Sustainable Ministry

by Andrew Stephens-Rennie

What does sustainable ministry even look like? After a year of parish ministry, I’m still struggling to figure that out.

Every time I turn around, I see ministry staff scrambling like the coworkers I left behind with my corporate job. Every time I turn around, I hear someone huffing and puffing about things that need to be done yesterday, stepping all over those alongside whom they are supposed to be ministering.

Where has holy communion gone? Where is sabbath? Where the time for reflection, meditation, and responsive, considered action? Why the capitulation to business models of governance that require us to be more productive, that require us to do more? Why the focus on doing, and the ignorance of the importance of being?

Where is the wisdom of spiritual direction? Where the wisdom of nuns and monks who realise the importance of setting time – in fact, setting aside one’s life – for the joy of being in the presence of God?

In this I’m aware of the danger of the impulse to focus so much on heaven that they are of no earthly good – but that’s not where I wish to go. Heaven and Earth connect. In fact, they hang together in none other than Christ Jesus.

And so, for us to seek after Jesus through the scriptures, through meditation and prayer, through holy communion with even the least in society’s rankings is perhaps enough. The joy of being present to-and-with-God is not one that can ever be severed from being present to-and-with-our-neighbours. We are called and freed to love both.

We may be so-called, but we also do a good job of making ourselves absent from the present.

The moment is lost when we answer our cell phone or blackberry during a meeting with a distressed parishioner. The moment is lost when we spend time creeping facebook for pictures of old acquaintances rather than speaking to our significant other.

The moment is lost when we wish we were anywhere, anywhere but here, anywhere but with these people – the people we work with, the man on the street sitting on the church steps, the woman in the restaurant serving us butter chicken or falafel.

We lose moments of true service and presence when we’re rushing off to the fifth meeting in the opposite corner of the city…we lose so many moments, every moment of every day.

What would it require of us to be present? Is it more than we can give, or is it a necessary return to the simplicity and beauty of the present moment?

Andrew Stephens-Rennie on FacebookAndrew Stephens-Rennie on Twitter
Andrew Stephens-Rennie
Andrew is a writer, dreamer and organizer with a keen interest in developing leaders in faith, compassion and justice.

He currently serves as the Director of Missional Renewal for the Anglican Diocese of Kootenay on the unceded territories of the Sinixt, Syilx, and Ktunaxa nations. He previously served as the Director of Ministry Innovation at Christ Church Cathedral in Vancouver, BC.

Andrew is cofounder and contributing editor at, and co-editor of "A Sort of Homecoming: Essays Honoring the Academic and Community Work of Brian Walsh" with Marcia Boniferro and Amanda Jagt.

4 Responses to “Sustainable Ministry”

  1. ryan guard

    Great thoughts.

    I just turned off my TV. I’m going outside.

    You should blog more often.

  2. andrew

    Thanks Ryan! I’ve got some other posts and thoughts under development that will no doubt pop up around here in the coming weeks.

    As you keep your eyes open for new ministry opportunities, I hope you find a place that encourages times for Being, alongside all the Doing.

  3. Erika Kivik

    Yeah, you’re right. Well said.

    Being in the “middle of nowhere” (or am I actually at the centre of everything?) –away from sushi, sidewalks, streetcars, and society (and that’s just the letter “s”!), has–bluntly–reminded me that “scrambling” to do ministry is not the only way to do ministry…

    I think it means willingly giving some things up: a wise woman recently told me that even though God “may not give us more than we can handle,” we often decide to take on more than we can handle anyway. …oops.

  4. Great Love « Empire Remixed

    […] been nearly three years since I blogged about sustainable ministry. It was the end of a stressful time in my life, and I was moving on to new challenges, including my […]


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