“I went to Revive because my Rector invited me. I had no idea the wonderful spiritual adventure I was about to begin!” Jim Steadwick’s response is typical of participants surveyed after taking the Revive program held last fall through spring in Niagara Diocese.
Sixteen churches signed up to try Revive, a program equipping church leaders to become spiritual leaders. “We really were test driving the program for the first time and taking it to parishes of all sizes and cultural shapes,” said the Reverend Canon Dawn Davis, Faith Formation Coordinator and creator of Revive.
Bishop Susan Bell heard about Revive and asked Dawn to implement it in Niagara. Over the past year, clergy and lay leaders began speaking to her about its effect on them. “I am so excited and impressed with the impact of Revive,” Bishop Susan said. “People are speaking so tenderly and openly about their faith and deepening relationship with God. I can’t recommend this program strongly enough!”
In a small group, lay leaders meet with their clergy for two-hour sessions—six weeks each in the fall, winter and spring—learning how to pray, engage with scripture and sense God’s call to ministry. The program gives structure and support for a spiritual life by encouraging and modeling spiritual practices. Each meeting opens with the question: “How is it with your soul?”.
Participants said they liked learning practical skills which built confidence and they liked being part of a peer small group with other parishioners. “I used to be terrified to pray in public! I wouldn’t say it is easy but now I can do it and people find it helpful,” said Sandra Thomson, Transfiguration St. Catharines.
St. Catharines’ churches were unique. They all did Revive at the same time and held a joint opening and closing retreat. “You can feel the effect of Revive in our regional gatherings,” said the Reverend Canon Katherine Morgan, St. John’s Thorold. “There is a spirit of joy, love and spiritual growth.”
Revive is not just for the long-standing Anglican either. “I am a non-Anglican, and this was a great way to learn about Anglican traditions and teachings while also growing spiritually,” said Sue Chester, St. James’ Fergus.
Clergy also found their spiritual lives were enhanced by Revive. “It was absolutely good to be growing with and alongside parishioners,” observed the Reverend Kevin Block, St. Barnabas St. Catharines. “It is so nice to be able to speak to parishioners about their spiritual lives and help them grow in Christ. Isn’t that what we signed on for in the first place!” said Archdeacon Peter Scott, St. Mark’s Orangeville.
Clergy leading Revive met weekly with Dawn through electronic conferencing to review upcoming sessions and try out spiritual practices. “I appreciated the Zoom group sessions as it helped me focus, stay on track, and be accountable,” said The Reverend Leslie Gerlofs, St. John’s Burlington.
Most of the 16 parishes will be doing Revive again with a different set of lay leaders. “We are definitely doing Revive again next year,” said the Reverend Canon Martha Tatarnic, St. George’s St. Catharines. “I already have people on a waiting list.”
To celebrate this first-year anniversary there will be a Revive Celebration, October 1, 4:15 – 6:00 p.m. at St. Matthew’s on-the-Plain Burlington. Revive alumni and newcomers will join Forward Movement representatives and Bishop Susan to celebrate Revive launch in Niagara Diocese. All are welcome.
Those interested in Revive can contact Dawn Davis below or visit the Forward Movement website at revive.forwardmovement.org.