Category Archives: Congregational Development Archive

The Coming Tidal Wave of Pastoral Departures

by Laura Stephens-Reed, Clergy & Congregational Coach (

reprinted with the permission of the author

[Note: when I originally posted this piece on my blog, I realized that few ministers would feel free to share it themselves. If it resonates, I hope that judicatory leaders, laypeople, and others who support you might have passed it along on your behalf.]

There are many ways I could describe the past six months, but I’m going with “revealing.” The pandemic has clarified systemic issues related to a broken healthcare system, racial inequities, lack of leadership at almost every level (governmental and denominational), and inefficient infrastructure for responding to crises. Specifically, though, I am thinking about how all the shifts prompted by Covid-19 have uncovered how unsustainable ministry is for so many pastors in their current contexts.


Re-opening, and Possibly Re-closing, Presbyterian Churches

by Fred Stewart, General Presbyter with the Presbytery of West Toronto

I have had the opportunity to speak to many of you about your reopening plans for your church buildings. Sessions have created a variety of strategies largely based on the different circumstances of their congregations.  A lot of planning and debate has accompanied these strategies. As a result, some congregations have already opened for worship with protocols in place. Some are planning on opening soon. Some are waiting for what they consider a safer time.

However, the last week and a bit have significantly changed the risk factors in many parts of Canada, especially in the neighbourhoods of some of our churches.


The Election of Elders During Covid-19 Restrictions

The election of elders is an important aspect of our congregational life, and is one we don’t want to put on hold until we can return fully to our church buildings. As the pandemic has continued from weeks to months a number of people have asked me how they might undertake the election of elders in these times. It is helpful to know that the process of holding an election is relatively easy to adapt, however the actual act of ordination becomes a little more complicated.


New Limits on Gatherings for Ontario (Updated Sept. 19)

Greetings friends,

You may have already heard that the province of Ontario has rolled back gathering limits to ten people for indoor social gatherings and 25 people for outdoor social gatherings. The entire article regarding these changes can be found here:

We are writing to clarify that this does not apply to congregational worship. We have received an announcement from the Anglican Diocese of Toronto which clarifies this. It says: “It is important to note that the government announcement regarding unmonitored personal social gatherings does not apply to churches. Worship services will continue to be at 30% capacity.”  

We realize this is all a moving target these days, so please know that we will endeavour to pass on what we learn ASAP.

Blessings, JP and Tori

The Trouble With Technology

Last week I received an article from a colleague entitled The Coming Tidal Wave of Pastoral Departures by Laura Stephens-Reed. The article can be found here and I commend it to your reading:

There is much to learn in the article, but one paragraph in particular stood out:

“Prior to the pandemic, a significant number of my clergy coachees and colleagues were working under unrealistic expectations, whether those came from their congregations or from their own internal “shoulds.” And then, mid-Lent, they had to change the ways they did nearly everything – and fast. They became not just preachers but tech experts with all that entails: recording, editing, sound mixing, lighting, inviting people to and teaching them how to participate in and managing online meetings, exploring the most accessible social media platforms, and monitoring cyber security.”


More Than Worship: Re-Starting Other On-Site Church Activities

Almost all of the Province of Ontario has now moved to stage three of reopening. Unfortunately, while there is a great deal of information available for businesses, there is much less information available for worshipping communities. This article is an attempt to synthesize what we do know from the documents that are available to us.  

In stage three, indoor gatherings are now permitted. Places of worship are not explicitly named, but, convention centres, libraries and other public places are, making me believe that churches can carefully reopen to other non-worship activities under these current rules. This could include congregational activities, committee meetings, bible studies and other gatherings, as well as church rentals.


Leadership During COVID – Pruning for Growth

Recently the Ontario government gave churches permission to reopen for worship. I have not tried to keep a list of those congregations who have reopened, but it seems that the majority are content to remain closed at least until September. At least one congregation that I know of has already determined that they won’t open until December 1, 2020 at the earliest.

Likewise, most congregants seem to be in no rush to re-enter their buildings. This is particularly true of older and younger generations. Thus, it seems that many of us will be worshipping remotely for the foreseeable future.

It appears to me that most of us have been focussing on the resumption of worship, however, as we do begin to think about re-entering our buildings I would like to consider some other aspects of congregational life and leadership.


When and How Will Your Church Re-Open? (Updated – June 10, 2020)

This week, the Ontario government moved to Phase 2 of re-opening the province in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. On June 12, 2020 additional businesses and services are allowed to re-open with appropriate social distancing protocols in place. This re-opening will be phased in with areas outside the GTA and the Greater Hamilton area opening first. The date for re-opening the GTA and Greater Hamilton areas has not yet been determined.  

However, it appears that places of worship throughout in the province will be able to open this weekend provided that the buildings are filled to no more than 30% of capacity and with physical distancing protocols in place.

Read more

“Put On Your Oxygen Mask First”: Self-Care During a Pandemic

“Put on your own oxygen mask first.”

If you have ever travelled on an airplane you know the root of this phrase. On an airplane it means that in an emergency you can’t physically care for others if you don’t care for yourself first.

In March I first addressed the issue of self-care, assuming we would be at this COVID thing for two or three weeks; Easter at the latest. Here we are, week twelve, having celebrated Maundy Thursday,  Good Friday, Easter, Pentecost and now Trinity Sunday all under social distancing. Tori’s and my supervisory committee have told us that we aren’t to travel until at least the end of September and I am mentally preparing for the fact that many of us will not be back into our churches until 2021 at the earliest and even then, worship will be dramatically different than it was.

So what does this all mean?