As stated earlier in the introduction, it is wise to begin consideration of shared or collaborative ministry by dispensing with second-hand stories heard and assumptions made about such endeavours, and communicating first-hand with those who are involved in one. Their experiences can be helpful in fashioning a process for setting up such a ministry and in exploring different models of shared ministry. Lists of existing shared ministries across Canada can be obtained from denominational national offices. A step-by-step process is outlined in the Collaborative Ministries Guidelines of the Joint Anglican Lutheran Commission (appendix).
1. Congregational consensus
- Identify the ministry needs in your community.
- Obtain a demographic profile for your area. One source for a comprehensive profile is: Rev. Philip Hink, Director of Canadian Missions, ELCIC Synod of Alberta and the Territories, 16014 – 81 Avenue, Edmonton, AB T6E 1W8. E-mail [email protected]. Phone 780-439-2636. FAX 780-462-5838. (Cost: $25.00)
- Have congregational discussion on the need for and type of ministry.
- Have some joint worship services.
- All congregations involved in a proposed shared ministry should individually agree to become a part of such a ministry according to the process appropriate to their particular denomination.
- A covenant should include a willingness to cooperate ecumenically with the other congregations involved, an openness to using new ways of worship and service as well as different forms of congregational organization and governance, and an acceptance of a fair proportional share of the financial needs of the new ministry. These will be specified in a congregational plan (see #5 below).
- View video A Love Story available from the Prairie Centre for Ecumenism (dated, but the issues are still relevant).
2. Judicatory Awareness and Support
From the very beginning of a move toward shared ministry, the judicatory of each participating congregation must be involved. Anglicans and Lutherans: local bishop. Presbyterians and United Church: presbytery. Support for such a venture must be forthcoming from these judicatories if the process is to continue. Only those congregations that receive permission from their judicatories to proceed should continue exploring the possibility of shared ministry.
3. Communication with all Concerned
Throughout the whole process every effort must be made to ensure that all parties concerned in the discussions, local, regional and national, are kept informed. When a shared ministry is established continuing communication among the judicatories and the congregation is indispensable.
4. Some Concerns to be Addressed
- An appropriate board structure to suit the particular congregation and denominations involved.
- Financial arrangements that are accepted as fair by all. Consideration should be given to proportional responsibility based on numbers of supporting households and ability to pay.
- Personnel required. Processes available through the participating denominations, such as the Joint Needs Assessment of the United Church, might be employed and followed carefully to determine the number and type of personnel needed.
- Worship format and sacramental practices that are meaningful and acceptable to the new congregation. The possibility of alternating formats for a trial period to explore different possibilities may be helpful.
- Denominational responsibilities – the congregations to their denominations and the denominations to their congregations. It should be clarified from the beginning what demands will be made by the denominations involved upon the minister(s) and the denominational members in terms of time commitments, financial obligations, appointments to judicatories, etc. The expectations of the congregations on their denominations should also be clear from the beginning, particularly in terms of authority to administer the sacraments and conduct worship, financial support, supervision, pastoral care, etc.
- A Christian Education structure that will provide opportunities for Christian development for all people in the congregation. Developing such a structure should include, besides church school and midweek children and youth programs, consideration of including children in the worship services as part of their Christian development, and providing study groups for adults.
- Adequate preparation for clergy before undertaking the shared ministry, and through continuing education regularly thereafter.
5. Ecumenical Shared Ministry Plan to Include
- The nature of the covenant relationship
- Pastoral leadership needed and how it is chosen/determined
- How the ministry is reviewed
- Standing of the minister and lay representatives of the congregation in the structures of the respective denominations
- How worship style is determined – honouring traditions – familiarity with resources
- Special services of worship to be held including anniversaries acknowledged by all involved
- Development of a common installation/covenanting service to mark a new ministry
- Process for choosing liturgies for baptisms, weddings, funerals etc.
- A way of everyone involved recognizing confirmations/church membership
- A financial plan appropriate to the nature of the partnership
- How assets such as buildings and memorials are to be shared
- Means and handling of financial support for local, denominational mission funds, etc. – recording of offerings through envelopes or preauthorized remittance (PAR), issuing of charitable receipts, developing a sense of stewardship
- How denominational records are kept
- The kind of governing board to be used, how it is set up, how it can be developed
- A method of orientation for both lay and clergy to start, and newcomers after initial orientation
- A withdrawal clause including terms