Rev. Rita's Messages

The Rev. Rita Harrison, our Transitional Priest-in-Charge (May message)

It has been an exciting two years, and now it is time to bid the parish of St. Anne’s farewell. It has been a privilege to walk with you during this time of transition, and I believe we have done good work together. We have reflected on God’s action in our lives; we have striven to improve our communications with one another; we have developed a balanced budget; and we have almost completed the process for the amalgamation to one household budget for the parish.

You are in a good place to welcome your new rector, and I know that you will do that with grace. As you continue to go through the search process, you will be in my prayers. I pray that God will give you a priest who has a deep spiritual life, strong leadership skills, and a keen vision for the possibilities of Christ’s work in this parish and its community.
God be with you all.
Rita

(January-April message)
I want to highlight three exciting things that happened recently at St. Anne’s. We engaged in a brand new kind of outreach at the request of the London and Middlesex Housing Corporation; we spent time sharing food, stories, and prayer; and we used the bazaar as an opportunity for integrative evangelism. The parish is growing in faith, hope, and love. It is a marvelous gift to bear witness to your growth.

In late October, the London and Middlesex Housing Corporation let us know that they needed to shut off the hydro to a building in our neighbourhood for one day. This building is home to many people who are on Ontario Disability or on fixed incomes, many of whom do not have networks of support. We were asked to provide a warm place for people who might not have a place to be for that day. St. Anne’s was pleased to be able to help reach out into our community in this way. We provided a welcoming environment and some supervision. This love in action is a key part of our calling to love our neighbours – sometimes they are, quite literally, our neighbours! Thank you to all in the parish who made this ministry possible.

A completely different kind of action took place on Sunday, October 30. We gathered in the parish hall for a potluck breakfast, followed by Bible conversation and prayer, all mixed in with joyful singing. I heard at least two people say, “I had a great conversation with someone I’d only barely met before, and now we’re going to meet for coffee in the next couple of weeks.” You also engaged in sharing your faith stories with one another as you talked about the story of Jesus’ encounter with Zacchaeus. I overheard tiny bits of conversation that revealed that you were truly sharing your spiritual lives with one another. What completely blew me away, though, was your response to the request that you pray for one another. I had expected that part of the morning to take about 60 seconds as each of you timidly prayed, “God bless so and so.” … and if that had happened, that would have been fine! However, something amazing happened. You prayed for one another in your own words! In those prayers, you experienced the care and love of others, and you shared your care and love for others. That is courageous faith.

Finally, I am excited to see integrative evangelism taking root at St. Anne’s. Last February, Bill Harrison challenged us to consider where we might add evangelism to what we are already doing. More and more, I have noticed people asking that question, and finding ways to share the good news of God’s love when we are engaged in other activities. The organizers of this year’s bazaar wanted to have the church open so people could visit if they wished, and I was asked to be present in the church. Over the course of the bazaar, 118 people entered the church to look around, to pray or to reminisce. Of those, I had some significant faith conversations with seven, and also had the delightful opportunity to give three children a tour of the chancel and sanctuary. We share our love of God and of this community because we live in hope that is confident that God is working among us to gather all of creation into his loving embrace.

Reaching out to our neighbours in need, studying and praying with one another, and intentionally inviting people into God’s presence – these are hallmarks of a living and lively congregation. God bless you.

(November-December message)
By the middle of February, we will have had our annual vestry meeting. This is our opportunity to notice where we’ve been over the past year, to give some thought to where we might go in the coming year, and to elect people to various ministry positions. Taking on these roles is a privilege and responsibility. It is an opportunity to live out your commitment to Christ by helping to guide the direction of the parish with prayer, care, and in conversation with others.

Consider where your gifts and passions for ministry lie. I encourage you to notice other members of the congregation, and think about those who might be particularly suited for various leadership roles in the parish.

In the next few weeks, a nominating committee will be formed in order to make sure that we have people available to fulfil ministry roles in the
congregation. If you would like to be nominated for a particular role, or you think someone would be particularly suited to a role, please speak to a member of the nominating committee or to me. Let us know of your interest or of your thoughts about who might be appropriate for a role. It would be a wonderful thing to have more than one person eager to participate in particular ministries! If we are in that situation, we will
have an election.

The following ministries are elected at our annual vestry meeting:
Vestry clerk – takes minutes for the annual vestry meeting
People’s warden
Deputy people’s warden
Synod delegates (2)
Alternate synod delegates (up to 2)
Youth delegate to synod (must be at least 16 years old by the time of synod)
Parish Council members
We are in particular need of someone with gifts for acting as secretary of this council
Youth member
Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund representative
Outreach Committee Chair
Anglican Fellowship of Prayer Representative
Please pray for one another and for the congregation as we move toward these significant choices.
With blessings,
Rita

(Sept-Oct message)
Our transitional journey together is well into our second year. We have accomplished a lot – voting to amalgamate parish accounts, practising healthy communication patterns, exploring who we are as a parish, testing the idea of evangelism, thinking about what the role of a rector is.

The parish has been very engaged with the whole transition process, and this bodes well for your future together. You love one another, and you love St. Anne’s parish. There is much good will among you, and I see the compassion of Christ in your life together.

This autumn, we will be moving very intentionally into the search for a new rector. The transition team and wardens will be constructing the parish profile, and the selection committee will approach the Bishop to recommend names of people to become the next rector for St. Anne’s.

You have done excellent work to prepare you for this next part of the process, and it has been a privilege to walk with you this far. I look forward to working with you to construct the parish profile. Once the selection committee approaches the Bishop, my job is to step completely out of the selection process. I will be praying for you, the Bishop, and the new rector of St. Anne’s.

My dearest hope (but I cannot control outcomes!) is that you welcome your new rector immediately after I depart the parish, so that you do not have to deal with another interim situation.

(July-August message)
People sometimes wonder how a priest spends her time. To satisfy your curiosity, here is a list of what I’ve been up to since the last newsletter.
In addition to these things, there is the regular round of preaching, presiding at worship, administration, and keeping in touch with people.
Thanks to all of you who bless my work and make it so worthwhile. -- Rita

Parish Meetings/Gatherings
Parish Council (x2)
Meeting with Rector’s Warden (x4)
Transition Team (x4)
Western Fair Town Hall Meeting
Prayer Group (x7)
Wardens’ Meeting (x2)
“A Long, Loving Look at the Real”
Meeting with Treasurer about record keeping and archives
Cemetery Memorial Service
ACW Spring Sale
Parish Contacts/Visits
12 visits to parish households
Pastoral Care by Phone/Email/Mail
15 contacts by phone or email
Parish Education and Training
Baptismal Preparation with a family (x2)
Meeting with Paul Townshend to prepare for Western Fair Town Hall Meeting
Preparation for Transition Team Meeting (x4)
Preparation for Western Fair Town Hall Meeting (x2)
Preparation for “A Long, Loving Look at the Real”
Report from Western Fair Town Hall Meeting
Liturgical Preparation (particularly special services)
Preparation of Worship Schedule
Preparation of new service book for Country Terrace
Preparation of service for St. Anne’s Day in the summer
Parish Picnic Morning Prayer
Hospital Visits
3 visits to parishioners in hospital
Funerals/Memorials
John V
John S
Doris C
Christena H
Interments
Russell B
Community Ministry
Country Terrace (x2)
Westmount Gardens
Larger Church Involvement
Education for Ministry (x5)
Administrative work for Diocesan Education for Ministry
Meeting with my co-mentor re: Education for Ministry
Administrative work for Diocesan Evangelism Course
Preparation for Education for Ministry Presentation at Synod
Diocesan Synod
Meeting with Archdeacon Tanya Phibbs
Deanery Clericus Meeting with Bishop Linda Nicholls
Education for Ministry administration
Ordination Service
Deanery Clericus
Weddings
Response to inquiry
Continuing Education
Interim Ministry Training Network field education teleconference
Course: Spreading the News (Integrative Evangelism)
Prayer and Study Day (x2)
Spiritual Direction

(May-June message)
God, in Christ, heals and restores our world and relationships. God invites us to share in this great adventure. We share in God’s work in many ways.

Evangelism is what we do when we tell others about how God longs for all of creation – people as well as “rocks and trees, skies and seas” – to be completely united with the divine. Evangelism is sharing that magnificent news, and inviting others to be part of God’s wonderful plan for the healing of the cosmos. Evangelism doesn’t mean standing on street corners preaching, or knocking on doors handing out leaflets. It isn’t even about arguing anyone into heaven. Instead, evangelism is telling others about our experience of the ways God touches our lives. Evangelism is sharing with someone, perhaps over wine with dinner, the joy and abundance of life in the power of the Holy Spirit.

However, evangelism is more than that, because evangelism is not a solo activity. Revealing the good news of God in Christ is something that we do as a parish. When we use our sign to say something understandable about life in God, we are doing evangelism. If we hand out a brochure about St. Anne’s in which people share why they choose to follow Jesus, we are doing evangelism. If we offer prayer as well as food at the Western Fair booth, we are doing evangelism. This kind of evangelism is a communal task. It is not only one person’s job, nor does everyone have to do every kind of evangelism. Instead, whenever we do something as a parish we can ask, “How are we going to share the good news of God’s healing love as part of this activity?”

Discipling is what we do when we help people grow as followers of Jesus. Growing as a follower of Jesus means learning the stories of our faith, learning to pray, and sharing our faith journeys with one another. We do this when we participate in Sunday School or youth group, or when we participate in a Bible Study. We are forming disciples when we encourage one another to pray, or when we have a workshop on a current social issue. We help others develop as disciples when we encourage them to talk about God and provide opportunities for them to see how faith relates to all areas of our life – finances, our family relationships, justice issues, elections – everything! We grow as disciples when we ask ourselves, regularly, “What does the Christian tradition have to say about this?”

Outreach is what we do when we work toward social or environmental justice, or when we offer something to someone in need with no expectation of return. Outreach is service to God’s world. It is our participation in God’s work of healing the world and its relationships. Outreach is providing backpacks to Northview School, donating toiletries to My Sister’s Place, volunteering at the Byron Cares
Foodbank, serving at the Byron Cares Christmas Dinner. Outreach is writing letters to MPs about social or environmental issues. We keep in mind the question: “How are we helping to heal God’s world?”

Finally, fundraising is what we do in order to have the money in order to make all of the above possible! Fundraising gives us the means to provide money for outreach. Fundraising provides the money to allow us to pay for curriculum and supplies for Sunday School, Youth Group, Bible Studies, and Worship. Fundraising allows us to pay for the equipment and training that might be necessary so that we can be courageous in evangelism. Fundraising is a means to an end – and that end is sharing in God’s great adventure of healing the world and inviting others on that journey of healing.

 

(Mar/Apr. message)
We are about to embark on the next part of our transitional journey together. Our exploration and conversation will be directed toward building the parish profile. We will do this by exploring the questions of who we are, who God calls us to be, and our mission as Christians in this time and place.

I am unbelievably excited that sixty (yes, really, 60!) people have signed up for the parish reflection day on February 21! That kind of keen enthusiasm is a significant part of what makes St. Anne’s so vibrant. “Sharing Faith at St. Anne’s Church” will form the foundation of our ongoing discernment of parish priorities and mission.

We will then build on that work by meeting together on Saturday, March 5 from 8:45 – noon for a Parish Celebration. On that day, we will share stories about the strengths of St. Anne’s and hear the wide range of experiences that members of the parish hold dear.

In our conversations, we will be encouraged to make use of some of the principles of a method known as Appreciative Inquiry. I believe that it fits very well with what I have described in some sermons as “a long, loving look at the real” (Walter Burghardt). This loving gaze allows us to see what appears before us without immediately needing to fix or judge it. Instead, we can allow people, things and situations to reveal themselves to us. As we gaze lovingly at life at St. Anne’s, I encourage us to make use of some of the gifts that Appreciative Inquiry (AI) has to offer.

For the moment, AI calls us to notice a few things. First, in any organization, some things work well. That seems obvious, but sometimes organizations are so concerned about the things that aren’t going so well, that they forget that some things DO work well! We will be exploring what is working well.

Second, people have more confidence in the journey to the future when they carry forward parts of the past. We never start with a completely clean slate. If we did, the future would be too scary. Instead, we move more easily and confidently into the future when we bring some of the past with us.

The third point follows directly from the second. If we are going to bring some of the past with us, let’s bring the best of the past. Our parish meetings over the next while will be times for us to uncover what has been working well, and what we desire to bring forward into our new future. As we pack our suitcases for our trip into God’ plan for St. Anne’s, let’s be intentional about bringing along the best of our past!

 

(Jan/Feb. message)
Now that I’ve been with you for about six months, I’d like to share some of my observations about St. Anne’s. This is a parish in which I see many people of goodwill, a huge entrepreneurial spirit, and deep faith. I believe that these are going to be huge assets to us as we move into the new year and explore the questions of “who are we?” “who is our neighbour?” and “what is God calling us to do?”

As I spend time with the various groups in the parish, I encounter people who love the folk of St. Anne’s, who love God, and who want the parish to thrive. I meet people who care deeply about one another, and who want only the best for the community as a whole. This is a tremendous strength, and one that I know the Holy Spirit will be use as we engage in parish meetings in the spring.

Another rare gift that I see at St. Anne’s is a tremendous entrepreneurial spirit. This is a parish in which some of the leadership is always asking, “How can we build on what we’re already doing? How can we reach out even further?” That kind of creativity is unusual, and I value it highly. I trust that as we move into exploring God’s call to us, the Holy Spirit will be using this energy in ways that will help us to invite our neighbours to discover Christ.

In quiet conversations and in Bible Study with you, I also discover that many of you are people of deep faith and trust. Anglicans have not always been confident in putting words to those experiences of trusting God, but as I listen to you, we are uncovering your stories. You have more faith, and you know God better than you sometimes think you do! Over the next year, we are going to work to express that faith in words that will help us to invite others to discover the Holy Spirit in their lives, too.

In the new year, we will be gathering many times as a parish community to work together to explore our identity, and our calling. Our first big event will be a parish retreat day on Sunday, February 21 (further details are elsewhere in this newsletter). Please mark that day on your calendar, and plan to attend! I can hardly wait to see what God is going to do among us.

 

(Sept./Oct. message)

I am enjoying my time with St. Anne’s Parish very much. Thank you for your warm welcome and for all of the many ways in which you have been helping me become oriented to our life together.
While I am with you for the next while, the Bishop has given us some very specific tasks to do. Here’s what he wrote: “The developmental goals of this transitional ministry include, but are
not limited to:

a) Remembering who we are: goals will be named in relation to coming to terms with the history of the parish, particularly the circumstances leading up to the transitional ministry. St. Anne’s
(Byron) will reflect on their story.
b) Determining who God calls us to be: goals will be named in relation to the current and future identity of St. Anne’s (Byron), London.
c) Allowing and empowering new leadership: goals will be named in relation to the lay leadership of St. Anne’s (Byron).
d) Continuing to strengthen linkages with the Diocese of Huron and the Anglican Church of Canada: goals will be named in relation to ensuring there continues to be a dynamic, healthy relationship with the deanery, diocese and wider Church. The relationship and resources of the whole Church will be identified, utilized and shared.
e) Committing to new future leadership: goals will be named in relation to making the new rector’s entry as smooth, exciting and positive as possible, including the completion of the parish
profile leading to the process of selection as well as the intentional endings of the Transitional Ministry relationship. At the appropriate time as agreed to by the bishop, the parish, with the
input of the Rev. Rita Harrison will hold a discussion as to the readiness for the parish to move forward as it relates to the selection, appointment and arrival of the new priest.”

This means that we have some exciting work to do together! As time moves on, we will explore our history – both long ago and more recent. We will also take time to discern who we are in God’s world right now, and what God is inviting us to do and be. Once we have a sense of these things, we’ll be able to explore how best to start living out God’s call to us – what will this mean for our use of all of our resources: our people, our finances, and our buildings. Then, as the culmination of this work, we will put together the parish profile and the parish will work with the Bishop for the appointment of a new rector. My deep hope is that St. Anne’s will be able to move directly from my ministry to the ministry of a new rector.

Several people have asked me whether there is the possibility that I might be the new rector. The way my contract is written, that is not an option. My role is to walk with you through this time of exploration and then to leave you with the excitement of welcoming a new priest. In order for us to do this prayerful and creative work together, it is important that you are able to rest in the knowledge that I am here to help you, and not to establish any sort of powerbase for a bid at the rector’s job.

Among my priorities for this fall are the following: I want to work with the wardens and Parish Council to organize our finances in a more straightforward and transparent way. In addition, I would like to work with the very keen Children and Youth Ministry Team to make sure that our Sunday School and Youth groups are solid and sustainable ministries. Finally, I would like to help grow the Pastoral Care Team so that its ministry can be broadened to include more visitors for homebound parishioners.

Over the next few newsletters, I will continue to reflect on our journey together as the community of St. Anne’s seeking to discover God’s desire for us.