What’s it like working in the Diocese of Fredericton? Sept. 27 was set aside as an orientation day to help five new clerics and one new employee get a snapshot of their roles.
The Rev. David Smith (Parish of Grand Manan), the Rev. Robert McLean (Parishes of Fredericton Junction and New Maryland), the Rev. Isabel Cutler (deacon, Christ Church Cathedral), the Rev. Rick Cunningham (deacon) and the Rev. Nicholas Saulnier (Parishes of St. Mary, York; Marysville and Stanley), as well as director of young adult formation Kurt Schmidt were in attendance, as well as diocesan staff and two territorial archdeacons.
The day began with the regular Wednesday service at the Cathedral, and moved to the hall for the remainder of the day. Thorough introductions were made so that the new people had a good understanding of each staffer’s role.
After lunch, individual presentations began, with Ben Bourque explaining his role as HR and Safe Church officer.
“I am the point of contact for training and regulations and any questions you might have on Safe Church,” said Ben. “It covers everything from HR and misconduct to facilities.”
Safe Church training should be upgraded every three years, he said.
The Ven. Cathy Laskey explained her role within three areas: clergy care, diocesan life and financial assistance.
“During Bishop David’s episcopacy, he has put an emphasis on pastoral care,” she said, going on to explain the many ways one can get assistance in the form of anonymous counselling. “The reason behind this is we want to help and support you.”
She encouraged each cleric to consider getting a spiritual director.
“Speak to me, Paul Ranson or the bishop,” she said. “It’s important to have someone who is also being spiritually directed. I’ve been blessed immensely by it.”
She encouraged each cleric to make sure they took their full annual vacation: four weeks, plus a week between Epiphany and Palm Sunday to recharge.
She also stressed the importance of attending the events set aside for clerics, like clergy days, clergy conference and so on.
“This is where collegiality develops,” she said.
Bishop David, and the Rev. David Peer, executive officer, outlined the governance of the diocese — committees, Diocesan Council, diocesan synod and so on.
“It’s a complicated structure based on the Anglican Act,” said David Peer.
“I encourage you to meet with your wardens regularly, once a month or more,” said the bishop, adding they should also make themselves aware of the social supports in their parish like homeless shelters, food banks and so on.
There was a quick lesson on parish record-keeping and then Cheryl Jacobs gave her presentation on the diocesan website and DIMS (diocesan information management system).
Paul gave a short talk on self and soul care, the importance of taking time to recharge.
“If your soul in in disorder, you are not bearing fruit,” he said.
He gave some resources for retreat centres and shared his own experiences with renewal through retreating.
Bishop David finished the day with a few words of wisdom.
“The real emphasis, I believe, is how we work with the call for the cure of souls and the Five Marks of Mission,” he said. “I really believe those are the things that will turn us around.
“It’s getting alongside people within and outside the parish family who are open to hearing the voice of God… Our task is around discipleship — our own and others, one person at a time.”
He illustrated the need for discipleship with a story about a friend who ran the Church Missionary Society in the UK, who told David a few decades ago that he believed Rwanda was the most Christian nation on earth, with a very high rate of attendance at church.
It took only 100 days in 1994, when almost 1 million citizens were slaughtered, mostly by each other due to tribal tensions, to show Christianity was forgotten. The bishop’s friend reflected that ‘we taught a faith that was an inch deep and 100 miles wide. We were concerned with conversion, not discipleship.’
Parish development officer Shawn Branch was the day’s organizer.
“This is the second one we’ve had,” he said. “The first one was during the pandemic two years ago.”
He said the reason for the day was the realization that the diocese could be doing a better job equipping new clergy coming into the diocese.
“Just having a day to get to know each other as humans, to know who to call and what’s important and available to them is necessary,” he said.
“Our aim was to have new clergy meet the staff and to hear that our goal is to help them succeed.”
1. Some of those involved in the clergy orientation day: Justin McCoy, Ben Bourque, Cheryl Jacobs, the Rev. Isabel Cutler, the Rev. David Smith, Heather Harris-Jones, the Rev. Rick Cunningham and the Rev. Nicholas Saulnier.
2. Cheryl Jacobs points out the features of the diocesan website.
3. Archbishop David Edwards and the Rev. Robert McLean in the lunch line.
4. Bishop David during his presentation, with the Rev. Robert McLean and parish development officer Shawn Branch in the background.