The ideas shared in a series of conversations among ministry leaders in the diocese are still sparking the imaginations of participants weeks later. Tending the Soul wrapped up on May 26 after nine hour-long sessions, each featuring a group of lay and ordained panelists talking about a topic in ministry. The conversations were all live streamed to Facebook and YouTube, with viewers asking their own questions along the way.
Janet Marshall, the diocese’s director of Congregational Development, was part of the group that started considering how to capture and share some of the creative ministry parishes have been doing during the pandemic. “It started as a conversation with Bishop Andrew, Peter Misiaszek and me. We wanted to tap into people’s imaginations and the sense of hope we were seeing,” she says. “We started brainstorming topics. Anything we had heard people talking about, within the diocese or nationally, went on the list.”
That list was narrowed down to nine topics, and Ms. Marshall and Mr. Misiaszek, the director of Stewardship Development, began to look for ministry leaders in a variety of contexts to share their experiences. Tending the Soul launched on March 10 with a look back at the past two years and the ways in which church life has changed over the course of the pandemic. That was followed by conversations about visioning in transition, stewardship, and pastoral care. “I was really inspired by the early sessions. I think there was a profound sense of hope,” says Ms. Marshall.
Denise Byard, the lay pastoral associate for missional outreach and discipleship at Holy Trinity, Guildwood, agrees. She was a panelist during a later session on the Church as a safe place for questions, and she also watched the other conversations online. “Almost every session I got something from. I’m borrowing different things to include in my own ministry,” she says. “It was a great forum to hear what other people are doing and wonder whether we could possibly do something like that.”
As a panelist, Ms. Byard was clear that she wanted to represent her parish’s experiences, not just her own. “I really wanted to share what my parish was doing,” she says. “There have been a few things we’ve tried that haven’t worked as we’d hoped, and we just try to do what we can. God is good – we’re doing some of the right things.”
There were so many ideas exchanged and stories shared that the conversations often had to be cut short. “I was surprised at how easy it was to talk for the hour, and at how deep the conversations got. There are quotes and thoughts that I’m still returning to and digesting,” says Ms. Marshall.
Ms. Byard admits she was disappointed that her own session ran out of time to take up some of the questions asked by viewers on Facebook and YouTube. “There were some excellent questions that came in and we didn’t have time to address them,” she says. “I wonder if there’s a venue where we can address these questions again.”
While participants exchanged valuable tips and ideas for ministry, the series also brought together Anglicans from all corners of the diocese who have had few opportunities to meet during the past two years. “I hope people realized that they’re not alone in any of this. We know much of what you’re going through, and we feel it too,” says Ms. Marshall.
Ms. Byard says that sense of solidarity was an important aspect of Tending the Soul for her. “The joy of being Anglican is we’re not in this by ourselves. We are a family. I liked that perspective very much: as a unit supporting each other, working together,” she says.
That camaraderie may be more important than ever as parishes and the diocese consider what’s to come in this next stage of pandemic. “The pandemic forced the Church into the future rather more quickly than we might otherwise have gone. It will take time to understand where we are now and how the landscape has changed,” says Ms. Marshall. She says she’s encouraging parishes to consider what it means to gather as community, mindful of the vital role digital ministry now plays in the Church. “We’ll need to think through the possibilities. How do we move people from spectator to participant?”
Though Tending the Soul has ended, Ms. Byard isn’t finished with it quite yet. She plans to watch all the conversations again as she continues to think about what the next months hold for Holy Trinity. “We’re trying to harmonize so many things; this is what we parishes need to do to refresh and re-energize in this trans-pandemic time,” she says. “Any opportunity where we can connect with each other and share and learn is always appreciated.”
All nine conversations from Tending the Soul can be viewed on the diocese’s YouTube channel, www.youtube.com/tordio135.