Kootenay focusing on spiritual needs of under 35s

Published January 1, 2000


THE DIOCESE of Kootenay covers about 215,000 square kilometres of Canada’s most beautiful and difficult terrain. Just getting from one place to another affords Archbishop David Crawley the chance to relax and recharge during long treks to various parish events and meetings within the diocese.

It takes 8-1/2 hours to travel from one end of the diocese to the other. Archbishop Crawley is the provincial metropolitan, so along with his diocesan duties, travel is a constant in his life.

“For us, travel is both costly and difficult, especially in winter. Fortunately, I love to drive,” he said. “It is a very great gift to me to be able to drive long distances in this countryside. There is a great sense of adventure. I can hardly wait for winter driving.”

The area has no natural centre. There are five major mountain ranges in the diocese ? and virtually no flat land.

Each of the six regions that make Kootenay’s unique and distinctive character are defined largely by their major industries, ranging from the fruit and wine country of the Okanagan Valley to the ski resort areas and cattle farms. Each year, the region welcomes about 2.5 million tourists, especially skiers.

Given its somewhat erratic population, churches in the diocese count attendance as opposed to membership. There are 28 parish groupings, five of them shared ministries with the United Church. There is also a wide array of staffing arrangements, including full and part-time priests and vocational deacons.

Those who are part of a shared ministry arrangement might work for the Anglican Church for five years and then spend five years in the employ of the United Church. Whatever the configuration, Archbishop Crawley expects the clergy in the diocese to meet three times yearly, to not only shorten the geographical distances that separate colleagues, but also to help create a spiritually fulfilling community.

“If the ministers can’t get along among themselves, how could we expect the parishes to do it?” he said. “They do care for one another, and there is a strong sense of accountability among the clergy.”

The diocese has begun to focus on the spiritual needs of those under 35 and their families, explained Archbishop Crawley. “They have been given the title Generation X and they have a distinct culture,” he said. “In general, they really value community. It is terribly important to them; friendships are very important. In Kootenay, we are working to create parishes that are part of a strong community.”

Working with this group also demands that clergy are part of a spiritual team, which includes laity carrying out their baptismal ministry to the wider community. In addition, the diocese has specifically-trained spiritual directors, who work one on one as spiritual guides and friends. It is working well in many communities, Archbishop Crawley said.

While all of this is an exciting and dynamic departure from the traditional model of the priest as head of the parish, it also challenges the traditional administration systems of parish life. And it falls more on the older generation to provide the bulk of the financial support, since Generation X is busy raising young families, coping with mortgage payments and trying to weather economic downturns.

For this reason, coupled with the large diocesan area, Archbishop Crawley said there is no diocesan programming. The money tends to stay in the regions, where it is targeted to specific and needed projects within the communities.

“Our diocesan budget has remained virtually the same in the past 10 years,” he said. “We want to leave as much money in the parishes as possible for ministry.”

The diocese is also home to the Sorrento Training Centre, the Canadian headquarters for Education for Ministry, which provides ministerial training for laity. There are 500 EFM students across the country, who sign up for one year at a time for the four-year program. “Generation X are the most spiritual and least churched generation in North American history,” he said. “These people want to be involved in the church, but they are not interested in the working nuts and bolts of church. They are post-institutional, meaning they don’t mind working out the details of the pot luck suppers, but they won’t be interested in sitting on the building committee.”

Archbishop Crawley said the constant challenge is to see the wider community. “We in the mountains tend to only see horizons.”

To that end, the diocese has formed a companion ministry with the church in northern Mexico. Participating in ministry to the global community offers Christians an opportunity to see the world as a sphere of faith, and the work of the church as its summons, he said.

“We chose the area because it is close enough to allow people to travel, but it is not a tourist area. It has taken some time to arrange all of this since there were some language barriers, but we are well on the way, now. We are working hard to raise our eyes to the wider world and our contributions to the PWRDF have tripled over the past few years.”

Overseeing a diocese that is barely 100 years old, Archbishop Crawley sees Kootenay as a faith community, which is looking beyond its borders.

“The shape of the church we see here is more open, more inclusive. It is a ministering community within the wider community.”

Nancy Devine is a freelance writer and editor living in Aurora, Ont.


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