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On Sunday, June 16, 2024 Pastor Ruth led the gathered community in a participatory sermon time. This time invited us to remember our work together at our annual vestry meeting in February and look forward to conversations happening amongst the four Anglican parishes in Burnaby.

Pastor Ruth began by reminding the congregation of the line from Psalm 92 which we had just heard: “Those who are planted in the house of the Lord shall flourish in God's house.” She suggested that flourishing in God’s house did not mean that our communities would gather without change or adaptation over time.

The congregation began by turning to a neighbour or two in the pews and talking about what brought them to church – first fairly generally and then specifically about St Stephen’s. Parishioners and visitors shared stories about the way that attending weekly worship helps to centre or ground them and how churches have helped them to find community and connection. We talked about finding ourselves at St Stephen’s because it was in our home neighbourhood, because we were already invested in Anglican traditions, and because our first visit provided us with a strong sense of being welcomed.

Pastor Ruth reminded those gathered of the many strengths of St Stephen’s – drawing on statements gathered in previous conversations from the Ministry Assessment Process of the ‘00s to the writing of the Parish Profile in 2017 to conversations since Pastor Ruth was called as rector. She spoke about the fact that the things we “need” to sustain the current model of ministry are pretty straightforward: people and money. But also touched on our needs to continue to do the work of being faithful Christians, willing to reflect on ourselves and our interactions with one another and to seek grace and love in difficult moments.

Then the congregation turned to a conversation about change. Pastor Ruth touched on the many social changes that have taken place in the years since St Stephen’s was founded and the many personal changes that we all go through. She asked the congregation to share with each other what they have used or needed when facing change in their own lives. What has helped them navigate through a change? Then she spoke a little about changes to come in the life of St Stephen’s – acknowledging that we have not been able to raise our capacity to support the salary of a full-time priest without drawing too heavily on out investments and that we will need to make some difficult decisions in the months ahead. She asked the folks gathered to consider what would matter the most to them as we navigated the inevitable changes to come in our parish life?

Finally, Pastor Ruth spoke about the fact that St Stephen’s is not alone in facing the reality that our model of parish life might no longer help us flourish as God’s people: in Burnaby there are somewhere around 160 Anglicans in 4 aging buildings covering 3.5 clergy salaries – all of us trying to figure out what continues to bring us closer to God and how to offer those connections to ourselves and our neighbours. There are ongoing conversations about how we might work together more effectively so that we might all flourish. Pastor Ruth spoke about her hope that the models we dream for the future do more than split the cost of clergy, but invite collaboration and support among lay people.

The following lists were shared on newsprint and parishioners are encouraged to send their additions and corrections to Pastor Ruth or the Wardens.


  • Our Community/Our People
    • Friendly and becomes family
    • Diverse – reflects a mix of ethnicity/race/immigration/religious background
    • Welcoming of newcomers
  • Our Building
    • The historical worship space
    • The large, bright hall that is used by many community groups
    • Good parking and access to public transit
  • Our Outreach
    • The 48 years of Thrift Shop
    • The Community Meal
    • The Wednesday Lunch Club
  • Other Strengths
    • Eating together
    • Anglican worship & theology
    • Commitment to our children
    • Our engagement with Bible Study and contemplative life
    • Our passion for St Stephen’s
    • Opening the church for prayer on Thursday afternoons


  • More money
  • More people, especially more able-bodied, energized people
  • Continue work on our interpersonal relationships (being kind and flexible and seeking God’s grace and love as we work together)


  • Good communication
  • Community – the relationships with the people
  • Common vision
  • Staying connected to the people and the vision so we can see the “WHY” behind the changes
  • Acceptance of people (particularly new people or new ways of seeing/doing)
  • Acceptance of change – being willing to compromise, working to overcome our prejudices and resistance to doing things differently
  • Worshipping God
  • Pastoral and emotional care
  • A willingness to engage in self-reflection and see ourselves as individuals within the system (the parish) and therefore balance our individual needs with the needs of the system and consider how our individual expressions impact the whole
  • Listening for God’s guidance and support
  • Holding onto the traditions that connect our past, our present, and our future