Fall has arrived, and as summer fades into the background, the Ecclesiastical Province of Ontario has gotten back into the swing of in-person meetings after two and a half years of being on hiatus. The provincial College of Bishops, diocesan executive officers, our Synod Council and the Ontario Provincial Commission on Theological Education (OPCOTE) have all met in September to not only set their priorities for the rest of the triennium but also to review the work done over the two years when we were online only. While our fall meetings have now concluded, the provincial work continues as we move into the colder months.
A significant part of this upcoming and continuing work includes discussions and action plans that came out of a provincial conference that took place this past June. “Calling and Forming Priests for Tomorrow’s Church: Pathways to Partnership” included two days of discussions and work that looked at the process of vocational discernment. It’s been more than a decade since the last vocations conference of this significance was held in the ecclesiastical province.
The conference brought together individuals who assist others in their process of vocational discernment, formation and education. It included our provincial College of Bishops, Primate Linda Nicholls, theological educators, most executive officers, diocesan members and members of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada. It was a meeting of the Church and those in theological education. Archbishop Anne Germond, our metropolitan, clearly stated the need for this conference, saying that “it is imperative that our province takes the time and expends the energy to do the work that will encourage and excite those whom God is calling to ordained ministry in these current times. It is equally critical for us to ensure that all ordained leaders, called by the Church, are prepared, supported, confident and excited about the challenges that are before us as we embrace the mission of God in our respective dioceses and regions.”
While the conference was delayed by two years due to the pandemic, this was a blessing in disguise. The delay allowed participants to discuss and assess the significant changes in the Anglican Church and its ministries that occurred during the pandemic shutdown. Many of these changes will be in place long after the pandemic ends and wouldn’t have been part of the conversation if the gathering had occurred at its original time. Outside-the-box thinking, being adaptive and quick to address change, and meeting the unexpected challenges of a global health threat became part of the conference dialogue.
Participants discussed discipleship and vocational discernment, intensive and extended formation and education programs, life-long learning, and other matters relevant to a vocational call. It was clear that preparing ordained leaders is different now compared to even a few years ago. Focusing on the formation of all the baptized, “incubator” parishes and other contexts that raise potential candidates, along with the importance of healthy mentoring and prayer, were highlighted. The meeting ended with the creation of action plans so there are next steps, not just talk.
Further to the vocations conference, the Ecclesiastical Province of Ontario also continues its work on its eldercare mandate. The eldercare team is building and gathering resources for both senior care and advocacy, so parishes and individuals can find the guidance they need. Resources will be available on the provincial web page soon. There will be other resources to enhance advocacy for seniors once the care and support ones are in place.
The seven dioceses of our province also continue to work together to support each other in the areas of Safe Church and pandemic response. The chancellors, executive officers and bishops have regular meetings to strengthen relationships and support between the dioceses. There is a realization that nurturing provincial relationships and sharing gifts builds a stronger Church that is well equipped to do ministry in a world that can change quickly. Learning to adapt and share resources is necessary, and the dioceses want to continue to enhance this ability.
More planning and work will happen as we move into the winter months. Updates will be posted on the provincial website (www.province-ontario.anglican.ca) if you’re interested in our provincial council notes or want to find updates on the work underway. We’re always open to any questions or suggestions that people may have about our ministry, and we look forward to continuing our provincial work into 2023.
The Ecclesiastical Province of Ontario comprises the dioceses of Algoma, Huron, Moosonee, Niagara, Ottawa, Ontario and Toronto.