Cards on the table—true confession time–I am not a fan of parish amalgamation as a solution for parishes facing an uncertain future. It seems to me that the bringing more than one struggling parish together with another in similar condition only produces one larger struggling church. Certainly some activities can be combined helping to create a critical mass of participants. There may be a larger concentration of wealth to create new missional opportunities. Reduction of building maintenance challenges and costs may occur especially when buildings and properties are sold and the assets re-invested in the new parish entity.
The problem as I see it lies with leadership, lay or clergy. Injection of new leadership energy and talent is necessary, more than ever during the transition process. The above skepticism noted, imagine my surprise when I learned of Immanuel Church in Regina. Their experience flies in the face of my prejudiced pessimism.
Now supposedly retired, the Rev. Diane K. Guilford shares the following description of life at Regina’s Immanuel Anglican Church where she has served as interim priest for seven months now.
“Immanuel is a fantastic community. Five Anglican Churches had the courage and faith to leave their buildings and become one – Immanuel – God is with us under one roof. There is lots of energy in worship that I attribute to the Holy Spirit! We had Indigenous Worship on a recent Sunday with 116 people and last month we honoured Black History, primarily led by parishioners of black heritage and it rocked!
The members have come to know one another and care for each other over a short time. They are open to new ideas and many give lots of volunteer time in a variety of ministries.
It is fun to have so many children in worship. In my 7 months here I have come to love this congregation and if I were 10 years younger I would apply! There is so much potential and with the right leadership Immanuel will grow more deeply in Christ’ love and be more confident in letting that faith and light shine outside the church walls.”
Bishop Helen Kennedy of the Diocese of Qu’Appelle is accepting applications for an Incumbent Priest for Immanuel Parish in Regina. In a job posting she describes the position:
“We are searching for our first incumbent after a process of coming together and interim ministry. We seek an incumbent to nurture our faith as our community grows in our new home. Our congregation meets weekly for worship, meaningful outreach, and sharing fellowship. Children and youth ministry is a key focus alongside pastoral care. We are passionate supporters of the diocesan refugee ministry. Our church building is located in the south end of Regina, beside schools and near to the university. Regina, which is the capital of Saskatchewan, combines big city conveniences with small town geniality.”
I cannot imagine a more enthusiastic description of parish life these days, if ever. Visit Immanuel’s website where at first glance you will discover a variety of programmes and community-connecting initiatives including, first off, Children’s Programmes. Wow. Clearly the community incarnated (!) at Immanuel is both internal and external in focus and direction. They connect well with each other and with the community, the city, and the province. They connect with indigenous and refugee communities. They look out and they look in. Click around the website and discover:
What We Believe
“As Anglicans, we proclaim and celebrate the gospel of Jesus Christ in worship and action. We value our traditions and heritage. Liturgy (a standard pattern and order for worship) is the key to bringing us all together in one familiar, comfortable place. Our liturgy connects us with Christians around the world and roots us into forms of worship that have been celebrated for centuries. We are gospel centered and biblically grounded through our liturgy.”
Vision—Read the full explanation here
“Immanuel Anglican Parish, Regina, is a diverse, open and caring community of people who have come together in fellowship to joyfully live out our love for God and to actively engage in loving our neighbours.”
Now I do wonder who provides leadership and organization for all this activity. It cannot simply be clergy, nor should it be. Obviously the community is still establishing its leadership structure and recruiting its personnel. But from the get-go, the message is clear. As a member of Immanuel there are opportunities at all levels to get involved. Remember Jack Kennedy’s line: “Do not ask what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.”
As I recall parishes I have served as clergy over the years I can only recall the expectation to me to come and make certain things happen. At Immanuel, so many things are already happening. Clergy friends, from my distanced view, Immanuel is a leadership opportunity not to be missed. As someone who did my seminary training in Saskatoon (sorry, Regina) I can only add that Prairie folks know how to get things done, together in Christ, and have fun in the process. Well done Immanuel. You are an inspiration to us all.
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