In what is sometimes thought of as a dying church, Amanda Longmoore of Plaster Rock, N.B., was not exactly surprised but at least impressed to find that her conversations with about 35 other young Anglican clergy from across Canada has left her with quite a different impression.
“In fact, there is lots of life and lots of hope as well,” she said in a conversation outside sessions of a three-day conference for clergy under 40. The conference was organized by the Anglican Church of Canada in the synod offices of the diocese of Montreal, host of the conference, June 17-19.
Ordained about 11 years ago at age 25, Longmoore has been serving Anglicans and now United Church people as well in the forest industry and agricultural community at the north end of the Appalachian Mountain range for five and a half years. About a year ago, she oversaw the creation of an Anglican-United shared ministry grouping of five churches, of which she is the pastor.
She appreciated the chance that the “Conversations 2014” conference provided to learn about what’s happening in other parts of Canada, and hoped to take home some ideas and resources to help in her work in Plaster Rock.
She was struck by her colleagues’ passion for the church, across the country.
“For me, Christian community is important. We can encounter God alone at all kinds of times and places, but building community is something people crave, and that’s important.”
Organizers of the conference used what they described as an “unconferencing” approach, with little set program and lots of relatively unstructured time for peer-to-peer learning, largely in small-group and one-on-one conversations.
Joey Royal, 33, who has ministered to a congregation of Inuit, Dene and a wide variety of people of other origins for about two years at Holy Trinity Church in Yellowknife, said, “When you’re up north, your world is really the parish.”
He does get quite a bit of spiritual support from clergy of other denominations in Yellowknife, but he often does not have much contact with other Anglican clergy, and he appreciated the opportunity Conversations 2014 offered for this.
“There’s a real sense of togetherness, that we are all engaged in the same work. It’s good to know what your peers are thinking and doing. And besides, up north when you have a chance to go south, you jump at it.”
Matthew Arguin, from London, Ont., a member of the planning committee for the conference, said it aimed to help build a network of contacts, friendship and relationships.
“The face of the church is changing,” he said, and a new generation is facing new realities and new challenges. “A priest has to ask himself or herself, ‘How do I, as a leader, empower others to be disciples?’ “
Updates from Conversations 2014 were posted to the Anglican Church of Canada Facebook page.
Harvey Shepherd is editor of The Montreal Anglican, the newspaper of the Anglican diocese of Montreal