Niagara Paves The Way

by Sarah Bird & Katherine Kerley

The Anglican Family Hub was co-created in response to the immediate need of families, grandparents and parishioners as they embarked into a new lifestyle of isolation. The Hub came to life after the cancellation of services, gatherings and programs from the ideas and passion of a handful of CYFM (Children’s, Youth, and Family Ministry) lay ministers in the Diocese of Niagara. 

Alison Steele (CYFM Coordinator, St. David’s Welland) sparked the idea of working together as a Diocesan ministry team to share resources, craft ideas, and information in one place. Almost immediately this spark ignited a fire as the call was heard and answered to by Sarah Bird (Diocesan Program Consultant for CYFM); Rebecca Vendetti (Youth Ministry Coordinator, St. Luke’s Burlington); and Katherine Kerley, (CYFM Coordinator, St. John’s, Thorold). Ideas began to flow, and soon Rebecca had brainstormed virtual book studies, a youth compline, online workshops, and more. The rest of us brainstormed ways of how we could move preplanned in-person events and programs to a virtual platform. The idea of a central website was born “The Anglican Family Hub”.

Sarah launched the The Anglican Family Hub Facebook Page; a go-to place for all kinds of resources including faith formation, information and events for Anglican families. Sub-groups were developed to organize the page into: at home Sunday School resources, self-care practices for the entire family, children’s at home crafts and activities and youth. Rebecca with her tech skills created the Anglican Family Hub webpage for those who cannot access Facebook.  Katherine creatively designed the logo and graphics. With an empty Facebook page, the group jumped into action uploading ideas, home videos of their own craft and small project ideas, and invited others to also share and post. Popular posts have included Rebecca’s Lego and Bible Stories, Alison’s parent talks, and the shared online Sunday School lessons.

The response so far has been nothing short of astounding – a real testament to following where the Spirit is taking us and meeting a need within our Diocese and wider Anglican communion. Not only have we reached folks in Niagara, but through various channels and networks nationally, Sarah has welcomed folks from across the country. She has encouraged other CYFM leaders to find a home within the Hub and offer suggestions to meet their needs. We have added a number of CYFM leaders to our circle of admins and contributors, each able to share their own gifts and talents: Tanya Shleich (YFM Coordinator, St. George’s St. Catharines) and Donna Ellis (CYFM Coordinator, St. John’s, Ancaster) have joined the rotation for offering online Sunday School lessons, the Rev. Judy Steers (St. John’s, Elora) offers live “Godly Play”, and our Donna and Mary Gordon (Youth Coordinator, Church of the Resurrection Hamilton) lead weekly virtual youth groups. Even the Primate, Archbishop Linda Nicholls, has offered her time to the Anglican Family Hub as she joined Niagara’s CYFM leaders and 20 youth for the “The Archbishop’s Table”, an outgrowth of the diocesan program that Sarah developed called The Bishop’s Table. This Archbishop’s Virtual Table was a one of kind event where youth were able to ask any question they had for the Primate and for the Church. It was a huge success, and the youth were honoured to be given that rare opportunity.

This creation by four passionate servants has grown and evolved into something bigger and more beautiful than we could have possibly asked for and imagined and continues to evolve daily as we listen to God’s prayers. This team ministry will continue to develop, grow and expand as the pandemic lives out its course, and for years to come as this new way of church continues to break through barriers, uplifts innovation and offers fresh new ways of ministry like never before. With all that said, this co-created Anglican Family Hub has forged new friendships that offer support, understanding and guidance, along with much needed moments of laughter that has been the ultimate blessing for our diocesan children, youth and family lay leaders as they navigate this new landscape of isolation together. We are so grateful to be joined in mission and ministry. As Katherine Kerley has stated “we are truly living out our Diocese’s recently announced Mission Action Plan: Called to Life, Compelled to Love”.