Report on Collaborative Ministry Workshop, April 27, 2023

Obviously, friends, this is a very timely issue. There were 32 people on line, and lively discussion took place about collaborative ministry. The time opened with worship led by Elizabeth Cunningham, found in printed outline on the UCRMN website. To begin, short presentations were made by Doug Brown, who participated in the Bruce United Church Cooperative from 2014 to 2017, and by Elizabeth Cunningham, who serves presently with United Community Ministry (UCM) which has been in existence since 2018 in East Central Ontario. You can read their reports of their ministries on the UCRMN website, on Collaborative Ministry Resource Page.

Elizabeth ended her report with some pertinent questions: “Is collaborative ministry a glorified palliative ministry? Do the churches join a collaborative as a last gasp, a ‘do this or die’ resolution? Or do churches join because they are excited to be part of something different but risky, that just might provide an answer to the church that is struggling to find a way forward? Will collaboratives last longer than a few years? How many clergy are out there that find this to be their ‘cup of tea’? Or is it, as someone said, a good way to burn out a good minister?”

These questions stimulated more. The recorded discussion is found on the website, and below is the discussion that came from the Chat.

How did you maintain healthy boundaries around time for yourself as ministry personnel?

Does collaborative require Ordered clergy? There was a healthy discussion here about the ministry of all believers, and if we have become a clergy dominated church, to our detriment. Then a number of examples were put forward of instances without ‘benefit of clergy’. A) We have collaborative ministries that have no ministry personnel or are in search for a ministry personnel also. B) we have collaborative ministries that use HUB technology through Rural Connect also. C) We have several lay led congregations who manage worship well with LLWL’s and leadership from the congregation using UCC resources

We are a small group that has a healthy bank balance due to sale of our former church building. Our potential partner is less financially sound at present. How do we “share the wealth” and steward our resources at the same time? (This question stimulated a discussion on sharing time, financial commitments and worship between communities). Collaborative agreements are unique to each situation so one congregation can help subsidize the other. The hours are not carved in stone, if they were we’d be in deep trouble, but they also honour what each congregation is able to provide financially.

Antler River Watershed, Horseshoe Falls and Western Ontario Waterways have resources in our congregational support toolkit including an inventory that helps congregations identify the assets they can bring to the collaboration. Everyone is welcome to use these resources. Toolkit 9:

Some time was spent discussing the discrepancies across the country as far as LLWL’s were concerned.

John Neff, on staff with Western Ontario Waterways Region said, “When I facilitate a gathering about collaborative ministry I always say “It can be as simple or comprehensive as you want. If you can imagine it, we will support making it a reality.” Thank you! Reach out to your Regional Council staff with your hopes and ideas.

The participants expressed satisfaction with the discussion, and interest in more discussion about issues like this.

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