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by Phyllis Thompson

Four diocesan regional gatherings were held between October 5 and October 21. The sessions had the same format and, with a few exceptions, the same presenters; all four meetings were meant to give an update on some items and to anticipate 2018 Synod.

The team facilitating each session included Synod staff members Gail Gauthier, Catherine Pate, Stephen Martin, the Venerable Brian Evans (the diocese’s new stewardship officer) and Bishop Logan McMenamie. Only at the Nimpkish gathering was the bishop absent; he was attending the funeral of Martin Hendy, a long-time and very active member of the diocese. And from the Haro & Selkirk gathering, Brian Evans was away at another meeting.

With one exception, a member of the local First Nation community was present at each meeting. Chief Michael Recalma of the Qualicum First Nation was at the Nimpkish meeting, Anthony Black of the Songhees First Nation was at the Tolmie meeting, and Elder Marvin Underwood of the Tsawout First Nation was at the Haro & Selkirk gathering. Each brought greetings; Chief Recalma and Elder Underwood also welcomed the participants to their traditional lands.

Having attended the Nimpkish meeting, I can speak to what Chief Recalma said in his welcome. He was impressed, and said it mattered that Bishop Logan, on his 2016 Lenten Sacred Journey, had asked permission to cross into the Qualicum traditional land: it was the beginning of what the chief said has become genuine growth in mutual understanding and relationship. He said it matters to acknowledge the past and look at how changes have occurred in recent years, at where we are now; it matters to share stories about our separate and different worlds and journeys — this in order that trust, openness and relationship can grow. Chief Recalma spoke graciously of how welcoming the parish of St Mark is; both he and rector, the Rev. Susan Hayward-Brown, expressed gratitude as they continue to learn what’s involved in getting to know one’s neighbours better.

As the Nimpkish meeting continued, Chief Recalma spoke about how people of the diocese can develop listening skills as we work to live out our diocesan vision together. We need to look at changes, shifts in relationship and methodology in our work as we prepare for Synod 2018. Citing what Bishop Logan had said at the Cowichan-Malaspina meeting, Gail Gauthier noted that regional gatherings “help us journey as a diocese toward a new future,” one that involves “trust-building and healing, so we can arrive prepared for Synod 2018.”

At each regional gathering, mention was made of worthwhile things that had occurred recently. Various parish-based initiatives aimed at living out the diocesan vision were cited. Group work at tables involved answering the question, “What is your parish doing currently that shows the vision at work?”

Group work continued as the Venerable Brian Evans gave his presentation on stewardship. In discussing stewardship (house-keeping), his focus wasn’t just on money. His “mantra” is to move from a "house of fear"—often over expectations, resources, numbers and success—to a "house of love." We need to remember, he suggested, “We are not a people of scarcity, but of potential. We must remember that we are loving and caring, and that the capacity to love deeply, unconditionally, releases us from fear.”

Evans said that sharing stories and creative ideas and drafting parish plans together (what he called “a narrative budget”) are helpful endeavours. He then asked a series of related questions for group work; they focused us as individuals and as members of parishes and the diocese to look at how we’ve come to consider giving, be it of money or of self, as part of our faith journey.