I came across a pastoral letter from the Bishop of Toronto to the clergy and laity proposing a significant fundraising effort. In it he proposed a graduated schedule of offerings to achieve a substantial goal and an individual appeal to each church family in the diocese by a member of their parish “to knock at every one’s door and rouse the inhabitants to devote a small portion of what God has bestowed upon them to promote so great a work.”
That letter came from John Strachan, the first Bishop of Toronto, in January 1854!
The Our Faith-Our Hope: Re-imagine Church campaign began with an idea I first proposed to Synod a decade ago. As it gradually took shape, we determined that it would be a cooperative program shared between the diocese and parishes that responded to the generosity of God’s many gifts to us to engage God’s mission. We identified the goals of Strengthening Local Parishes, Building the Church for Tomorrow, Revitalizing Our Inheritance and Giving to Others.
The Canadian North has many clergy and lay catechists in charge of parishes who work without a stipend. Many are isolated in communities that face traumatic pastoral issues including, unfortunately, the accumulated pain of dealing with multiple suicides. The Diocese of Toronto made a grant of $500,000 from Our Faith-Our Hope (OFOH) to fund a request from the Council of the North and Anglican Council of Indigenous Peoples to hold regional circles where clergy and lay leaders could come together for mutual learning, support and refreshment. So far, 276 have participated from half a dozen dioceses. Grants ranged from $500 to $100,000. The Diocese of the Arctic, for instance, brought people from 48 communities together. The feedback has been astounding. It makes a difference in peoples’ lives.
The Anglican Chaplaincy for the Canadian Forces elected its first full-time bishop to provide episcopal care for regular and reserve chaplains and their families, and to military personnel across the country. It only became possible because of an initial endowment of $500,000 from OFOH.
Another $500,000 grant from OFOH to the Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund (PWRDF) supports new work in maternal and child health in the developing world and midwifery services in remote northern communities in Canada. Ours is the largest single gift any diocese has ever given to PWRDF in its 50+ year history. Because of matching federal government grants, that gift created a value of over $2.5 million. Safe deliveries and proper health care are now available because of your generosity.
Parishes around the diocese have been made physically accessible, youth work is being funded, leaders are being trained, pioneering ministries in new contexts have been planed and an amazing array of creative projects have been undertaken locally because of Our Faith-Our Hope – not just because of the financial resources now available, but also because of a reinvigoration of imagination and commitment.
We have succeeded in remarkable ways. While not every parish participated, the vast majority did – and achieved more than many had thought possible. Some of the parishes did not formally join the OFOH project because they were already in the midst of substantial funding efforts. Others added to their goals to meet parish capital needs and did spectacularly well. Taking that into account, at least $50 million in new funds has been contributed to ministry in the diocese and beyond in the last seven years, over our regular offerings and FaithWorks contributions.
We are a different diocese because of that. Yes, the money has helped us fund new ministries, adapt old buildings, engage in new mission, support vulnerable people in Christ’s name. More than that, though, it has helped build relationships between people, allowed people to share personal stories, identified and trained new leaders, built up confidence, and assisted people to articulate and share their faith.
I have been changed by the experience. I am more confident in speaking clearly about my faith and my commitment to it. I have discovered a new capacity to give generously. I have met the most amazing Anglicans, heard their stories and been moved by their faithfulness. I have rejoiced in the creativity and boldness of vision of people and parishes (and yes, to be honest, occasionally disappointed by a few). I think our church is in a different place because of Our Faith-Our Hope. We have begun to re-imagine church.
I am profoundly grateful to you and the many people like you who have made and are making a difference in our world because of your faith in Jesus Christ. And I am especially grateful to the lay leaders and clergy in our diocese who took the initiative and rose to it so graciously.
The campaign is now officially concluded, but the allocations continue and the mission God invites us to share is still on our doorsteps. As my first paragraph noted, this was not the first financial campaign, nor will it be the last – the work of the Church is not over. Let us continue onwards in faith and in hope.