Anglican lay people will soon have a chance to gain some hands-on practice at planting churches.
The opportunity will arise at the Vital Church Planting Conference, to be held at St. Paul, Bloor Street from Jan. 29 to 31. The last day of the conference – a Saturday – is specially designated for teams of laity.
Co-sponsored by the Diocese of Toronto and the Wycliffe College Institute of Evangelism, the conference offers an exploration of fresh expressions of church and church planting.
If anyone looks at the changing culture and feels helpless or confused and wonders about the future of the church, they will find this conference encouraging and educational, says the Rev. Ryan Sim, one of the organizers.
“They will learn about exciting things that are happening in Canada to reach new people, and they will learn some of the steps that have brought about those new forms of church,” he says.
In previous years, the conference looked to the United Kingdom for inspiration, since the Fresh Expression movement began there. However, this year there is a change.
“Enough is happening in Canada in terms of fresh expressions of church and people pioneering new forms of ministry to reach new people that we can have an entirely Canadian focus,” says Mr. Sim, who is the priest-in-charge of Redeemer, Ajax, and a church planter himself.
The conference will showcase a variety of fresh expressions of church, new church plants and other pioneering forms of ministry that are happening across Canada. It will include plenary sessions and workshops.
Providing education and support to lay people is important because many fresh expressions of church bubble up from the grassroots and are led and sustained by lay people.
Although the Saturday will be devoted to lay people who come in parish teams or individually, clergy are also encouraged to take part. Jared Seibert will be the speaker for the day. The parish teams will get together for hands-on practice of some of the skills they will need to start something new back home.
One focus will be on missional listening. Teams will be sent out to walk the neighbourhood around St. Paul’s, to understand its context and what God is doing there. Then they will return to the church and discuss the trends and needs they see in the community, and consider how to serve those needs in a way that builds community and makes disciples.
“I hope people will walk away from this conference saying, ‘I know how to do that now,’” says Mr. Sim. “I hope it’s not just passive learning, in terms of listening to a speaker and then going to a workshop where they listen to another speaker. They’re going to listen to a speaker and then try out what they’ve learned.”
“This conference will help them dream about some creative ways to spread that good news,” he says.