By Rick Jones
Published: February 2007
Related Topics: Parish News
It had been a long and difficult congregational meeting discussing the future of the small Hamilton Mountain Parish. The options for the future were very limited and everyone was feeling sadness or anger or disappointment. A break-through came when a long time older member of the parish broke the silence and said, "It seems to me we have a choice before us, we have tried our best and have nothing to be ashamed of, we belong to a big C church not just a little c church, we can walk out of this building, which we love, with our heads held high. It's the people and the community that's really important!" That vision of the big C church and of community and cooperation with others carried the day. The congregation went on to successfully amalgamate with another mountain parish, taking with them all their amazing gifts of community, spirituality and all their ministries. The new amalgamated parish has blossomed with the infusion of all these gifts and is healthy and growing.
Amalgamation of parishes has been the biggest congregational news of the past six years. Beginning on the Hamilton Mountain, St. Augustine's merged with St. Michael's, St. Bartholomew's and St. Timothy's became the new Church of the Resurrection. Christ Church St. Catharine's merged with the Transfiguration, Port Colborne has seen the amalgamation of St. Brendan's and St. James. In Hamilton and Stoney Creek we have seen Grace Church and St. Mary's come together in the past year, and now Our Saviour and the Redeemer are amalgamating. In Niagara Falls, Hamilton and other areas, less formal realignments of parishes have taken place, with groups of Anglicans from disestablished parishes making commitments to more established ones.
The initial results of all these amalgamations have been very encouraging. In no way can we minimize the grief and pain that comes with leaving a sacred church home and disrupting a community, however the vision of new possibilities with others has inspired congregations to move through the pain into the future. One feature of the new amalgamated congregations is that Sunday morning attendance has been greater than the sum of the attendance at the former parishes. Attendance at worship is not the only measure of a congregation's health but there is something happening now on Sunday morning that is attracting others. In the case of the Resurrection, Hamilton, attendance doubled in the first three years.
A similar trend is emerging with the others. Canon Bill Thomas reports that as soon as Grace and St. Mary's joined together attendance increased beyond the expected faithful of the former parishes. Pt. Colborne is seeing renewal. The new rector Rob Hurkmans reports that the congregations are coming together to reorganize their many gifts into five key areas of congregational life under the new vision of "Sharing Life."
One of the many benefits has been that a men's group ministry started at the former St. Brendan's is growing with members from the former St. James. Youth ministry has been renewed and the parish is looking to a bright future with many initiatives underway. There are many stories that can be told of the sharing of gifts in these new parishes. Sometimes they are very tangible. St. Augustine's brought with them financial resources that made a new parish kitchen possible at St. Michael's. Christ Church, St. Catharine's has made a similar positive financial impact on their new home at the Transfiguration.
As this is being written, our newest amalgamation of Our Saviour and the Redeemer, is working with Canon Michael Patterson on an exciting new ministry plan that couldn't have been conceived of by either parish independently....
Your donation will help us thrust the Niagara Anglican into the future - communicating the Gospel and the good news of our Anglican tradition to generations to come.