Being involved in Vision 2019 has been an exciting experience here at Holy Trinity. As followers of this blog will know, our Primate, Archbishop Fred Hiltz, has asked Anglicans across the country to "Dream the Church." As the Anglican Church of Canada moves toward a strategic plan for the next ten years, the National Church has been solicting feedback from Anglicans across this great nation. A special website was set up where Anglicans could submit their dreams for the Church.
I was an ecclesiastical bureaucrat for eleven years and worked at the National Office (Church House), first at the old 600 Jarvis Street address and later at the newer office at 80 Hayden Street. Thus, I continue to have a passion for the ministry of the National Church and felt strongly that we at Holy Trinity should participate in the visioning process. In the early days of the project I was invited to participate in a short video outlining the ministry of the Anglican Church's publishing program, ABC Publishing.
As the Vision 2019 website came on online and the process of responding began, I eagerly followed the responses posted on the site. At first, there seemed to be many negative responses, especially by individuals who had left the Anglican Church of Canada to join the Province of the Southern Cone. The tone of many of the responses (and comments on the responses) seemed quite uncivil and contrary to the spirit of the exercise. I am not opposed to critical responses, but the tone in some of the responses was downright nasty and not characteristic of constructive dialogue. I responded and became involved in a little dispute with some individuals over how to conduct respectful dialogue (that little exchange, if you truly feel inclined to review it, can be found by clicking here). Thankfully, the spirit of the conversation quickly became much more civil and creative. Responses flooded in. Trinity Sunday was declared as "Vision 2019 Sunday" and parishes were asked to find creative ways of engaging the question, "Where is the church now and where do you want to see it in ten years' time?"
We began our work on this question on Pentecost Sunday when I preached a sermon on what it means to dream in the Spirit. I suggested that the exercise of dreaming was not so much about what we wanted for the Church, but what God wants for the Church and how our shared individual dreaming can come together in a way that we might discern the future into which we are being called. I then shared my dream for the Church (the text of the sermon can be read here).
The following Sunday (Trinity Sunday), our incumbent, Canon Greg Physick preached a fine sermon on the subject and spoke about our dreaming in the context of the that Sunday's theme.
Then, it was time for the people of Holy Trinity to dream. During the prayers of the people, we offered several minutes of silence in which people could, on a piece of paper provided, write (either anonymously or attaching their names) a prayer outlining their hopes and dreams for the church in the next decade. The prayers were collected on the collection plates and offered up at the offertory in prayer at the celebration of the Holy Eucharist. We explained that we would collate the prayers and send them in to the Vision 2019 website. The approach was simple and seemed to resonate with the Vision 2019 team at Church House and they featured our approach in an online story (click here).
As we reviewed the results we learned many things. There is a longing for the church to grow through the inclusion of young people. There is a longing bring the discussion of same-sex blessings to a close. There was a variety of positions on this question, including the traditional and progressive positions, but many focused broadly down the middle on a theology of inclusion. On the whole, there seemed to be a dream that our Church will be a light to the community and a place of hope, faithful to the Gospel of Christ. There is indeed hope for the future. To be sure, we sensed worry and uncertainty, but we did sense strong hope. The Vision 2019 team has posted Holy Trinity's prayers on the Vision 2019 site (click here).
What a wonderful exercise this has been for us at Holy Trinity. I believe that people felt very empowered and included in offering their personal prayers. And it is very powerful to see and feel these prayers joined with prayers of Anglicans across the country. We are grateful to Archbishop Hiltz for his invitation, it has had an impact on us and we hope and pray that our prayers will be helpful in the discernment process.
For those who have not yet participated, please add your voice and your prayers to the dreaming by visiting the Vision 2019 site.