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01
 
Bishop's Letter to the Parish
Posted on 23-08-2015

Diocese of Eastern Newfoundland and Labrador

Anglican Church of Canada

 

 

The Right Reverend Dr. Geoff Peddle, M.Div., Ph.D.                         ANGLICAN DIOCESAN CENTRE

Bishop of Eastern Newfoundland and Labrador                                                      19 King’s Bridge Road

                                                                                                                               St. John’s, NL  A1C 3K4

                                                                                                                          Telephone:  (709) 576-6697

                                                                                                                                                                                                                               

 

August 15, 2015

 

Anglican Parish of the Good Shepherd

111 Richard Nolan Drive, P.O. Box 428, 
Mount Pearl, NL, Canada A1N 2C4

 

 

My Dear People,

            I greet you in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ!

            My purpose in writing to you is to thank you for the letter I received on June 15 from your Parish Wardens, Donna Ronan and Claudia Long, in response to my invitation at Diocesan Synod in May of 2014. At that time, in what I called a “State of the Union Address,” I invited parishes to write me a letter in which they considered three questions. I understand that your Parish Vestry did considerable work on this at a recent meeting and were asked to write down their thoughts. The letter I received also states that the Vestry is “very representative of our congregation” ... comprising “those who have only recently joined our parish, as well as those who have been there from its inception, and all stages in between. Youth and young families are represented, as are ‘mid-aged’ people and seniors, and there is a balance of gender representation.” I commend all who were involved in this conversation. Your letter to me is both thoughtful and creative in its use of language with personal stories and photographs of children’s messages to God.

I apologize that it has taken me so long to respond but the day your letter arrived was the beginning of a month-long period of study and prayer for me and I was intentionally delaying my reply until August. The questions I asked were presented in this way:

 

 

Acknowledging your membership in the Body of Christ,

-What is the most important part of your congregation or parish’s story?

-What is the most important change that has taken place in your congregation or parish in the past five years?

-What is the most important change that needs to take place in your congregation or parish in the next five years?

 

           

 

 

With respect to the first question (What is the most important part of your congregation or parish’s story?) I was not at all surprised to read the following: “This young parish has experienced tumultuous times and pain in its twenty-nine year history, more than any parish should face in a lifetime. The fact that a strong backbone of the congregation has, with support and help, managed to pull through the darkness and move forward, is a clear sign of the Holy Spirit working amongst us and within us.”

In so many ways these sentences contain your “first story” almost perfectly. I remember the struggles of your past and affirm the great change that has happened in your community through that pain. But you are a parish with two distinct stories to tell. Some time ago, when I was with you as Rector I spoke of how brokenness can enable transformation in deep ways and I am convinced that is true for you in ways that all of us are only now able to see. And even this is only a glimpse of what is to come. I also note that this section of your letter is by far the shortest of the three as if you are saying: “yes, we recognize the pain of the past and we affirm it, but that is no longer our story and we are writing a new story with God.”

 

With respect to the second question (What is the most important change that has taken place in your congregation or parish in the past five years?) your letter outlines many new developments that continue to unfold in special ways. This is the longest part of your response to me (nearly three pages of your five-page letter!), suggesting to me the importance of this question for you. You did not limit your response to discussing one change but included a host of changes in every area of your parish life. Here you write, in part, as follows:

 

The conscious efforts to make our Church a welcoming and inviting place continue. The focus on children and youth has been significant and beautiful to witness. The opening [of] our doors, and our land, to the community has been inspirational and fulfilling. When asked the most important part of our parish’s story two vestry members wrote, we have “a sense of ‘togetherness’ within the ‘church’ and within ourselves”, and a “growing pride amongst the congregation over what we stand for ... projecting it out in the community.” Their comments sum up the great change that has taken place. All of this has helped this parish refocus on our parish mission, and to become a strong and guiding support in God’s world.

 

My personal knowledge of the Parish of the Good Shepherd is deep and comes from not only being your Rector (and now your Bishop) but from also working and living in the City of Mount Pearl for 20 years now. I am struck in this section by the number of very positive words and phrases that are used to describe the parish and its life and ministry. They include such words as “welcoming and inviting”, “beautiful to witness”, “inspirational and fulfilling”, “togetherness”, “growing pride”, and “parish mission.” The language we choose to describe our work and ministry as God’s People is always deliberate and I am encouraged by the language you choose for it reflects a positive and progressive energy.

In this section you also state that none of the changes happened by accident but were the result of thoughtful choice by your leadership. I strongly affirm the following sentence from your letter: “The Vestry survey highlighted many of these areas, noting specifically the introduction and positive reception of Godly Play, the re-establishment of our youth group, the vibrant Café ministry that has become so much a part of who we are, and the establishment of our labyrinth and park area.” Here, you have identified what I believe are two themes that comprise your primary identity today and they are ministry to youth and children, and hospitality and outreach beyond your core community. The Parish of the Good Shepherd has become a community where the smallest, the weakest, the stranger, and the searcher find nurture and safety. In actively creating that space you are drawing very close to the Kingdom of God.

Your willingness to pour so much of your life into the world around you and not focus only upon your own needs has been a blessing to all. Just as you have been blessed, you have also become a blessing. You have correctly identified the value of community partnerships as you move into the future. This is a matter close to my heart and I regard it as so important that at our next Diocesan Synod in 2016 I have asked the delegates to engage in some serious work around “the church beyond the church.” This section of your letter is quite extensive and lists so many new and exciting initiatives that I will not include them all here. It is quite amazing for me to realize just how much has been accomplished in such a short time. Wherever people of good will and faith come together with God great things really do happen. I am grateful that you continue to pioneer new initiatives like the Bishop’s Challenge that arose entirely from within your parish community. And what inspires me most of all in your good work is that you remain so outward looking in all that you do. I am reminded as I read your letter of what Jesus tells us in John’s Gospel, “As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” You have clearly heard those words from Jesus. Our Primate has reminded us that “It is not the church that has a mission; it is God’s mission that has a church.” Thank you for being that kind of church.

 

With respect to the third question (What is the most important change that needs to take place in your congregation or parish in the next five years?) your letter named ministry to youth and young families as vital in the future. And you are not content to rest on your laurels for you write as follows: “While we feel we have made great strides with this, it is recognized that this is just the first step. It would certainly be our intent to build on what we have now established, and we look forward to finding new ways to engage children, youth and families in our parish life.” This is what I have frequently characterized as “moving from strength to strength in the fellowship of the Gospel and in the power of the Holy Spirit” and you embody that well. As I write this response to your letter I find myself preparing for a pastoral visit on Sunday, August 16, for the blessing of your new Community Garden! 

In this section you also clearly identify the challenge of your physical space limitations and it is here that I challenge you to address this proactively and creatively in the immediate future. Of all the parishes in this diocese today, it is the Parish of the Good Shepherd that is most in need of increased and enhanced space. It is time to move forward on this so that all of your ministries are enabled as fully as possible. In this I also challenge you to include a dedicated Godly Play space so that the weekly work of setting things up and taking them down will no longer be needed. I am confident that your Visioning Committee will inspire you to new heights (and new depths!) of ministry. You tie together the challenge before you quite well when you speak of the process “lead[ing] us as we minister to each other, to the community, and to the world with God’s light shining behind us, with us and ahead of us.” Your closing words to me were appreciated – “Thank you again for challenging us to think about our parish this way” – and echo the words of your first paragraph: “Thank you for challenging us to reflect on the past and build for the future.” I hope and pray that more and more of our parishes will do the work that you have done.

 

In reflecting upon this letter I want to acknowledge the tremendous support the Diocese of Eastern Newfoundland and Labrador and I as Diocesan Bishop have received from the Parish of the Good Shepherd. You are a beloved community to me and I know that I am among friends when I visit with you and indeed Kathy and I remain members of the parish. As a community of faith, you have demonstrated consistently that you do not live just for yourselves but very much for others.

It is a privilege for me as Bishop to know that the Parish of the Good Shepherd embraces a rich, creative, and inspiring ministry in our Diocese and, to quote St. Paul in his letter to a beloved congregation at Philippi, “I thank my God upon every remembrance of you (Philippians 1:3).”

In closing I thank your Priest, Archdeacon Charlene Taylor, and all who work closely with her in that ministry which is “yours and mine” in the service of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

 

With my every blessing upon your continued ministry in his Holy Name,

 

+Geoff

 

The Rt. Rev. Dr. Geoff Peddle 

BACK
 
 
Shepherd's Cafe
Since 2010 the Parish of the Good Shepherd has provided a community lunch free of charge every Wednesday. Known as the Shepherds Cafe, it is a ministry of hospitality and operates with volunteers and entirely on donations. view more...
 
Godly Play and Children
Ministry to children at the Parish of the Good Shepherd centers on the Godly Play method and is intended to allow children to discover God in a way that is appropriate for them. view more...
 
Our Labyrinth
A labyrinth is a sacred pattern, An ancient mystical tool, A spiritual pathway, A walking meditation. The labyrinth walk is a symbolic journey to the center of ourselves, A walk that can refresh the spirit. view more...
 
Adopt-a-Park Program
The City of Mount Pearls Adopt-A-Park Program has enabled the Parish of the Good Shepherd to assume responsibility for part of the green space around it as part of the parishs ongoing care of the environment and outreach to the wider community.view more...