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"We need to have these kinds of conversations."

Listening in Spirit engagement consultant Anna Bubel often hears this kind of statement as she meets with parishes in the Diocese of Edmonton.

The conversations Anna is leading are part of an overall strategy to help stabilise our diocese while the church adapts to its new realities.

Bishop Stephen London says the COVID pandemic greatly impacted church attendance and giving.

"The reality is, coming out of the covid our attendance numbers were cut in half and only some parishes have come back to 2019 numbers," he says.

Furthermore, members of the clergy are struggling with mental health issues, due in part to a shortage of priests and fewer lay people to assist with ministry.

"In fact, our clergy gathering in June is about helping clergy process the difficult place we are in," says Bishop London.

Understandably, parishes look to the diocese for help and support to cope with the tiredness and frustration they are experiencing.

"There are lots of exciting experiments in restructuring in other dioceses in other countries; there is a shift in theological emphasis and messaging that is exciting," says Bishop London. "Exciting things are also happening on the ground in our own diocese."

To provide long-term feasibility, the Diocese of Edmonton must develop a sound plan. But without the direct input of parishes, such a plan has little merit.

Bishop London and the Executive Council must make and implement key decisions in the next three to five years, and they do not want to make those decisions alone.

"That is why we are starting this process of a mass diocesan discernment. There is no question it is all-hands-on-deck time," says Bishop London.

Canon Scott Sharman of the Strategic Planning Steering Committee, says, "Bishop London believes strongly that we do need to make significant tangible changes, and he wants the diocese to be able to do that based on recognised evidence and shared values.

"Our Synod in October will be an opportunity for delegates to engage at length in reflection and discussion about what the (parish engagement) findings suggest, so the bishop and Executive Council have a mandate from the Synod to help guide the creation of the diocesan plan in late 2024 and into 2025."

If you have not scheduled your Parish Engagement Session, please reach out to Jacqui Chesterton ASAP at  *For this engagement process to be of benefit to all, we need all parishes to participate.

For more information about the Listening in Spirit | Shaping Our Future Together strategic planning process, please see Frequently Asked Questions