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A recent MEN'S GROUP meeting at St. George's of the Blue Mountains


By Rev. Canon Grayhame Bowcott

The power of friendship and testimony are two sources of motivation that are often overlooked in the inventory of gifts found within the Anglican Church.

In my work with students and congregations, some of the questions most regularly asked are: how can we find new members to join us? How can we attract others to try us out? Where are newcomers to be found these days?

We’ve all heard these questions before. Chances are, we have asked them ourselves! But in attempting to answer them, students and congregations often have a tendency to remove themselves from the equation.

What I mean by this, is that their first tendency is often to not consider themselves (those asking the question) as the ‘relational link’ in the process of inviting new guests and friends to experience their church community. To not consider their own friends and testimony as being a starting point for their questions. 

Allow me to use an illustration to make my point. I am proud to share that one of the newest and most successful ministries in my home congregation is the formation of a men’s fellowship group that has come together, and grown week-over-week, completely independent of clergy planning or supervision.

St. George’s men’s group began with a few close members in our congregation who enjoyed each other’s company on the golf course, around the breakfast table, but also in Church on Sunday. Whenever they gather, they talk about the issues that are most important to them: community service, local politics, supporting their families, and living out their Christian faith.

“We’d love to invite all the men of the congregation,” they said, in proposing the idea for a men’s group, “but, we’d also like to invite our non-Church friends to feel like they can be part of the group too!” Not once in their proposal for starting up this group, did the organizers use words like “evangelism”, “testimony”, or “witnessing.” However, since its formation, that is exactly what this group has been doing within our local neighbourhood.

Here's how it works: Each month our men gather around coffee, muffins, and most recently, a sit-down breakfast. Each gathering starts with a time of informal visiting: a chance for friends to catch up, and an opportunity for new faces to feel welcomed in the group. After a half hour of social time, a planned speaker is invited to present to the group. The speakers have been selected among local community connections, to talk about issues that relate to people who live in our neighbourhood. These have included a former investment banker speaking about human dignity and building conversations of mutual respect; a retired businessman sharing his story of cancer diagnosis, and his founding of a cancer support counseling service in our local community; and having the local Fire Prevention Officer come to talk about keeping families safe and finding ways to offer personal service to others.

The concept of the meetings isn’t new. All sorts of groups do similar things in most communities. However, what is unique within our St. George’s Men’s Group is the informal conversations about faith and faith identity that link together all of the topics discussed.

Participants in this group feel comfortable inviting their non-Church friends to join in the conversations. Why? Because the topics are meaningful to them. Yet, within the discussion of the topics, there are also opportunities for participants to be open in talking about their faith.

At the most recent gathering, we heard the shared faith testimony of a local Firefighter, who talked about the importance of trusting in the goodness of God, even in the face of local tragedy and loss. The speaker commended the members of our men’s group for their prayerful support and the various ways that they are seeking to serve our wider community.

It seems that the secret of success for groups such as these is found in the authenticity and sharing of the participants; in the welcome that is extended to newcomers; but most importantly, in the willingness to be open to conversations about faith.

Does this mean that all the invited participants to our Men’s Group are going to join in worship on Sunday? No, it doesn’t. However, for some participants in the group, their participation might be the first step in recognizing that an authentic, supportive, and welcoming faith community does exist. One that is deliberate in holding the door of inclusion open for them to consider.       

Rev. Canon Dr. Grayhame Bowcott is passionate about fostering congregational relationships and sharing our Anglican vocation with others. He serves as Rector of St. George’s, The Parish of The Blue Mountains, and as Program Director for the Licentiate in Theology program at Huron University.