It was my privilege to facilitate a time of visioning and planning for New Westminster’s St. Barnabas parish this morning following the worship service. Since my grandparents were married at “St. B” in 1906 and my dad and all his siblings baptized there, the parish holds a special place in my own life.
For the past few years, with the commissioning of our Westminster Deanery, I’ve been a part of the St. Barnabas Emergency Food Cupboard team – meeting with, listening to, praying with and building community with those who come to St. Barnabas during the week for spiritual and social support. The vital ministries that the parish carries out in the “Brow-of-the-Hill” neighborhood of New Westminster is amazing. The commitment of St. Barnabas’ clergy and congregation to being the presence of Christ in a needy community is indeed blessed.
Our visioning and planning day had to do with aging facilities – the parish hall, in particular – that are nearing the end of life. In order to discern as a community what can be done to sustain well established community ministries – including the Food Cupboard, Community Meal, Thrift Shop as well as spiritual nourishment to the community, a new ministry transition plan is needed. The parish is also anxious to continue serving the community through the provision of space for the current daycare and for several community groups who regularly use or rent the facilities.
A couple of years back as Chair of the Provincial Synod Standing Committee on Ministry, I wrote a document entitled “Parishes in transition: A Process Guide” outlining a tool for Appreciative Inquiry” as a way to facilitate parish discussions dealing with significant change. I’m grateful to the Rev. Paul Borthistle who introduced me to the widely used process of Appreciative Inquiry.
The strength of Appreciative Inquiry is that it approaches problem solving from a positive perspective of “appreciating” who and what we are and leads us to dream about how we can move forward in the directions we wish to go and God is calling us to go. At St. Barnabas, we began with an overview of the realities of the current situation in regard to aging parish facilities, and then took part in a “Gallery Walk” where people gathered in small groups around the room, then added to a “parish picture gallery” based on six “portraits”:
Who Are We? Guiding principles and beliefs
Why Are We Here at 5th and 10th?
What Do We Want to Do and Continue to Do?
What Are Some Goals for Getting It Done?
How Do We Best Meet Those Goals?
What’s the Best Strategy To Meet Our Goals? (Over-All Plan)
The time of gallery making was animated and designed to give everyone a voice. The “Portrait” making questions are deliberately overlapping so major themes can emerge. And emerge they did.
During our time of “Convergence” we studied the “portraits” in the gallery, identifying key issues that could be put before a special vestry meeting this Spring. The Appreciative Inquiry process allowed us to work together to generate motions for that vestry meeting in the context of a practical plan to move forward: partnerships to be considered, involvement with other faith-based and community agencies, exploring diocesan relationships focussed on ministry support, and evaluating and planning ways to look at the over-all property use at St. Barnabas.
The process was engaging and efficient and my own appreciation goes to Rev. John Firmston and the people of St. Barnabas for allowing me to engage with them in the important work they do. In the words of one of our diocesan initiatives, the community of St. Barnabas is determined to ‘take back the neighborhood’ and has the determination to continue its vital work.
By the way, the St. Laurence table at next Saturday’s “St. Barnabas Trivia Night” has issued a challenge to the competition to throw everything at us that they can. The “St. Laurence Saints” have been regular winners in the annual Coquitlam Library Trivia Night for several years. Come out to see if you can beat us!
Rev. Steve Bailey is a deacon at St. Laurence, Coquitlam and one of the blog masters at New Westminster Anglican Blog. Comments and contributions are welcome. If you have a special event you want to share with the diocesan family, consider a posting on NW Anglican blog.