Bishop Melissa Skelton, Bishop of New Westminster in the Anglican Church in Canada, brings decades of experience in building congregations in both the ACC and The Episcopal Church, creating training programs on both sides of the border. At the core of her work is working with congregations to rediscover “this thing we called an Anglican ethos, Anglican spirituality, Anglican identity.”
“The loss of confidence that we as a church have had in the goodness of our own identity sorely grieves me,” Bishop Skelton says. “At the heart of what I think good congregational development is, is [that] it is about getting the knowledge, skills, and the ability to put into action the expression of who we most deeply are—and that we need to trust that, and we need to help people do it….”
…In gauging successful congregational development, Bishop Skelton focuses on five major factors:
- Focusing on the core purpose of the congregation and working towards it in a deeper, more connected way
- Deepening ecclesial identity, in this case Anglican identity, so that parishes and congregations reflect more deeply on who they are;
- Creating congregations that respond to the challenges and opportunities in front of them;
- Working on congruence of multiple factors in a congregation, such as identity, vision, building, neighbourhood, finances, ministry, and people;
- Working on the culture of the congregation to be more transparent, collaborative, forgiving, and to engage people and offer them greater choice….
…Today, as a diocesan bishop, Skelton has a broader systemic perspective from which to encourage parish development across the Diocese of New Westminster. A key element in her approach is finding the best possible clergy leaders, who have demonstrated they can develop congregations and are willing to learn more.
“That’s at the top of the list, because leadership means everything,” Bishop Skelton says.
Another priority is substantial training in congregational development for lay and clergy leaders over time, which aims to create a common language for development within the Diocese of New Westminster.