In the Diocese of Rupert’s Land, two parishes have been experimenting with Local Collaborative Ministries, a version of “Total Ministry.” Pembina Hills parish is a rural setting covering vast distances in southern Manitoba, and St. Thomas is situated in the Weston region part of Winnipeg. These parishes have named and designated local leadership to take on the roles traditionally performed by a seminary trained priest. Some have been recognized as pastoral care coordinators or extenders of hospitality; some take on liturgical roles of preaching or presiding as presbyters or worship leaders; some are deacons reminding the church of its role in the world; some hold the community in prayer and some focus on Christian Education duties; others are administrators responsible for organizational matters and relations with the diocese. Each of the teams is encouraged by a seasoned priest who acts as mentor to the Ministry Support Teams. This shared leadership arrangement reflects a theology that ministry is the responsibility of all the baptized through a parish life structured so that all are enabled to discern their gifts and vocation.
On the weekend of November 16-18, Maylanne and I led about two dozen participants in these Ministry Support Teams in a weekend retreat. Gathering at a motel located in Portage la Prairie, Manitoba, participants engaged in a time of renewal which included intentional spiritual opportunities for worship, prayer and exploration of spiritual disciplines. The schedule allowed for building of community for the members of each team, and between the two teams, as well. Learning focused on several team building tools that enhanced self-awareness and respect for differences. Throughout the weekend, the group wrestled with the week’s lections, deepening our knowledge and wisdom about these texts while becoming familiar with a variety of creative ways to engage in bible study. Retreat participants also said how much they appreciated the insights they gained from more theoretical sessions about teaming, conflict, and self-care.
There is hope in seeing the Church use its imagination to respond to the present context in parishes like these. And so, it was good to offer this weekend retreat and be a part of supporting this creative “outside the box” experiment in ministry. It was also beneficial for CCS to be flexible about offering parts of our program in ways other than the four year diploma program. The CCS model consists of a rich array of programming tools and processes that are worth sharing! If you would be interested in a similar program in your context, keep us in mind.