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We're Listening Spring 2015 Presbytery Survey Results

Submitted by Ray Lundquist, Representative to Kootenay Presbytery
Castlegar United Church 
March 27, 2015 


I have tried to summarize the information submitted from a number of survey sheets that were handed in and also from a recording made during a meeting of the Bible Study Group. The survey presented three directives; the first was this:

Directive #1- Describe the changes you have witnessed in your congregation in the past two years.

The past two years at Castlegar United have been a time of significant change and transition for our congregation. We watched with much concern as the health of our minister of 23 years deteriorated. She went off on medical leave for 6 months, returned at 50% time for 5 months and then retired. This left the congregation in a bit of a rut as the prolonged illness of our minister took a toll on the congregation in terms of energy and resources to provide pulpit supply each Sunday.

A needs assessment group was formed from a diverse selection of the congregation, and they did a great job considering they were the first to use a new process for finding a replacement minister. Though people were getting tired they weren’t willing give up; they just gritted their teeth and worked harder. There was a concern in getting volunteers to lead the weekly services, but it was done, and done very well by a handful of lay leaders and also with the participation of Robin Murray, the student minister from Nelson.

We heard that a student intern had been selected to come to Castlegar and had offered to stay from September 2014 – June of this year. There was a feeling of excitement and optimism as we waited for the arrival of Greg Powell and his family. It was like a breath of fresh air to finally have a young, energetic leader in our midst. It wasn’t long before Greg was offered and subsequently accepted the call to be our permanent minister for the Castlegar-Kinnaird Pastoral Charge.

The numbers in the congregation have not changed significantly in two years, and there has been no Sunday School for a long time. The choir has grown by several members within the last eighteen months but on some Sundays it seems that there are as many in the choir as there are sitting in the pews below. Since Greg arrived, the congregation has been stimulated by new ideas and new methods of preaching and leadership. There is an air of optimism in the congregation now. With our very “senior” and continually aging congregation, however, there is still concern that those in leadership positions will “burn out” and there may not be anyone to replace them.

During the past two years the sanctuary has been repainted and colourful paintings and wall hangings have been hung to brighten the interior. The outside of the church has also been painted, a new floodlight has been put up, and a monitored security system installed.

Directive #2 – Share your visions of what changes you anticipate in the coming two years. 

We are not really clear about our goals now. If optimism lasts, it will depend on how we meet the expectations. Anyone under sixty is considered to be young. In order to spare people’s energy we may have to ask for people to be more generous in their offerings so that we can manage with fewer fundraising activities. There is hope that the approach the minister takes will awaken renewed interest in spirituality and new growth in our congregation. We are optimistic of an increase in attendance on Sundays and we will try to be more visible in our outreach to the community as social justice issues are even more in the forefront. Greg has been requested to try out as many new ideas as he can come up with and we will see which ones are the most attractive. We hope to have more people involved and perhaps partner on outreach projects in our community and within Kootenay Presbytery. 

We anticipate exploring who we are as a church and what is our mission. We will be challenged to grow and change as outlined by the United Church moderator. We will be enhancing our audio-video technology and probably projecting more material during services. We are going to implement a new baptism policy and will work towards finding ways to reach out to families. With grant funds we hope to hire a summer student for project work. We will also encourage more volunteer work to support the outdoor ministry at Camp Koolaree.

Our choir may choose to modernize their attire with new gowns or perhaps a special dress code. New people will not necessarily be willing or able to devote as much time to the church as we might like, so we may have difficulty recruiting people for leadership positions. Our most loyal volunteers are in want of “time off” so we hope we can continue with the new outward looking activities – coffee house, book club and others. Selling the church building and using the money to do God’s work may also be considered.

Directive #3 – Explain what resources you believe will be needed to create these changes. 

At Castlegar United, we have a diverse congregation of people from a variety of backgrounds. Though many are retired, they collectively have a wealth of experience and knowledge. The resources needed for the future lie within each of us, so we must try to develop those by being aware of each other and projecting our image as a welcoming and friendly church community. We cannot expect to improve unless we do it ourselves. We really need some younger people to bring us new ideas and energy. We could use a facilitator to assist with church retreats where we might explore who we are and how we can accomplish God’s mission for our church.

We will need both financial and volunteer resources to accomplish our enhanced projection project.

Support from presbytery to address outreach needs in Kootenay Region could also be required. We may need to share a summer student who can work on various projects across the presbytery. We also need some clarity from presbytery as to how they can support Camp Koolaree.

If we are to move towards less fundraising, we will need more financial resources directly from the congregation. We may eventually consider moving to a smaller building but that is unlikely to happen in the next two years. We also may need to change our structure somewhat – we may need a small technical committee to advise on computers, audio and projection issues. And finally, should we decide on new choir gowns, we would have to consider a number of options as it could become rather costly.