Guelph … Two tales of four churches: A church is born

by Brian Janzen

“We are living in a different time, and for this time we need to explore ways of being and doing that may look different from our past.” Willard Metzger, Daring to Dream Again.

November 20, 2013 marked the beginning into a journey of dreaming between two congregations in Guelph — St. Paul’s Evangelical Lutheran Church and St. David & St. Patrick’s Anglican Church.

That evening a simple dinner invitation brought together representatives from St. Paul’s to St. David & St. Patrick’s to share a meal and entertain ecumenical ministry possibilities for the near future.

In recent years, the two congregations had extended themselves into the occasional pulpit exchange, as well as a yearly shared service. Despite this somewhat limited exposure, commonalities began to emerge, particularly with the Church’s true mission and outreach into the community.

At that November meeting, bold individuals were willing to dream differently.
Propelled by possibilities, in addition to financial realities, a proposal to begin talks on a new congregational model between the two churches was agreed upon, on both a local level and between the Lutheran Eastern Synod and the Niagara Anglican Diocese.

That winter, lay and clergy from both congregations began to define what that congregational model might look like. Although potential possibilities of ministry as one body drove many of the conversations, one could not ignore the “Lutheran” and “Anglican” labels. Some obstacles were very real. Although the National churches have been in full communion since 2001, as defined in the Waterloo Declaration, governance models are very different. Tradition and personal church attachments also played a role.

In April 2014, Bishop Bird (Niagara Anglican Diocese) and Bishop Pryse (Lutheran Eastern Synod) met in Guelph with councils, clergy and wardens to present their views and answer outstanding questions. Their support and resources would play a central role and anchor point in conversations moving forward.

A formal task force between the two local churches was established and carried these conversations into 2015. Amid many questions, a basic education of specific terms and practices of both churches was begun. It’s quite amazing how many assumptions we carry. We had to learn a common language.

In the spring of 2015, both congregations formally voted to enter a two-year partnership agreement, St. David & St. Patrick’s moved all of its resources to St. Paul’s. This was determined after evaluation of both physical properties and abiding finances.

During this time, both communities lived, worked and prayed together with the hope of creating a permanent shared Anglican-Lutheran ministry that would result in a long-term covenantal and legal relationship. It truly was a time of engagement between two individuals.

A dedicated transition team provided a bridge between the two governance models, and provided a hub where existing teams or committees could talk and plan. This team was facilitated with support from the Niagara Anglican Diocese and the Eastern Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada. Eventually, a Joint Council was formed and ran parallel to the traditional governance models.

Following congregational votes on April 30, 2017, both churches were excited to announce that they accepted a formal merger agreement which would see a new church born to serve the people of Guelph.

All Saints Guelph
Photo: Brian Janzen

This new church — All Saint’s Lutheran Anglican Church — is one to be celebrated as it created the potential for us all to dream differently in our ministry.

It wasn’t the fact that we reached some kind of finish line but rather we were at a new epiphany, a new beginning point, a new opportunity in mission.

On Sunday, September 24, 2017, All Saint’s Lutheran Anglican Church, 210 Silvercreek Parkway North, Guelph was officially launched with a special worship service. More information about the parish can be found at allsaintsguelph.ca