November 27, 2022
Dear People of the West Kootenay Region,
Greetings in the name of Christ.
I met today with a group of leaders from each of your congregations to take next steps in an ongoing process of addressing the challenges you are facing. Since our last meeting in June, those challenges have become more acute due to the impending resignations of two treasurers and the difficulties of recruiting an interim incumbent for Kokanee Parish. At each of our gatherings, those present have identified the growing number of challenges, and the need to pursue solutions beyond what can be managed by one parish alone.
Where we were once able to manage all aspects of parish ministry and administration in each local community, shifts in demographics, declining church attendance, and a variety of other factors are leaving more work to fewer people. In trying to maintain a way of being designed for much larger communities, lay and ordained leaders are burning out. Leaders are attempting—through their desire to serve Christ in his Church—to shoulder the impossible burden of maintaining the decaying infrastructure of Christendom while also ministering to the pastoral, spiritual, and missional needs of their communities.
What these leaders are experiencing personally is a result of a much wider problem. As Bishop, I see and am concerned by the impacts on the people of this Diocese, which is why I am so grateful for the time and effort the people of this region have devoted to addressing our current adaptive challenge.
During our meeting in Castlegar this week, we spent time further considering an Area Parish model as a way of addressing these challenges. An Area Parish maintains the autonomy and distinctness of local expressions of church while intentionally working together to address common issues through shared resources.
The most urgent priorities identified by the group were: finance, administration, and communication. By working together, each parish will benefit from centralized expertise that will take pressure off of leaders, and free up time and energy to focus on local mission and ministry.
Coming out of this meeting, we identified a number of next steps:
I have been deeply moved by the bravery and transparency demonstrated by representatives of your congregations in naming the challenges you now face. This emerging plan has grown out of good (and at times difficult) discussions amongst representatives from Boundary Parish, Kokanee Parish, Kootenay Summits Parish, and Valhalla Parish over the last six months. I am buoyed by and grateful for your communities’ common desire to respond faithfully to the Spirit's leading, seeking a new way forward.
Please talk to those in your congregation who attended on your behalf if you have questions, clarifications or concerns. If you have further questions, you can email these to Kate Dalton (email@example.com) who will help me to track the questions, and provide clarification. Please continue to pray for the Holy Spirit to guide us as this plan unfolds.
I pray that as we enter the season of Advent waiting you may rediscover the hope and joy of the Christ Child born in the midst of our weary world.
Yours in Christ,
Bishop of Kootenay