The harvest is plentiful

Harvest. Image by Phil Dolby used under a CC BY 2.0 deed license.
 on February 1, 2024

“The harvest is plentiful, but the labourers are few” (Matthew 9:37)  

It has been such a joy to begin 2024 with the very happy news that many of our churches are growing.  Everyone, from Lake Cowichan to the cathedral, is reporting full services on Christmas Eve, and many of our parishes are slowly but surely welcoming new members. It seems that COVID-19 is finally over and, slowly but surely, people are finding their way back to church. The harvest is plentiful.  

But are the labourers few?   


When I go through the list of the 46 parishes that make up our diocese, only 15 of them have the same clergy that they did three years ago (when I began as bishop). There have been many retirements, which has led to many places to fill.  

The good news is that over the past three years we have ordained two new vocational deacons and six new priests. We have also recruited 10 new clergy to the diocese from other dioceses.    

At the same time, we also continue to have several parishes that are (I despise the term and would like to find another one) “vacant.” By my count, at least 10 of our parishes are looking for clergy at this time.  

Parishes looking for clergy need to know that there is a shortage of clergy across Canada, the U.S. and the U.K. This is due, in part, to the retirement of all the baby boomers and to the fact that fewer folk are attending seminary and training to be priests.    

Given the small pool of available candidates, simply posting an ad and waiting for applicants is not sufficient. Gone are the days when the bishop of BC would just consult the long list of clergy from across the country pining for a job in these islands and inlets. I am hopeful that those parishes that can offer full-time employment will eventually be able to find someone, but I must also say that finding part-time clergy is a near-impossible task.   

We need to actively raise up, train and recruit people. As bishop, part of my role is forming relationships with people who might be interested in coming to this diocese.   

If you read the Comings and Goings email that the diocese sends out each week, you’ll know that, despite the challenges, we have steadily been filling the many vacancies in this diocese.  

Looking ahead, one of the issues I can see coming is that the system is currently very reliant on several “retired” or, more accurately, semi-retired — clergy who are serving in parishes part-time or as interims, or both. I am extremely grateful to Paul Schumacher, Jeannine Friesen, Deborah Rivet and Ian Powell, who have taken the interim ministry training. Their training and service in interim ministry is invaluable and we are going to need to continue to train people for this work.  

Parishes are also noticing that there are fewer retired clergy to serve as honoraries and to help, especially for covering holidays and the like. We have partially addressed this issue with the very well-subscribed “Lay Leadership in Worship” course organized by Ingrid Anderson, which trains and licenses lay people to lead services of the Word.    

Going forward, we are going to need to be flexible and creative. I am sure that God has provided everything we need to be a vibrant and healthy church, but I am also sure that the future is not going to look like the past. Searching for clergy and lay staff in 2024 will not look like it did 10 or 20 years ago.   

The harvest is plentiful, and the way we recruit and deploy labourers is changing.  

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