Reflections and Reports for our Annual Open Meeting


very year during February, we hold an open congregational meeting aimed at any and all who consider themselves a part of saint benedict’s table.  The past year is reviewed, the finances are considered, and a bit of dreaming and goal-setting is put on the table for wider consideration and discernment.  This year’s meeting takes place on Sunday February 21 at 4:00pm, followed by a supper at 5:30 and worship at 7:00.  This really is an open meeting, so if you’re interested in joining us, just contact us so that we can add you to the list for the meal.

If you keep reading here, you’ll find my refection for the year, followed by one from our music leader, Larry Campbell, and one from John Berard, our part-time ministry coordinator.  Later in the week, we’ll add a bit of a financial summary for the year.  Even if you can’t attend the meeting, these reports will give you a good sense of what all makes us tick.

Jamie Howison

Annual Reflection – February 2010 – Jamie Howison

It is an interesting challenge to sit down and to try to write a reflective review of the past year, and to have that do more than just catalogue what we’ve been up to.  It is a particular challenge to do that for a year in which we marked our 5th anniversary as an “official” mission congregation… or to count things a bit differently, in which – as of this month – we hit the seven year mark since we first gathered a group of people to talk with our bishop about planting a new worshipping community.

Some things are worth listing off, of course, and so in no particular order that is where I’ll start:

  • In January 2009 we welcomed John Berard on board as a new part time staff person, with responsibility for planning, implementing and coordinating some of the ministry activity that happens in the life of saint benedict’s table
  • In March 2009, we held our first ever congregational weekend event, held at Camp Cedarwood.
  • In November 2009 we hosted a series of well-attended events with the writer and new monastic Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove.  Sometime over the coming months, the recordings of these events will be made available in CD form, which will hopefully reignite some of the conversations Jonathan initiated with us.
  • Over the entire year, a group of us worked away at our soon-to-be-released book and CD project, Beautiful Mercy | A Book of Hours. And let me tell you, no one worked harder than Bram Ryan.

Those are just the few things that get the bullet points… how about the beginning of the “Theology in the Dark” series, the publication of our Book for Lent (wonderfully illustrated by Helen Lyons), and our first ever quiet retreat at St Benedict’s Monastery, to say nothing of the various things that continued to happen and unfold in the day to day, week to week life of the church?  Surf around the archives section of the website, and you’ll quickly get the picture.

But again, cataloguing is not the same as reflecting.  And none of it really touches the defining thing that we do, namely to gather Sunday by Sunday – and to borrow a great line from Robert Farrar Capon – “to celebrate the Holy Mysteries… to taste and see how gracious the inveterately hospitable Lord is.”

The number of people who come out on Sunday night to celebrate and to “taste and see” with us has grown, but numerical growth is not the same thing as maturing or becoming more seasoned.  Numbers alone come with a particular kind of challenge, and one that can leave some people feeling lost in the shuffle.   And maybe it is a bit of seasoning – a bit of growing up or growing deep – that is our most serious piece of agenda for the coming year.

Part of that will happen through some explorations around having an alternative worship gathering twice a month at 4:00pm on Sunday afternoon.  These gatherings will start on March 14, and continue on the 2nd and 4th Sunday of each month through to the end of May.  While we’re doing this with the parents of young children and babies in view, we are not interested in starting a “kids’ church” as such; rather we are adding an option for anyone for whom that time might be more workable than 7:00pm.  After we’ve done this for a few months, we’ll sit down again and look at how things have gone and if we want to again start up with this model in the autumn.

But really, that still doesn’t directly address the core issue of growth and maturation.  A big part of the challenge for me, as the community priest, will be to see how my own practice of pastoral leadership can shift a bit, without losing sight of the things that actually define who and what I am.  We are going to do a formal ministry evaluation of my work (as well as that of John Berard and Larry Campbell), and I’m also seeking some outside support and resources to help me to discern the shape of my ministry here over the coming years.

I will also be taking an eight-week sabbatical leave in January/February 2011.  I have received a study grant from the Louisville Institute, which will allow me to spend that time pursuing a project related to the area of popular culture and theological inquiry, and specifically the music and vision of jazz musician John Coltrane.  While at first glance such work might seem a bit of a tangent from the questions I’m asking in this report about leadership and the church, in fact the opportunity to do a sustained piece of theological work is pretty central to the work of ministry.  The sabbatical will coincide with the beginning of my seventh year as full-time pastoral leader at saint benedict’s table.

Needless to say, leaders don’t lead in a vacuum.  The issues that I’ve flagged in this reflection are actually community issues, and they come down to one real and pressing question:  how do we carry the organic and creative energy of these first five years into our next five?  The next five years will see us needing to structure ourselves a bit more intentionally, yet in a way that doesn’t block new initiatives but rather shares them and sets them free to happen.   Put differently, what kind of structure is needed so that we can “put wheels” on good ideas, fresh initiatives and pressing ministry needs?  And how do we ensure that the pressing ministry needs that are closest to us¾those of the local neighborhood, the Agape Table community, and the student population of the University of Winnipeg for instance¾are kept in view?

And how do we keep having fun doing it all?  Maybe the idea of “growing up”  or maturing isn’t such a great one, if that means we risk losing a sense of delight in the things that we do together.  And after all, Jesus did seem to think that the culmination of the spiritual life was marked by something that looked awfully childlike (Mark 9:13-16). Maybe it really is a case of “growing deeper,” rather than of growing up.

So this is really going to need to be a collaborative affair, drawing on the insights, gifts and passions of many; setting free those very insights, gifts and passions, so that we can do the work of the reign of God in the here and now, in our city, our community, and our various back-yards… even if that “back-yard” happens to be the world wide web.  This will call for a considerable and shared stewardship of time, talents, and finances, and it will place a claim on our courage and our imaginations.

But be mindful of the words with which we conclude our liturgy during many of the seasons of the year (words drawn directly from Ephesians 3:20-21):

Glory to God,
whose power working in us
can do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine.

It ultimately isn’t our work, or at least not ours alone. Not only that, it is and always has been much bigger than this age, this context, this congregation:

Glory to God from generation to generation,
in the Church and in Christ Jesus,
for ever and ever. Amen.

Amen indeed.

Jamie Howison

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Report for The Annual Open Meeting – Larry Campbell

Being part of the music at saint benedict’s table has been an amazing experience for me and, by all accounts, the other members of the music teams as well.  We have been blessed by not only the number of people who have stepped up to be involved in the music at sbt, but the number of talented and gifted musicians and singers participating in the various teams.

The process we follow for people who approach us to be part of the music is to ask them to worship with us for about 9 or 10 months.  The reason for this is two-fold.  First, it gives them time to be part of the congregation and to get an idea of how we do worship at saint ben’s.  The second reason is connected to the first in that, as people participate in the worship life at our church, the congregation gets to know them and visa versa.  When it comes time for them to help in the leading of worship, the congregation knows them and there is hopefully a level of trust.  There have been a couple of exceptions to this but generally this is the way people have entered into leading worship.

Following is a list of the many people involved in worship music and the various parts they play:

  • We have several people who have stepped up to provide leadership in worship at saint benedict’s.  They are Al Fehr, Lyndon James, Gord Johnson, Robert Burton, and myself.  Jaylene Johnson and Alana Levandosky have agreed to lead once in a while when they are available.  (Gord and Robert have stepped back for a time but I have included their contribution here to recognize the work they have done. We hope they will take up this important role with us sometime in the future.)
  • We have five excellent piano players.  They are Al Fehr, Lyndon James, Trish Vrolijk, Jaylene Johnson, and Rachel Penner.
  • There are many that play guitar.  Mike Koop, Davis Plett, Brad Vrolijk, Gord Johnson, and Robert Burton, and myself.
  • Percussionists Bobby Hobson and Jeremiah Heinrichs hold down most of the rhythm in our groups, with others providing some percussion when needed (or they just like to play).
  • We have three bass players; Tim Plett, Charles Garinger, and myself.
  • A new addition to our roster is our trumpet player, Andrew Colman.
  • The vocalists are Catherine Pate, Jodi McLaren, Aimee Lane, Trish Vrolijk, Jaylene Johnson, Charles Garinger, Mike Koop, Bobby Hobson, Tim Plett, Krista Wiebe, Al Fehr, Lyndon James, Gord Johnson, and myself.

We have different groups that provide opportunity for leadership and also offer a place for those joining us to plug in.  We’ve named them for our own enjoyment and as a means of communicating who is playing when.

  • The Multitude of Sins, lead my Mike Koop, has the feel of a rootsy band that plays everything from Bob Dylan to Blind Willie Johnson.
  • Grade One (formerly called Grade Three, but it sounds better don’t you think?) is lead by Lyndon James.  Lyndon leads worship with a mixture of chants and spirituals.
  • Al Fehr leads another worship group by the name of Tattered Habits.  Al’s brings a sensitivity in his choice of material and artful presentation.
  • Not enough can be said about Gord Johnson’s contribution to the worship at saint ben’s.  His prolific writing has given us the words to speak the deepest parts of our hearts.  We have learned much about contemplation and silence through Gord’s leadership, and look forward to his return.
  • The two groups I lead are Ruckus and The Traveling Bill Murrays.  We try to provide some typically contemplative songs along with new songs and new arrangements of some older, well known hymns.

We have had some opportunities to lead worship outside saint benedict’s table during this last year.

  • Gord was asked to join Jamie for the national Christian Church Press conference worship sessions.
  • Gord also joined Jamie in leading the clergy conference for the Anglican Diocese of Montreal this past fall.
  • Jamie was asked to give a presentation of the ministry at saint benedict’s table in Edmonton for the delegates at the Provincial Synod in June.  I went along to lead some worship and give an example of what the music at saint ben’s is like.

As we look to this coming year there are a couple things that appear on our radar.

The first is in response to the many requests we have received for sheet music.   We need to figure out some way of responding to these requests.  There are two possibilities, one being individual sheet music for our more-often-asked-for songs, and the other being to develop a song book with lyrics and music.

The second wonderful surprise to pop up on the horizon is yet another expression of worship at saint benedict’s table.  Over our last retreat we were blessed to experience a sung/chanted liturgy that we are going to introduce to our worship.  If this is we received we will probably insert it into our regular scheduling cycle.

This is much for which to anticipate and to thank God.

Larry Campbell

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annual meeting  year-end general review – John Berard

At the time that saint benedict’s table drafted this one-day-a-week position, it was described as a collaborative effort working alongside Jamie and other leaders within sbt with a view to coordination of and development of expressions of ministry outside that of the formal worship experience.

Of the many different things I was involved in these past months one particular feature has anchored  them , and that is the collaborative nature of the work and the back-and-forth that goes on between Jamie, Larry and myself, as well as with Audrey, who keeps us all and many others on schedule.  That has been a particularly good experience as we have continued to unpack the ministry and work of this position.

Involvement in various activities and projects continues to shape the focus of the coordination and development work. Projects such as the Lenten book, the Book of Hours project and book launch, and the CD compilation project from the Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove weekend have involved growing levels of involvement. As the possibility of more of these types of creative projects and outlets grows so does the need for bringing people together in the process and that’s where some of my work will continue to grow over this next year.

While the summer was not very summer-like we did have another year with the Gardening project at St. Benedicts Monastery with a committed group of gardeners from our community. And the harvest, while not stellar, did bring in fresh garden produce as part of our ongoing support of Agape Table. Other involvements included leading one of the Rivendell House contemplative days, the Lenten series, and working with a planning group for the Cedarwood retreat weekends.

Assisting Jamie with what we currently offer and thinking about other expressions of ministry that might emerge from who we are is a part of this position as well. From finding a new location for Theology by the Glass to discussing article possibilities, to working collaboratively with a planning group about ideaExchange presenters and themes to contacting the roster and getting it in place. And at the same time watching, listening and talking with others, the Wardens and the Kitchen Table to identify other expressions of ministry that we might try. Theology in the Dark is one such new expression and a fine winter complement to the Theology by the Glass series.

There are other duties and related meetings that are typical of and that come with a position such as this, like being available during the times when Jamie is away. In addition to these this next year will involve continued collaboration on various creative projects, coordination of the range of ministry activities that emerge from sbt, and as the occasions arise the development of new ministry initiatives and expressions that support the community of sbt and encourages the use of community gifts.

Respectfully submitted,

john berard

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