Third Quarter State of the Church Report

2016 Third Quarter State of the Church Report

We have seen several positive changes in the third quarter of 2016, summarized in our various strategic initiatives below.

1. PM Worship
A. The PM service has seen many small, discrete changes over the past 8 months that are beginning to coalesce into something so spirit filled that people are saying things like…’I can’t put my finger on it…’ and ‘There is something about this service…it’s different…’
B. Rev. Sam Morris has committed to developing the vision/plan for the future of the evening service.
C. The Creative Liturgy Team meets every week for three hours to take apart the service and look at each element, theologically, technically, creatively. They first make sure it is invitational, accessible to the congregation and easily involving them in the service. They make sure all parts connect to the same message, and deliver it kinaesthetically. They have changed the order of the service so that it flows better and makes more sense. The energy in that space every Sunday night is amazing.
D. It has been a complete joy to witness how so many individuals have risen up since the changes in music leadership and not just assumed leadership, but really leading…by their attitudes, their preparation and their cohesiveness.

2. Pastoral Care Review and Revamp
A. There has been great progress with our Community Care Ministry (CCM):
I. Bryan Blenkin has accepted the position of Program Developer and Rev Carmen Llanos is the Assistant Program Developer. Bryan is an MCC Toronto congregant with a wealth of experience in program development. Bryan enjoyed a very successful career as a Business Executive within the IT industry. Following his retirement from corporate life, Bryan began to volunteer extensively within the non-profit sector. Most recently, Bryan joined Canadian Executive Services Organization (CESO) and has freely shared his program development gifts with non-profit executives looking to design and implement transformative change within their organization. Bryan wanted to do the lead Program Developer role in our Community Care Ministry as a volunteer and we are so thrilled that he has agreed to mentor Carmen over the coming months. Rev. Carmen Llanos is currently our Pastor of Alternative Worship. In her capacity as Assistant Program Developer for the Community Care Ministry, she will work closely with Bryan for 20 hours a week. Thanks to the generosity of the late Kay Lehman, this is a paid position for Carmen. Carmen’s deep spirituality and solid understanding of the MCC Toronto community will be a tremendous asset to her work in Community Care Ministry.
II. Bryan and Carmen’s mandate is to work with the Community Care Team Leaders to recruit additional volunteers, build solid teams and design/launch programs that will address the current and future care needs of the congregation.
III. A CCM Project Charter has been developed, revised and finalized by Bryan and Carmen in collaboration with Executive Staff. Please refer to 2016-10-24 Project Charter V5.1 (
B. An external consultant, L3 Ministries – Thriving Congregations, has been engaged to assist the church over the past few months in journeying through a time of challenge for the community with Brent’s impending trial in November. Our objective with this initiative is to learn how to listen to the congregation in new ways and to create an extended pastoral care team that is able to support our large and diverse congregation. The lead facilitator is Kathryn Smith, a highly skilled and deeply faith rooted ordained minister who has rich experience in working with boards, staff and congregations in times of discernment and challenge. An L3/MCC Toronto Issues Management Reference Group for Pastoral Care has been established and includes the following individuals: Joe Jamieson (chair), Bentley Springer (Board representative), Rev. Sam Morris (Staff/Clergy representative), Andrew Holmes (Staff representative), Sandra Fontenelle & Kevin Wilcock (Deacon representatives) and Liz Gildner (former choir rep and congregant). The Reference Group met on September 21st, 28th and October 20th. A listening circle also took place on October 1st for Staff, Board, Clergy, Deacons, and key leaders/volunteers. There was also a training day (“Caring for the Congregation in Crisis”) on October 15th for a larger group of folks including Staff, Board, Clergy, Deacons, lay leaders and congregants who have pastoral skills/potential. These meetings/sessions are facilitated by Kathryn Smith from L3 Ministries and her colleague Shelley Schanzenbacher.

3. Refugee and Immigration Program
A. Transition of the new part-time Program Leader, Aleks Dughman-Manzur, is complete. Primary focus continues to be:
i. Ensuring the 5 refugees we’re sponsoring/settling are receiving the support they need. This has become the primary responsibility of the Program Leader at this time as the volunteer settlement teams have dissolved.
ii. Continuing to provide peer support opportunities for inland asylum claimants. Monthly meetings and support letters are the two primary activities associated with this work. A new volunteer leadership team has been formed and this team is providing our part-time Team Leader of Peer Support (Anthony Ojo) with assistance in planning and organizing the monthly meetings.
iii. Assessing the effectiveness and efficiency of the overall Program and making recommendations on what we should start/stop/continue in the future. A new strategy for improving our ability to sponsor and settle refugees will be created in collaboration with the Refugee Advisory Committee. This new strategy will be presented to the Board in January 2017.

4. Children’s and Family Ministry
A. Took a “summer break” and resumed in September. Through the leadership of Andrew Holmes, our part-time staff member who leads this Ministry, volunteers and families continue to be engaged in the planning and rollout of exciting new curriculum.
B. Facilities continue to be a major roadblock to the growth of this Ministry. The “Sunday School Room” located in the basement has suffered from flooding and is not useable at this time. We’re currently seeking donor assistance to renovate the space into a vibrant, inclusive and progressive environment that the children can return to and would become available for other groups and ministries seeking space during the week.
C. We’re seeing record numbers of children participate in the program (Nursery and Children’s Church). The growth rate is almost 400% (from an average of 10 children to almost 40).
D. In addition, we’re seeing a transformation in how children and families participate in worship. Our new Program Leader (Andrew Holmes) continues to engage the worship leaders in creative ways to actively involve children during worship. In turn, more families feel welcome and valued and this feeling of inclusion is also translating into a growing number of volunteers.

5. Senior Leadership Transitions
A. The Executive Search Process continues.
B. The Search Committee has been represented by the Governance Committee of the Board – Anne Brayley and Lori Boyce. Andrew Fleming’s Board role has been expanded to included participation in this Committee (he is also the Chair of the Fund Development Committee).
C. The Governance Committee met with the Young Adults group on August 25th to talk about the Senior Pastor Transition. Brent did an introduction and a brief update around his transition and future retirement, then Lori and Anne stayed on to get input from the Young Adults on the Church of the Future.
D. Church of the Future Survey – key result of the survey was feedback that we need to revisit our Vision and talk about the application of our Values. Next step is to work with the Culture Shift Committee (including Jim Allen and Kelly Dickenson) to develop a recommendation on how we engage the congregation in this. Recommendations will first be shared with the Board.
E. One of our objectives before Brent retires is to ensure we have a solid staff team with clear priorities/goals and an effective coaching model that helps to bring out the best in our people. A few initiatives are key to this:
I. Having clear goals/plans for all staff – now complete and performance evaluations are underway.
II. Ensuring the strategic work we’re doing on giving, engagement and growth are aligned to the appropriate staff roles with clear accountabilities for collaboration – completed for giving and engagement but we need more conversations on growth objectives before staff accountabilities can be confirmed.
F. Two meetings took place for major donors on October 11th and 19th, to update them on the Senior Pastor transition and to get their input and feedback. We used these meetings as an opportunity to thank our donors as well as we won’t be doing a major donation recognition party this year.
G. A special announcement was made at all services on October 2nd around the Senior Pastor Transition and timelines. The Senior Pastor Search Committee was introduced and commissioned, and a 1-pager on the Senior Pastor Search Committee, including contact information, was provided to congregants and continues to be available at the Information Center.

6. Community Engagement & Spirituality
A. Mike Dodds, our part-time Ministry Leader continued to focus on 3 main priorities:
1. Stabilizing key teams that are struggling without a leader or enough volunteers (Café Connection, Reception, Info Center);
2. Membership criteria/covenant/process and list clean-up
3. Launching a new Life Long Learning Program.
B. Effective communication is a key characteristic of a vibrant community. The primary goal of our communications team has been to effectively represent the diverse voices of our community. The transformation with Sunday News and eNews is essentially complete. Our part-time Communications professional, Kendrew Pape, is now focused on improving website content/navigation and developing a communication survey for the congregation that will allow us to benchmark current satisfaction levels and implement improvement ideas.
C. Significant progress has been made in stabilizing the Café Connection and Reception Teams (2 new Team Leaders in place) and the Info Center (resolving their core issues around lack of volunteers and information)
D. Planning for the launch of Life Long Learning is well underway with a highly experienced team of volunteers who have formed a Strategy Committee (all are education professionals). In addition, 2 pilot sessions of the Spiritual Location exercise have been conducted to test out how this will be received by the broader congregation. Very positive feedback so far and Mike continues to recruit people who are willing to host/facilitate a session when we launch.
E. A new membership clean-up initiative is underway. This work is being done in collaboration with Lori Boyce as Chair of the Governance Committee and proposals on how we work with the existing criteria and covenant will be shared with the Board in coming months.
F. Received some good feedback on communications at the Town Hall. Primary theme was the ineffectiveness of our website (too cluttered and hard to find stuff). Kendrew Pape, our Team Leader of Communications, is building small sites for the Board, Giving, Volunteering etc. that will address the navigation challenges. Pace will be slow as we’re only able to afford Kendrew for 19 hours a week.

7. Web Enabled Congregational Engagement
Early in 2015 we formed a team of staff and volunteers to begin the search for new technology. This new technology will replace our current membership/financial management database (PowerChurch) and introduce a “Facebook-like” application that will allow ministries/groups to more effectively connect online. The team did some great work in developing requirements and in identifying a list of technology vendors that could fulfill these requirements.

Due to a lack of funding, we deeply regret this initiative continues to be on hold. We look forward to renewing our efforts when we have sufficient financial stability to proceed.

8. Congregational Giving Program
A. The goal of our congregational giving program is to create a culture of appreciation and generosity. Kevin Coutu, our part-time Team Leader of Giving Programs, has created a strategy to do this. Once completed, this can be shared with the Board via the Senior Pastor’s Report.
B. This strategy balances new approaches to increasing congregational giving with the desire to remain focused on the things we know are working: a) building a team of volunteers who are passionate about the work we do (“Ambassadors”); b) calling donors to simply thank them for their support; c) improved transparency on our financial health and d) frequently sharing all the amazing work that is happening as a result of the congregation’s generosity (“impact stories” and simple messages of the community’s accomplishments during the offering call).
C. We recently completed our Fall Pledge Campaign. Unfortunately, we didn’t achieve the campaign’s goals and we continue to look for ways to grow our automated giving donor base. Highlights of the campaign are:
I. 42 people participated – 13 new automated givers
II. Raised $23,444 in new giving
III. Some people had to reduce their giving which resulted in a loss of $11,440
IV. Net raised was $12,005 versus the goal of $60,000
D. Our attention is now on the Christmas Eve and Christmas Appeal fundraisers. We will proactively continue donors who supported these fundraisers last year and ask them if they’re able to provide the same level of support this year.

9. Improve Worship Planning & Innovation
A. We had two recent AM Worship Department Meeting on September 14th and October 4th. Brent, Brad Hickman (October 4th only), Mark Purcell and Annie Menezes participated. Great progress has been made with these meetings, especially in identifying key issues and priorities in AM Worship.
I. Our top priority has been getting a new Team Leader for the Anointer and Communion Server Ministry, and restructuring this Ministry. A Team Leader, Denise Campbell, has been confirmed, and we have had some discussion on ways to restructure the Ministry.
II. Our second priority is to provide more support for Team Leaders. Brad Hickman has agreed to facilitate team leader meetings, and the first one took place on October 30th. We also discussed the role of Staff (i.e. Pastor of AM Worship) with Team Leaders, i.e. support, training, communications and accountability.
B. A meeting took place on October 5th on the Alternative Worship Services, i.e. what did and didn’t work, and Rev Carmen Llanos’ role moving forward. Brent and Carmen met with Team Leaders/Co-Leaders from HOLA, Blacks in Praise and Worship and Young Adults. The meeting was very received by everyone.

10. Major Donor Asks
A. A meeting was held on August 24th to discuss the purpose and focus of the Fund Development Committee. The outcome was a new statement of purpose for this Committee ( The Committee is now in the process of rebuilding the team in order to fulfill this mandate.
B. A key priority for Brent and Shelly in the coming months is to work collaboratively with the Board/Major Donor Primes/Fund Development Committee to confirm our funding priorities and reach out to high potential donors in an attempt to fulfill the organization’s financial needs before Brent’s retirement.
C. A list of all our funding needs has been developed. It includes priorities for the building, technology, people/programs and adequate contingencies/reserves. Total at this point is almost $8MM. Donor conversations are being set up for November.

11. Achieve our Financial Health Goals
A. We’re projecting a year end deficit of $35,000 because our revenues have fallen short of budget and our building repairs have been greater than expected.
B. As we reflect on the trends of annual pledged giving, we note that 2016 is expected to fall short of 2015 by about 4% (a decrease of $17,000). Some of the decrease has been offset by an increase in plate offerings ($5,700). We were hopeful our Fall Pledge Campaign would have resulted in an increase in pledged giving but the results weren’t what we hoped for (raised $12,000 on a goal of $60,000).
C. In our Fall Pledge Campaign, we shared information on the cost of running the church ($36.95 per person per week). A breakdown of the cost drivers was also included. Although we’ve received positive feedback about sharing this information, it isn’t resulting in a significant increase in giving yet. We still face the challenging reality that 50% of the congregation gives $5 a week or less. We’re looking for congregants that would like to help us assess the root causes of current giving patters and develop strategies for engaging the congregation in creating a culture of generosity.

12. Community Framework
A. The Community Framework (C.F.) is a tool developed in 2015 that helps Ministries and groups clarify the purpose and identify ways in which they will engage the broader congregation. Progress in completing Community Frameworks has been slow and we’re looking for ways to simplify the tool.
B. The Framework will be a public document (virtual binder) to be made available on the MCC Toronto website. A detailed index will be created, and any content that goes into this public document first needs to be approved by the Executive in order to ensure alignment with MCC Toronto’s vision and mission. We acknowledge that this is a living document, and revisions will be made on an ongoing basis.
C. We are planning to have a C.F. Month each year, where the importance and process of the C.F. is reinforced, and various groups/ministries will be encouraged to make revisions to their part of the C.F. Groups that have successfully accomplished this will be commissioned during service.
D. We are planning a retreat day (possibly Spring of 2017) for Team Leaders which will include the C.F. process/training which they can take with them to their teams.
E. We identified about 15 people who have the skills/potential to be facilitators for various groups for the C.F. process. They would each be asked to come to an orientation meeting and then work with 4-5 groups a year to get their C.F. done.

13. Other
A. We had a great Anniversary Sunday service on July 17, 2016. There were 22 members who qualified for 10 year medals and 16 members who qualified for 25 year medals. We gave out awards to the following people: Kevin Coutu (Beloved Disciple Award), Darlene Morris (Vision Alive Award for 12 Step Program), Linda Leenders (Vision Alive Award for Depression Initiative) and Doug Kerr (Community Service Award).
B. We had an ordination ceremony for Sam Morris on August 20, 2016. It was a beautiful service and with approximately 200 people in attendance.
C. August 24th was Brent’s 39th Anniversary at MCC Toronto. It was acknowledged at the August 21st services, with announcements made by Andrew Fleming (9am) and Lori Boyce (10:50am).
D. Brent completed a written Sabbatical Summary (
E. 2% Fund/Update on work being done by Florin Buhuceanu (LGBTQ activist in Eastern Europe): On September 12, 2016, the Global LGBT Coalition met with the WCC Staff in Geneva, who are working with the Reference Group on Human Sexuality (RGHS). An international group of newly elected Lutheran bishops were introduced next to us as Global LGBT Coalition. Later that day they shared the new developments and strategic direction the RGHS is taking. On September 13th, 2016, we met with Chian Yew Lim, Human Rights Officer, Special Procedures Branch. She reported on the conference in June on “Freedom of Religion or Belief and Sexuality”. Soon a book will be published, Florin and Andre´ contributed to that conference.
F. We had our annual Emergency Services Sunday on October 2nd. Chief Mark Saunders brought us greetings and there were reps from Police, Fire and Paramedics. Planning work was done by Brent and the Healing Racism Initiative Team Leaders (Sandra Fontenelle, Caroline O’Reilly and Michael Went) and by Brent and the Intervention Team (Rev. Sam Morris, Sandra Fontenelle and Caroline O’Reilly) in preparation for potential service disruptions. The service went smoothly and was overall well-received. Information about our four race issues initiatives and contact info was included in SNews (Education, White People Educating White People About Racism, and Creating Safe Spaces for People of Color to Share).
G. On October 5th Brent met again with the Healing Racism Initiative Team Leaders to continue our discussions and planning around the above topics. Meetings will continue on a monthly basis. Again, I am very pleased on how this is developing.
H. Rev. Rachelle Brown was appointed as Interim Moderator for Metropolitan Community Churches on October 3rd, 2016. Her appointment is until the 2019 General Conference.
I. Work on scenario planning for Brent’s November trial continues.
J. Attendance statistics:

Third Quarter Attendance Jul-Sep 2014-16
Service Average Weekly Attendance
Jul – Sep 2014 Average Weekly Attendance
Jul – Sep 2015 Average Weekly Attendance
Jul – Sep 2016 % Change 2014-16 % Change 2015-16
9AM 87 76 89 +2.3% +17.1%
11AM 309 279 304 -1.6% +9.0%
7PM 67 60 65 -3.0% +8.3%
Total Weekly Average 463 415 458 -1.1% +10.4%
*Does not include live webcast stats

Year-to-Date Attendance January – September 2014-16
Service Average Weekly Attendance
January – September 2014 Average Weekly Attendance
January – September 2015 Average Weekly Attendance
January – September 2016 % Change 2014-16 % Change 2015-16
9AM 91 86 94 +3.2% +10.3%
10:50AM 350 352 374 +6.8% +6.1%
7PM 70 60 60 -13.7% 0.0%
Total Weekly
Average 511 498 528 +3.3% +6.2%

14. Report from the Board of Directors

We hope you are checking out our “Congregational Updates” that are featured in Sunday e-News, the Sunday service bulletin, and are included on our website. We have committed to regular, transparent and timely communication with the Congregation. We meet every six to eight weeks and provide you with the key points arising from our meetings. In addition, on our church website, you can find a variety of Board documents, including the Board Roles and Responsibilities, our role as a “Policy” Board, our slate of individual responsibilities, our strategic plan, and our Senior Pastor Selection process. We encourage you to check out:

As a Board we focus on policies, vision development and refinement, strategy, and oversight. In 2016 we have two major objectives that Brent has already touched on:

I. Building the foundation to support financial stability and sustainability: we have worked with staff to target both increasing revenue and reducing expenses as we seek to find the delicate balance of challenging ourselves to do all that we are called to do – while also recognizing the challenges of people’s capacity to give. And so we have made difficult decisions re: staffing and continue to leave ourselves financially exposed by our modest attempts to build our contingency funds. At the same time we are working on a strategy to increase the number of people who support us via automated giving.

II. Senior Pastor Selection Process

Under our by-laws, the Board of Directors is charged with the responsibility of identifying, recruiting and presenting to the Congregation our next Senior Pastor who will be formally elected by members of MCC Toronto. The mandate of the search committee is to have a clear and robust Senior Pastor selection plan to ensure they identify the strongest possible candidate who will be strongly endorsed by the congregation to partner with us as we continue to grow as a vibrant, inclusive, progressive Christian church. They have developed criteria including a focus on progressive theology criteria for potential candidates.

Ultimately the Selection Committee will come to the Board with a recommendation. When the Board has endorsed the candidate, the individual will be presented to the congregation. Members in good standing will then vote on the candidate.

In March 2017 we will conduct a public open-call for candidates. Information regarding the position, roles and responsibilities will be available on our website and interested candidates will be invited to apply.

In the meantime, we are in the process of proactively identifying possible candidates who may be interested in applying. This search has extended beyond MCC as we search for our next visionary leader who lead work with us and help us to achieve our Mission and Vision. At this point initial interviews have been conducted with 6-8 individuals and we are confident that we will identify a strong candidate to continue to lead us in our commitment to our Vision and Mission to be a progressive Christian church which build bridges and transforms individuals.

The following link has description of Primary Responsibilities and Qualifications for the Senior Pastor: