One of the oldest Anglican organizations in Canada is in danger of fading away unless it finds new supporters. The Anglican Worship Resources Society, which provides worship materials for groups and parishes which can not afford them, has seen its base of largely elderly donors dry up and has been drawing on its financial reserves in recent years.
Despite a long history with the Canadian church – it was founded in 1898 – the society does not share the high profile of, for instance, the Prayer Book Society, which promotes use of the 1962 Prayer Book. The much older Anglican Worship Resources Society does not differentiate between requests to help buy hymn books, Bibles, the Book of Alternative Services or Book of Common Prayer, even the old 1938 hymnal. All requests are treated equally.
“We’re Anglican and we worship,” says Rev. Roy Shepherd, a semi-retired priest and chairman of the society’s board of directors. “Worship is part of the way we Anglicans develop our spirit. That’s part of our psyche and we help that (worship) happen.”
Mr. Shepherd paints a picture of a typical applicant: a three- or four-point parish which can’t afford a full time priest. The incumbent might travel to each point of the parish with a box full of hymn books because there are not enough books for each congregation. Such a parish might request a matching grant for 30 to 50 books, the cost of which they agree to pay half. Their portion might range from $450 to $600.
“There are lots of parishes struggling,” says Mr. Shepherd.
All applications for grants must have the backing of the applicant’s bishop or executive archdeacon so few are turned away. The society will not reimburse parishes for materials that have already been purchased and will only make grants for books ordered through the Anglican Book Centre.
But the work may be jeopardized. The society receives up to 30 requests for grants – most of them between $500 and $1,000 – and awards of $10,000 – $12,000 each year.
That steady pace would not take long to drain the society’s reserves, which have been depleted to nearly $40,000, from $54,000 in the last couple years.
“If we keep doing that, in a couple of years, we’ll be out of business,” said Rev. Roy Shepherd, a semi-retired priest and chair of the society’s board of directors. The society is down to about 75 regular donors, many of whom are elderly. Some dioceses also periodically support the work as do individual Anglican Church Women branches, but Mr. Shepherd notes that neither dioceses nor the women’s group are flush with cash.
The society is working on a new image after a 1998 name change. Known until then as the Anglican Church Bible and Prayer Book Society, it was constantly combating confusion with the similarly named Prayer Book Society of Canada.
In an attempt to attract new members and donors, the society will advertise in Anglican publications and plans to launch a Website in January.
The society can be reached via a mailbox at Church House, the national office of the Anglican Church of Canada. Write to:
Anglican Worship Resources Society
c/o Church House
600 Jarvis St.
Toronto ON M4Y 2J6