be grieved and agitated. Then he said to them, ‘I am deeply grieved, even to death; remain here, and stay awake with me.  (25:35b)

Oh my gosh; things are getting serious. Even our leaders seem uncertain though resolute. We signed on for certainty and predictability, not faith and the great unknown. Who will pay the bills, and all that.


He trusts in God; let God deliver him now.  (27:43)

Talk is cheap, and ideas ample in abundance. Words however seem of little value right now. The world we have known – the eco-social environment we have thrived within, the world we have spiritually and physically depended upon — is collapsing. As it was in the beginning, is now and . . . well, may not always be. What then do we have left? Trust — ours in God, Jesus in the Father, our parish council in the Bishop and the Archdeacon.


So they went with the guard and made the tomb secure by sealing the stone.  (27:66)

All’s well that ends well? Hmm, maybe not. Now we wait. Jesus’ opponents were the only happy ones during this waiting time. Done deal; Jesus gone, and hopefully forgotten; tomb locked and guarded. No sleight of hand graverobbers welcome. It’s over folks — Get over it. Our parish is but a memory; I guess we need to go down the street now, to another space, similarly discombobulated. Heck, let’s just stay home and watch The Hour of Power.  (It’s young Bobby Schuller now.)


And suddenly there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord, descending from heaven, came and rolled back the stone and sat on it.  (28:2)

To the smugness of Holy Saturday’s “done deal” early Easter risers discover the great surprise. Jesus is risen! Alleluia — and there’s a smiling angel sitting atop the tomb saying, “I told you so.” Resurrection is possible – resurrection — any where, any time, any one – especially any parish,, yours and mine. Of course, like the pre- and post-resurrection appearances of Jesus, things look the same, and things look totally different.  Both realities are true.

I dare you, try this exercise in regional and parish clusters, in home groups,  and when you next sit down at your kitchen table. Use your own scriptural guideposts; there are so many points of congruence. There are so many reasons to try this process.

First, it helps to see parish life in a narrative context – all parishes live and die, evolve and move, they start and end. OK, Canterbury Cathedral won’t disappear any time soon, but even there the Garden Congregation of former Dean Robert Willis recently came, and went.

Second it is essential that we connect scriptural and theological insights and understandings with our praxis, the way in which we as faith communities do things. One inspires and informs the other in a mutual and reciprocal way.

Finally, and this comes from my epicurean* side, it’s fun! In these anxious times, let’s be playful, for in play ideas are proposed, tested, rejected or embraced. We learn how to live with God and with each other, in significant part, through play.

So best of luck; keep the faith; believe in, and practice resurrection; and have fun.

*Following the Cyrenaic philosopher Aristippus, Epicurus believed that the greatest good was to seek modest, sustainable pleasure in the form of a state of ataraxia (tranquility and freedom from fear) and aponia (the absence of bodily pain) through knowledge of the workings of the world and limiting desires.

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