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A solid leadership team, local decision-making and a desire to remain relevant and active are some of the reasons being touted for the success of a large amalgamation of Moncton-area parishes.

Five parishes with six church buildings, all named for saints, have come together under the new name of “The Parish of the Six Saints.” Archbishop David Edwards issued the memorial making it official on April 1. 

The former parishes of Moncton (St. George), St. Philip’s, St. James, St. Andrews Sunnybrae, and Hillsborough Riverside (St. Mary and St. Alban) form the new parish.

Its leadership includes rector Chris VanBuskirk, vicar Rob Salloum, deacons Barb Haire, Norm Dupuis and David Alston, and honorary assistants the Rev. Wendy Amos-Binks and the Rev. Dr. Dan Goodwin.

The pandemic, plus the downward slide of Anglicanism in Canada and the western world, were factors that led to much prayer, thought and discussion about the future of the parishes. 

“All of us were aware that our congregations were drastically affected in terms of attendance,” said Chris. “Four of our congregations have 20 people or less.”

These realities led to a meeting with director of mission and ministry Shawn Branch and Archdeacon Brent Ham two years ago.

The meeting was held in a neutral place, St. John the Baptist in Riverview, with parish representatives and clergy.

“Brent said, ‘a year from now, if we’re in still the same place, that’s going to be a problem,’” said Rob. “Chris, Wendy and I took that as a challenge. That was a turning point.

“We began the process of establishing groups, planning committees, and timely and workable goals,” said Rob. “We wanted to be drawn together while we still could make decisions for ourselves, making decisions from strength, not from necessity or desperation.”

Many meetings, debates, prayers, shared meals, and joint services and events have taken place in those two years. 

There were a few who harkened for the good old days when churches were full and did not want to acknowledge the issue of long-term sustainability.

“It’s always a challenge when it comes to change, but we worked on building trust and working together as the body of Christ,” said Chris. “People have been very willing to listen and to pray as we went forward.”

An open process with voting to ask, ‘does your congregation want to move onto the next stage?’ helped to keep everyone involved and informed.

“I think the key was we were intentional, and did our best to be transparent with information, trying to communicate clearly, timely and effectively,” said Rob. “We went slowly, trying our best to create space for people to have their say and be involved. It didn’t take two minutes. It took two years.”

They also used the example of the Parish of Wicklow, Wilmot, Peel and Aberdeen as a model of parishes coming together as one. It helped that Chris is a former rector of that parish.

How the new parish will function is a work in progress. On April 3, the parish held its first general meeting, with more than 50 people in attendance.
“Of note was the signing of the Liturgical Covenant by the clergy and wardens,” said Chris. “Also, recommendations from the planning committee, from the work over the past 22 months, were adopted as operating principles for the new parish.”

Chris is quick to point out that there is no formula, percentage or equation at play in the birth of the new parish.

“It’s based on Christian charity,” he said. “It’s completely based on Acts 2:44-45.”

All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need.

One thing both Chris and Rob stress is the importance of each congregation’s role in its community going forward. 

“What we don’t want to get lost in all this is the importance of community partnerships,” said Rob. 

Sharing space is one way to form those partnerships. With an abundance of buildings, it’s time to take a hard look at how much of their building each congregation needs.

Removing pews, keeping the chancel and sanctuary inside the altar rail for congregational use, leasing the nave, and keeping the kitchen and bathrooms as common space are some options, said Chris.

“How much room do you need in your building?” he asked. “St. Philip’s is really leading in this department.”

While every congregation could use more cashflow, it goes far beyond that, they said.

“It’s increasing visibility and relationships in the community,” said Rob. “It’s a reminder that we are the people of God. These buildings are dear to us, but we want to grow God’s kingdom.”

Brent is thrilled to see the results of two years of work.

“I think it’s been wonderful to see how the parishes have trusted each other, listened to each other and worked with each other,” he said. “I hope this positions them for spiritual and numerical growth in the Moncton area.”

“It’s very appropriate that this takes place at the beginning of the Easter season,” said Archbishop David. “Because it shows signs of new life in the Moncton area.

“I am grateful to the members of the parishes for their hard work and diligence, working out how best to accomplish this amalgamation.”

Rob has the last word on the team in place to lead the new parish into the future.

"It is right for Fr. Chris to be rector of this new parish. He has served for over 30 years in this diocese — 20 years in Moncton alone. It is a real thrill for me to have this opportunity to be the parish vicar and serve alongside him.  

“Indeed, we have an amazing team which includes Rev. Wendy and Rev. Dan, and a strong group of active and well-engaged deacons — Barbara, David, Normand and Dan — who are part of this wonderful team. No doubt, our gifts and skills complement each other.  And I must mention the guidance of our dear archbishop, David, who has been wonderful."

Photo captions:  
1.  Archbishop David Edwards signs the memorial officially creating the Parish of the Six Saints, an amalgamation of five parishes in the Moncton area, on April 1.
2. The memorial, signed and sealed.
3. The Parish of the Six Saints, with their buildings.

McKnight photos; collage photos by Frank Morehouse.


David Bell about 1 month ago

Great news. May they flourish

Jill Craig about 1 month ago

May this union of small congregations be richly blessed.

Linda D. Craft about 1 month ago

A child our ACW sponsored reminded me the other day when she sent a letter of gratitude for our love and support, that she will always be our daughter in Christ Jesus. So as you all move forward , God will send his blessings as you become as one in Christ Jesus ,all children of the same family working together towards the same goal. You will be in our prayers.

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