The Most Rev’d & Dr. John Holder
Bishop of Barbados
Archbishop of the Church in the Province of the West Indies
Message to launch the Diocesan Strategic Plan
Diocesan Service - February 7, 2016
My Sisters and Brothers in Christ, we have gathered today in the name of Our Lord to celebrate our family Eucharist. We do so in thanksgiving to Almighty God for all the many blessings he continues to bestow upon us.
God has been good to us, as individuals, as a Church and as a nation in many ways. For this we are grateful. We respond to the goodness of God by trying to be better in our Christian work and witness for Jesus Our Lord.
This is why today in these celebrations, we launch our three-year Diocesan Strategic Plan, 2016-2019. The purpose of this plan is to launch a process that is intended to refocus, renew, reinvigorate and reposition our church for more effective ministry in the 21st Century environment.
The Plan offers a framework for us Anglicans to recommit ourselves to the mission given to us by Jesus Christ, Our Lord, to assess the work we do to advance the Kingdom of God, and to create effective structures to shape and support that mission.~
The success of the plan ultimately depends on each member of each parish, on each and every one of us, but especially you. Your participation and support are therefore critical. The process of implementation of the plan will provide opportunities for all members to identify with the mission of the church at the Diocesan and parish levels.
This will require us to adopt a common way of life, be supportive of each other, foster a spirit of co-operation and a willingness to work together for the common good. By so doing, we live out the Plan’s theme: “Being a Beacon of Christ’s Presence in the Community.”
You may ask, why do we need a strategic plan in the first place? From time to time, every organization needs to step back and critically evaluate what it has been doing with a view to determining effectiveness and relevance. We live in a dynamic world of constant change. And, with such change, some needs of people also change.
As a result, what was relevant to people’s needs 25 years ago, may not necessarily be so today. Any time an organization ceases to meet and satisfy the needs of its members it loses relevance and can eventually become extinct.
Our church – The Anglican Church – through its ministry, continues to provide for the spiritual and other needs of our members and the wider Barbadian community. The strategic plan will greatly assist us in doing so better.
What we as a church have to offer as our core service or product is still largely relevant. We offer the Good News of Jesus Our Lord, and are guided by his message in our response to life’s problems. His message of love, forgiveness and compassion remains as relevant today as it was 2,000 years ago. The physical world has changed in fundamental ways but human beings are still in great need of this message.
A major challenge which we face, therefore, is finding more effective ways of communicating the timeless message of Our Lord to contemporary audiences. We have a relevant message but our task is to ensure that it resonates powerfully, especially with our young people, who are growing up in an increasingly materialistic world which obscures the spiritual dimension of life.
The strategic plan addresses these issues. It is a living document and we are taking a flexible approach towards its implementation. As we move along over the next three years, there will be an obvious need for some adjustments from time to time to incorporate ideas, for example, which you may come up with or to respond to changes which may arise.
We are doing all this in a context where more and more persons seem to find no relevance in religion. We have many young persons, as well as some older ones, who have disconnected from the traditional moral and spiritual anchor offered by religion and are morally adrift. The Church needs to respond to this. Our strategic plan can assist us in doing so.
We do not intend for this plan to simply remain on paper. We want to operationalize and make it a working document that we all embrace, one that we identify with at the Diocesan level, one that we understand at the parish level and appreciate what it means at the personal level.
At the end of the day, the plan is about the people of this church. It is about you and me. It is about the kind of church we want to have in the future.
In practical terms, what do we intend to do? What will you see that will make a difference in your Christian journey? There are a number of activities and events that are planned over the three year life of this strategic plan.
Some are meant to empower Anglicans with a better understanding of the faith we practice and the rich heritage we have inherited. We recognize that all cannot be accomplished in one swoop. Therefore, the committee tasked with implementing this plan has identified a number of things to be pursued within the first year.
This strategic plan places emphasis on doing instead of talking. As many of you are aware, we have already started the Anglican Studies programme. It seeks to ensure that we fully understand what we do as a church and why we do it. This series will continue with sessions in February, April, June and October of this year.
Today, you should have also received, the first in a series of pamphlets explaining 'What it means to be Anglican'. We want you to share this with your friends and colleagues, understand what it is saying, discuss the topics with your parish priest. In other words, don’t just keep them as a book mark in your Book of Common Prayer. We want you to use and share the information.
Another aspect of the plan is a series of meetings with the various church organizations and the Sunday School Superintendents. By bringing them together, we will be able to share ideas, promote a commonality of purpose, and spread the good work that you are doing individually in your various parishes.
You should be able to return from these meetings with renewed vigour and new perspectives to continue building the Kingdom of God in your respective parishes. We urge you, therefore, to heed the call when the invitations are sent.
Starting February as well, there will be a series of Deanery Lenten Services. The aim is to further deepen our appreciation of this most holy time and share an understanding of the structure of our church through the rural deaneries. May has been designated Home and Family Month. With the emphasis on the home and on domestic life, we will have a panel discussion to air some of our views on this important topic and give guidance to the wider community.
In September, we plan to have the inaugural Annual Festival of Psalms which promises to be an uplifting experience. You will receive further details on this event. And as we come to the end of the year, we plan to observe Diocesan Youth Month in October, Stewardship Month on November, and the Holy Innocents Rally will take place again in December.
There will be a National Consultation on the Family planned for October where we wish to focus the nation on the family, including developed world-driven attempts to redefine the family and the implications for us in Barbados and the Caribbean. We intend to emphasize the need for us as a nation to return to some of those values that we seem to have lost, with the changes to the family unit as we know it.
As members of the Anglian Communion with a membership of eighty million Christians throughout the world, as the oldest and the largest single denomination on the island, with the great work on family done by the Mothers’ Union, and other groups, we want to lead the national discussion on the family. We also wish to show by example why this country needs to restore those values.
An exciting period lies ahead for all of us in this Diocese. However, the onus is on all of us to make it happen. I have given you a brief summary of some of what you can expect in year one of the Strategic Plan. It’s now for you to play your part by getting involved. You have said repeatedly that you want a better church.
This process is about building a better church, a more effective church which continues to be Christ-centred, a church which is responsive to the needs of its members and the wider community. The future of our church is in our hands. The future is ours to mould. The Strategic Plan presents an opportunity. Let’s embrace it and make it happen.
May God bless and guide us as we renew our commitment to advancing the Kingdom of God in this part of His vineyard!