Workshops 2014

Workshops at the Rural Ministry Symposium

A. Learning the Stories of Your Congregation and Community

We will consider together the questions to ask and how to train the heart to be a “third ear” as we listen for the congregation’s answers. We will practice the art of being fully present to the other, not just hearing the story of your congregation and community, but discovering/uncovering/establishing your role, your place in the story – as a companion and a guide on the faith walk.

The Rev. Dr. Linda Bell is recently retired from 38 years of active ministry in the Presbyterian Church in Canada, choosing to serve in rural and multiple point charges for 18 years and a small town, single point for 20. She has been a consultant in rural and remote ministries within the denomination, as well as a keynote speaker at ecumenical events on ministry in rural settings. She loves story telling and story listening.

B. Long Term Pastorates

The workshop will be in a conversational model with some lecture—do’s and don’ts mostly—about staying in a place long term and about the issues surrounding transition when it is time to leave.

The Rev. Mark Pierce is an ordained Elder in the United Methodist Church who has served in rural/small village churches his entire ministry. At the end of June 2014 he will have been under appointment in the Lake and River Parish—a rural/small village three point charge—for nineteen years. He lives with his wife Kathleen in Cape Vincent N.Y.

C. Missional Worship in the Rural Setting

This seminar will summarize and explore some of the basic tenets of thinking within the Missional movement. Then it will unpack how these might lead the church to rethink the way it understands, plans, and participates in the congregational worship experience.

The Rev. Glen Soderholm is an ordained minister within the Presbyterian Church in Canada. He is currently planting amissional community within downtown Guelph with the support of the Waterloo-Wellington Presbytery in the Presbyterian Church in Canada. He is also a worship leader, singer/songwriter, and the director of Moveable Feast Resources, an organization that exists to encourage the people of God to participate in vibrant worship.

D. What to do When the Kids Are Few

More and more churches are finding themselves with very few children and wondering what to do with those that are there. The old models feel costly, labour intensive and pretty frustrating most of the time. Even more concerning, they don’t seem to be working. This workshop will focus on ‘best practices’ for ministry with children in congregations with only a handful of kids, highlighting practices that best connect with children to form life-long faith while also working well when the numbers are low.

Tori Smit is the Regional Minister for Faith Formation for the Synod of Central Northeastern Ontario and Bermuda with the Presbyterian Church in Canada. She has 32 years of experience working in Christian Education with all sizes of churches. She is presently working on her doctoral dissertation in Children’s Ministry for congregations with few children.

E. Bible Study, Focussing on Agricultural Parables

Have you ever considered the possibility that Jesus just might not have been a “lowly carpenter?” What do the agricultural parables tell us about the story teller and the one recording the stories? What light do they shed on our pastoral work within present day rural communities, and what light do they shed on our own understanding of ourselves as “ministers” within rural communities? Finally, from our study of the parables, what do we learn about the importance of the study of the scriptures? I will be paying particular attention to the parables of the “Sower and the Seed” (Matthew 13) and “The Master and the Workers.” (Matthew 20).

The Rev. Dr. Richard Hollingswoth serves the three point Braeside Pastoral Charge, where he has been the minister since 1992. He is also an educator who has taught courses and led workshops on various aspects of Rural Ministry.

F. The Future Ain’t What It Used To Be

We live in a world where the only constant seems to be change. Yet, in the church we often assume that “what got us here will get us where we need to go. In a period of discontinuous change, it is worth considering some of the factors which are profoundly affecting church life and how we might respond to them.

The Rev. Dr. John-Peter Smit is the Congregational Development Consultant for the Synod of Central, Northeastern Ontario and Bermuda. He has served the church as an ordained minister for over twenty five years. His previous congregations include the Chatsworth and Dornoch Pastoral Charge, Chedoke Presbyterian Church, Hamilton, Ontario and most recently the First Presbyterian Church of Maitland, Florida.

G. Hands-On Worship: Messy Church in a Rural Setting

This workshop introduces an inter-generational church service that includes activities, crafts, music, prayer, a story and supper or lunch all around a biblical theme. ‘Messy Church” includes all-ages with Christ at the heart which builds community, hospitality, worship, a meal and fun!

The Rev. Patricia Jackson has introduced ‘Messy Church’ to her congregations of St. Peter’s, Gadshill, and St. James’, North Easthope, ON, and has found enthusiastic response to this new way of being ‘church’.

H. Your First Year in Rural Ministry: Dos and Don’ts

This workshop explores those critical first months in ministry when everything is new and sometimes more than a little strange. What works? What doesn’t? And why? The Rev. Don Stiles will be sharing stories of his first ministry in a six-point rural charge in Newfoundland and leading discussion around developing successful “first contact” strategies.

The Rev. Don Stiles completed his Masters of Divinity at Queens Theological College in Kingston in 2005 with a concentration in rural ministry. He started out serving in outport Newfoundland, where he met many excellent people who taught him a lot about what to do and not do in the first years. He now serves in Seeley’s Bay, Ontario, where his education continues.

I. Leading an Integrated Life

Relevant for clergy and lay leaders who are have become geographically separated from previous friend and family networks, this workshops draws on resources from the Fresh Start program. Participants will consider the boundaries and support networks that allow us to integrate our vocation within a whole and healthy life. Where do we go for comfort, clarity and challenge?

The Rev. Naomi Miller has served 16 rural and small-town congregations in 15 years of ordained ministry in the Anglican Church. She currently resides in Tottenham, Ontario and delights in her role as incumbent of the Church of the Evangelists, New Tecumseth- a recently amalgamated congregation embracing 4 villages in 3 municipalities. A firm believer in life-long learning, she is a Fresh Start facilitator in the York-Simcoe area of the Diocese of Toronto. Her ministry is held in balance with a 16-year marriage to Tim, parenting their two young daughters, singing silly songs with the local Sparks unit, and the easily-combined hobbies of binge-watching 90s television, and knitting.

J. Clustering/Regional Ministries

The Reverend Carrie Irwin is Rector of the Anglican Parish of Chesley, Tara, Paisley, Chatsworth, Desboro and Walter’s Falls. This six point parish, a “Regional Ministry” is located in the central part of the Saugeens, and spans both Bruce and Grey County. Carrie and her family arrived in Chesley in November of 2011, and has lead the parish through a number of transformations. Within this parish, five different ministry models have been embraced, including a store front model, a shared worship space model, a traditional model, a blended model, and a Chapel of Ease model.

Carrie began her ministry in the Saugeens as Lay Pastor, was ordained to the Diaconate in January 2012, and ordained to the Priesthood in June 2012. Carrie received her Master of Divinity from The University of Western Ontario in 2011. She is a cradle Anglican, but much of her formation took place during her high school years at Assumption, a Catholic secondary school. Before entering seminary, Carrie was involved with Child and Youth Ministry for seven years at her home parish of St Stephens, Oldcastle.

K. Worship and Technology

Why, where, and how might you use technology in your ministry? Who is your audience? Is technology really time saving? This workshop is an opportunity to hear about ideas of sharing information fast, keep it interesting and offers “time saving” for the rural pastor. There will be a time to share the collective wisdom of the group – to learn from each other. Technology can be your friend, but most pastors feel they do not have the skills or the time to do so. This workshop will give the rural pastor some direction on how to use technology to help their ministry, and some pitfalls that others have experienced.

The Rev. Stephen Fetter is the Program Coordinator for Webinars and Electronic Meetings at the General Council Office of The United Church of Canada. He’s also the minister of a small intercultural congregation in Toronto called Forest Hill United Church. He uses technology throughout both ministries and maintains two websites: and

L. Further Conversations with the Theme Speaker

This workshop is an opportunity for further conversations with the Rev. Dr. Stephen Farris about his theme addresses.

M. New Wineskins? Emerging Models for Small Congregations

The human and economic resources of small communities have always driven innovation in gathering the faithful to carry out Christ’s mission. In this workshop we will examine emerging models of small congregations from around the country and around the world. God is doing a new thing, where can we fit in?

Canon David Robinson is Director of Congregational Development for the Anglican Diocese of Toronto. He has been a member of the Diocesan Congregational Development team for 24 years serving portfolios in Youth and Young Adult Ministry; Rural Ministry Support; Conflict Management and Congregational Health. Currently Dave’s responsibilities include support of mission strategy, reconfiguration and amalgamation of congregations and Natural Church Development as well as managing a team of 5 staff and a strong volunteer corps of 35 trained facilitators and consultants.
Born and raised in the Toronto area Dave spends his free time on the water as an avid sailor, wilderness canoeist and amateur boat-builder. He lives in Toronto with his spouse, The Rev. Canon Heather McCance, and together they support a 14-year-old daughter, a 12-year-old mutt, a 9 year-old cat and a 36-year-old sailboat. In 2013 they took a cruising sabbatical and sailed 2400 miles from Lake Ontario to Atlantic Canada and New England.

N. Asset-based Tools for Helping Rural Churches Engage their Communities

This workshop is a brief introduction to the use of appreciative inquiry and asset-mapping with rural churches that are under pressure from population or other losses. These tools help build energy and self-esteem in congregations and move their focus outward. We will look at both practical applications and faith/theological frameworks for the use of the tools.

The Rev. Dr. Cameron Harder is Professor of Systematic Theology at the Lutheran Theological Seminary in Saskatoon and Director of the Doctor of Ministry Programme for the Saskatoon Theological Union.

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