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Oct 2nd Congregational Communication

North Burlington Churches united

 This was read on Sunday September 25th at all of the North Burlington Group of Churches

Something that is known but seldom said, is that congregations are here for the long term. 

Now, that is not to diminish at all the incredibly important work that our clergy play in the lives of our congregations.  But, when you think of churches, seldom is there a church where the minister has been around as long as the congregation. 

Imagine if you will what it would be like for a time travelling congregant to re-visit his or her congregation over the span of decades, even centuries.  The change in that congregation over time would be almost impossible to comprehend.  From year to year the changes would be imperceptible, but over 5 or 10 year intervals or even longer, imagine the differences.  Take a moment and look around this congregation.  The walls and pews might be the same, but the people are different, at one time the congregations grew, then shrank, maybe merged with another congregation somewhere along the line.  We are older, fewer, and if we’re lucky there are new younger faces in the crowd.  Somewhere along the line new hymnals arrived. 

But through all those changes, there is one constant.  There has always been a congregation.  And that congregation has survived more changes and challenges over the years than we can begin to remember or even imagine. 

What is it that holds a congregation together through those years, through all those changes? 

In North Burlington, we have a number of United Churches with congregational histories stretching back a few decades as in the case of Tansley United Church, a half a century as in the case of St. Stephen United Church, and well over a century in the cases of Nelson United Church and Lowville United Church.  St. Stephen and Tansley were both built on the edge of what was then fast growing Burlington, with surrounding fields quickly replaced by subdivisions.  Nelson was built at the cross roads of two country lanes in the centre of a tiny rural community now all but gone.  Lowville at the centre of a small village that still exists to this day.  Congregants who came on foot and by horse & buggy from near by, have over time been replaced by congregants who in some cases drive from 50 kilometres away. 

And yet through all this change, the congregations have continued. 

And these congregations want to continue into the future. 

For the last two years, members of our churches, along with our clergy, have been meeting to explore how our churches might work more closely together to continue doing God’s work in our communities.  During this time, the councils and boards have been kept informed of our progress and have supported this process fully. 

The Boards/Councils of the Nelson, Lowville, St. Stephen and Tansley have all agreed that it is time for the four churches to begin formally investigating how the congregations of these churches can come together to continue their work in a combined entity.  No one knows yet what this will look like or how it will work.  And no decisions have been made that have committed any one to a future course of action.  Rather, we want to now formally involve all of the congregations in the process of beginning this journey of discovery for how we might all come together in the future. 

To help us on this journey, we have asked the Edge Group from within the United Church of Canada to facilitate a process of engaging the congregations in an exploratory exercise.

At the centre of this process are the congregations.  Only with input of the hopes and dreams of the congregations can we ensure that we can all take the best of each congregation to continue God’s work in our community.  We are excited about this opportunity to explore our possible futures together, and look forward to everyone’s active participation in the process. 

A Q & A will be made available to everyone in the congregations after the service, and your boards will be providing regular updates on the progress in the months to come. 

 

North Burlington United Churches Q & A

 

1)     Who have been attending the North Burlington UC meetings?

a.       All ministers and two to three representatives from each churches board / council.  Kilbride United Church has also participated in some of the meetings. 

2)     How long have these meetings been occurring?

a.       Approximately two years, bi-monthly.

3)     What started these meetings?

a.       The ministers had been meeting regularly regarding worship and common themes, which led to the working committee forming to take the discussions further. 

4)     Does this group have any official status or authority to take action?

a.       No.  This group has been an exploratory group simply exploring possible future collaboration between the congregations.

5)     What role does Halton Presbytery have?

a.       Presbytery is aware but has no official involvement at this time. 

6)     What role does Hamilton Conference have?

a.       Conference is aware but has no official involvement at this time. 

7)     Where have the meetings been taking place?

a.       The meetings have been rotating among the churches involved. 

8)     Why are the congregations doing this?

a.       Each of these congregations is facing their own challenges, while at the same time wanting to ensure that the good work that they are doing continues.  We have already seen some benefits from this through shared services, minister rotation, ministers sharing pastoral care. 

9)     What role will the congregations play?

a.       Congregations will provide input to this process and will be responsible for any final recommendations and decisions.

10) What role will the church boards play?

a.       The Boards and Councils are responsible for sharing information and ongoing developments through this process to their congregations.

11) Who is Edge and why are they becoming involved?

a.       Edge is a group within the United Church of Canada who “works with congregations, presbyteries, conferences and ministries across Canada in among other themes, areas of new and renewing ministries.”  For more information about Edge, visit edge-ucc.ca. 

12) What is the goal of this process?

a.       The goal is to find a way to continue a strong United Church presence in North Burlington while maintaining the best of each congregation in their respective communities. 

13) What role will the congregations play in this process moving forward?

a.       The congregations will provide their hopes and dreams and input for development of our church family, and will have the final say in any recommendations and decisions.