Reimagining Church goes East!
The Diocese of Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island has recently taken the Reimagining Church: shaped for mission course, and made a video series that adapts the material to the distinctive nature of the Anglican Church in the Maritimes. Here, Ryan Sim, of the Fresh Expressions Canada team, interviews Lisa Vaughn, one of the organisers—and teachers—of the project.
RS: What about the Reimagining Church course did you feel was worth teaching and sharing?
LV: I like the way it explains the basic concepts of mission, which I think many of us in Church land have forgotten—if we ever learned them at all. Certainly, in my experience as an Anglican priest training in seminary ten years ago, we did not cover these topics at all.
In general, the material is easily accessible to lay people as well as to the ordained. It is clear and simple without being condescending. The flow of the teaching makes sense and leads participants at a healthy pace for comprehension. It takes time to change people’s thinking about what “church” actually is, and about different approaches to reaching out to those who are not believers. I also really like the teaching on discipleship.
One priest in our diocese had downloaded the course material from the Fresh Expressions Canada site and presented it himself. His feedback was good, and he gave us some tips to keep in mind as we produced our video series. Discussion time was the most valued part of each session. We decided to cut out most of the worship songs and corporate prayer, because it would have been very complicated to integrate it with the video, and because we wanted to keep each session short—under two hours—and focus on the idea sharing and brainstorming.
LV: We thought it was important to name the reality for us who are Anglicans in Nova Scotia & PEI. We wanted to use statistics from our parish information forms, and local population numbers to help our members consider this teaching in their own context. Plus, we thought that, if we used Maritime Anglican information, our members would give it more credibility, and not dismiss it as another program from the big city of Toronto which didn’t relate to local churches in Nova Scotia and PEI.
RS: Why did you decide to produce videos of the course content?
LV: We wanted to make the teaching as accessible as possible. We know there are several parishes that have no full time rector, and some clergy who are not comfortable facilitating workshops. We wanted to get it into as many hands as possible. We also know that lack of time and energy to produce a program is sometimes a reason not to put on such a series. So there’s very little preparation work to do to put on our video series.
LV: The Rev. Ed Trevors and I worked on the materials from the Fresh Expressions Canada site. I did most of the rewriting of the script. We hired a video producer, and taped it all in one day in one place. We knew that it would not be a polished, TV-ready program. Our aim was to get something produced for in-house training only and to keep it very simple and basic, and without too many edits or too much fancy production. We wanted to get something into our members’ hands quickly. There is a great demand in our Diocese for congregational development and revitalization resources.
RS: How have you and your team equipped others to use the videos?
LV: We have done (and continue to do) several presentations in the Diocese to promote and answer questions about the series. This includes Diocesan Synod (where we had a presentation and display table), Clergy Resource Day, Regional Council meetings and parish gatherings. We’ve also published several articles in The Diocesan Times and included notices in the Anglican Net News (our weekly e-mail newsletter) and on several Facebook pages. We’ve made DVD sets for those who have difficulty downloading the videos (some communities in our diocese have no high speed Internet access).
RS: How is it going so far?
LV: We are in very early days with this series. We are not sure how many will actually use it and then apply the teaching. There seems to be some excitement and favourable interest at this point, but who knows how far it will go? There are a few clergy who are being pressured by their lay leaders to try it, and are seemingly reluctant to put it on. We have been really emphasizing the evaluation process (written and online), telling them that we want to offer more resources and that we need to know their needs.
RS: Who supported the project, and why?
LV: We requested a grant from the Diocese. Both bishops and the grants board approved the funding. We also had some technical assistance from a staff member at the Diocesan office to help us upload the videos to the Diocesan Website. Both our bishops attended the Vital Church Planting conference in Toronto earlier this year, and were very supportive of the project.
RS: What encouraging stories have you heard?
LV: From the promotions that we’ve been doing, there is a great deal of discussion in the Diocese about possibly putting it on. There are many lay and clergy leaders who are hungry for tools to help revitalize life and ministry in their churches. I’m not entirely clear they understand the concepts of Reimagining Church. There are some who are hoping it will increase “nickels and noses” on Sunday morning, and will be a quick-fix to all their financial woes. It’s very early days for our Reimagining Church project. Hopefully we’ll hear some feedback soon.
RS: What advice would you give to others who are considering using the Reimagining Church course in their context?
LV: If you’re referring to other dioceses, I would say they need to use their own specific data for their own local culture and demographics. The variety and diversity across Canada is such that I think Reimagining Church requires local contextualizing. For example, one of the video illustrations was of Little Mosque on the Prairie. This would not be a great one for our Diocese, because we have very few immigrants. Our greatest need is in rural parishes, so we needed to be able to connect with them and the changes there—for example, towns losing their local bank branches and schools, and the closure of emergency rooms and hospitals, because of decreasing population.
As Bill Hybels says, “the hope of the world is the LOCAL church,” and we felt we really needed to help church leaders consider their local context.
If you’d like help in using the Reimagining Church: shaped for mission course, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can download the course from the Fresh Expressions Canada website at http://www.freshexpressions.ca/project/reimaginingchurch.