Sunday School collage submitted by children from Saint Matthias Anglican Church, diocese of Edmonton.
From colourful collages sent by Sunday schoolchildren to sleek videos and powerful tomes written by committed parishioners, Anglicans across Canada have been weighing in on what their dream is for the Anglican Church of Canada by 2019.
Last spring, Anglicans were invited to be a part of visioning the church’s long-term strategic plan, Vision 2019, by responding to a two-part question: “Where is your church now, and where do you think it should be in 2019?”
So far, more than 600 responses have been received and are available for everyone to view at www.anglican.ca/v2019/index.htm.
Others who have not added their voice to the project have until Oct. 1, and can do so in myriad ways: through song, prayer, audio and video clips, telephone message, letter, or e-mail. Parishes have been asked to make Sept. 13 the second and last Vision 2019 Sunday for gathering more input.
The responses to date have been “generally well-thought out and well-considered,” said Lisa Barry, head of a staff group in charge of the project at the General Synod office in Toronto. “We’re specifically instructed not to look for trends. They’re there (on the website) for public record and that’s what’s good about this process. Everything’s there for people to see and draw their own conclusions. It’s not some secret research that’s being done.”
Ms. Barry said she drew inspiration for the project’s structure from the Amazing Grace Project, an outreach initiative of the Communication and Information Resources department of General Synod, and from a recent conference of the World Alliance for Christian Communicators (WACC).
“Amazing Grace really surpassed our wildest imaginings about what could be achieved. There’s this idea that there’s no connect between the national office and the parishes. That has started to change, certainly with e-mail and the Web,” she said.
Amazing Grace was an outreach by the national church “but it was picked up, captured and run with by Anglicans,” said Ms. Barry. “Anglicans really caught their imagination and what they sent was a beautiful portrait of the church, who they are and what kind of ministries they’re doing in their communities.” (The project, launched in 2008, asked Canadian Anglicans to sing the hymn, Amazing Grace, to capture it on video and send it, along with a toonie from each participant, to General Synod. It raised $91,000, which will go towards the establishment of a suicide prevention program for financially-assisted dioceses in the North.)
The WACC conference, held last year in South Africa, centered on “how access to communications is changing the justice model in the world,” said Ms. Barry. The explosion of Web-based communications and cellular phones has made it much more difficult for oppressive regimes to go unchecked and unchallenged, she said. “I was really inspired and even though you might not say that Canadians are oppressed like Iran or many other nations that are having those kinds of issues, you still have a point where someone doesn’t feel that they have a voice in the church,” she said. “Maybe they feel that their voice doesn’t count or (is not) being heard.”
The Vision 2019 project “is our way of saying everyone’s voice can be heard,” she said. “All you need to do is send in your opinion and it will be there and it will be listened to. It’s a way of equalizing and empowering all Anglicans to build a church that they dream of and that they feel guided to build.”
The project has captured the imagination of Anglicans from all ages – from Sunday schoolchildren to the elderly – as well as from coast-to-coast.
One response, in particular, struck her, she said. “I’ve heard it over and over again but someone wrote very well that the church seems to have missed a generation,” she said. “Grandparents are now taking their grandchildren to church. They said that their children don’t go, but they’re taking their grandchildren…Many of the older people have said, ‘It’s all about the children. It’s all about the youth. We need to bring them back to church. We need to find a way to be a church that makes them want to be there.'”
The responses received will undergo a qualitative and quantitative process, said Ms. Barry. The data will be analyzed by Marleen Morris & Associates, a Vancouver-based independent consulting firm that specializes in strategic planning, consultation, facilitation, research, evaluation and board development and governance.
The qualitative analysis is meant “to look at the future and to see where we want to go in the next 10 years,” said Bev Murphy, a staff member of the Vision 2019 project, who also works as circulation manager for the Anglican Journal. “The quantitative (analysis) is meant to get a picture of where we are now, where we’ve been, where we are coming from, over the last 15 years.”
Research results will be presented to the Council of General Synod (CoGS), the church’s governing body between General Synods, and later, to the General Synod, the church’s governing body, which meets in Halifax in June 2010.