From scarcity to hope

Book review: Carol Howard Merritt. Reframing Hope: Vital ministry in a new generation. Alban Institute. 2010

Over the past few years I have worked in a mostly rural diocese where we have read about and urged parishes to “move from a theology of scarcity to a theology of abundance”. Many of our churches that are dying are focussed on what they are lacking, and so get sucked into focussing on what they once had, and forget the abundance of what may be in front of them.

I worked to teach many people to change this thinking, countless parish council meetings looking at financial statements in the black and members still convinced we were poor and couldn’t afford office supplies.

However, in other settings, it was harder. It felt trite to not acknowledge the very real scarcity that existed. Any talk of dying or closing were not to cross my lips, but we all knew the reality that I was told not to name. Talking of abundance in these settings was merely prolonging the inevitable with false hope.

Carol Howard Merritt’s latest contribution is for congregations who know they have something special to share with their communities but know that their historical tradition as it is currently practiced is not reaching a new generation. Carol has never minced words when it comes to the dire straits of our institutions. Rather than focussing on an elusive abundance we may or may not feel confident in, Carol encourages us to trust not in the false hope of a contrived abundance, but in the hope of the sustaining God of the exodus and the desert.

Using examples from rural and urban churches, young and old Christians and “otherwise”, Carol encourages the church to seriously consider the concerns and opportunities of our contemporary time when discerning the Spirit’s course for our faith communities. Rather than asking us to dispose of so-called archaic or historical practices, this book acknowledges the power and opportunity of historical, institutional churches, particularly the resources these churches have to explore new ways to communicate the gospel.

For those who are confused and afraid of the technological explosion of our current age, this book places social media and multi-media in a context of enhancing the sharing of the Gospel. It is stressed that these are not requirements, but means to an end. If you are curious about how the tools of social media and multi-media have become so critical in our current generations, but are not so sure if your church is ready to jump on the broadband, there is encouragement here for you, as well.

I have shared Carol’s first book, Tribal Church with many and the pages of Reframing Hope will be turned just as often. Where Tribal Church introduced the church to Generation Y and the Millenials, Reframing Hope introduces the church to a culture that extends from 10 year olds to those who are past retirement. The current state of the institutional church is not limited to one generation, although the burden will be borne by the younger generation. Reframing Hope is for the whole Church, a Church that is ready to try something different to keep on living.



Hi everyone,

Sorry, it has been a while. We are now, finally, in a deep freeze here in Antigonish. I know we all love warmth and sunshine, but I need winter. I need winter to appreciate the summer. And when I don’t get a proper winter north of 42, I wonder how anyone can doubt climate change.

Part of the reason I haven’t been adding much here is because there has been little that I could or would add. Obviously, a lot of my work is confidential and most of what I can share is on my church’s blog ( You can find my sermons and other happenings there. Other than that, the big challenge has been settling into a routine with dog, partner, family, parish and new town.

And what routine? Well, it is starting to form. I have joined the St. FX chorale and we had our concert on December 5. I am really enjoying being part of an accomplished choir again. I love the challenge of reading music by ear. Our next concert is in April with some beautiful music from the black gospel and celtic traditions with the theme of peace. The best part of chorale singing is knowing that no matter how much you screw up or your voice just stops at the final high G of the final movement of John Rutter’s Gloria (yep, it happened, kinda like getting within 2 ft. of the top of a climb, kinda anti-climactic), you are still part of making a beautiful sound.

I am also blessed to be in a town with an active L’Arche community (thanks Corrinne!). If you have never been to a L’Arche community, I would highly recommend visiting one or at least reading the writings of Jean Vanier about community (speaking of, I found that book you gave me for my ordination the other day, Corrinne. I will look at it next. Promise.) I had a great meatloaf dinner with my friends at Covenant House and got my pants beat off at Skip-Bo by Margie!

The ordination was glorious and I love priestly ministry. The hard stuff is really hard and the good stuff is really great. Being able to offer the eucharist to people from so many walks of life makes any frustrations from the week all better.

That’s enough for now. I think of you all often. Next time you are on your way to Cape Breton stop in for a pee break. D+

Another Invitation

I know I know it is shameful that I have gone this long! Parish life is challenging and fulfilling and VERY VERY BUSY! But I am loving it. I can’t believe that in…um…how many sleeps? Marc would know… 25! 25 sleeps and I will be ordained as a priest.

But before I get to that, I have three churches. St. Mary the Virgin in Bayfield is a small wooden church overlooking the water with acoustics comparable to Indian River! Holy Trinity in Country Harbour is also small and wooden and in the woods in the interior of Nova Scotia in Guysborough County. It is on a beautiful drive that always soothes my soul. St. Paul the Apostle is the “town church” with a diverse congregation and some wonderful talent. You can keep up on our happenings by weekly visiting the parish blog.

Some of you attended my ordination to the diaconate, for which I am extremely grateful. This ordination will make me a priest, able to celebrate at the Eucharist among other sacraments to which I feel called to fulfil the ministry God has called me to. Do you get the called bit?

So, here is the official invitation–there’s another one, so keep reading:

By the Grace of God and with the consent of the people
The Right Reverend Frederick Hiltz and
the Right Reverend Susan Moxley,
by Divine Permission,
Bishops of the Diocese of Nova Scotia and
Prince Edward Island
will ordain

Beverly Dawn Dickieson

to the Sacred Order of Priests
in Christ’s One Holy Catholic
and Apostolic Church.

Wednesday, the twenty-ninth of May, the eve of St. Andrew,
in the year of our Lord
two thousand six
at seven thirty in the evening,
Cathedral Church of All Saints
1340 Tower Road, Halifax, Nova Scotia.

Your faithful prayers are required and
your gracious presence is requested.

You are also invited to join me at the chapel of Atlantic School of Theology on Thursday, November 30 at 8:15 am for my first Eucharist.

Blessings, Rev. Dawn


Parables are a powerful teaching tool because they begin with those things with which we are familiar. Parables are not meant to be meticulously interpreted like a code, but to point us to where we should, in our every day lives, see God. This morning’s parable from Mark uses something as small as a seed and uses it to connect us with the enormity of God’s kingdom. As we look at all of our beautiful gardens in the coming weeks, let us be mindful that the kingdom of God is right before us. Rev. Dawn


It is with great excitement–and a little sadness–to share that I have received a parish appointment from Bishop Fred Hiltz. Beginning July 1, I will be the incumbent for the parish of Antigonish and Bayfield with Country Harbour. It is a bustling parish, particularly with its links to St. Francis Xavier University. Part of my time will be as an ecumenical chaplain to the St. FX community. My last Sunday with you will be next Sunday, June 25.

This past week I visited with our friends in hospital, four parishioners in their homes and met with St. Margaret’s Property Committee. On Thursday I attended a meeting of Corrections Canada and the Halifax Chaplaincy to hear Professor Jennifer Llewellyn on “Faith Communities and Restorative Justice in Canada”. Restorative Justice includes community based alternatives to incarceration and has long been a priority of our bishops and deacons. Blessings, Rev. DawN

I am happy to announce

Beginning July 1, I will be the Incumbent of the Parish of Antigonish and Bayfield with Country Harbour.

It is a three point charge and includes a part-time chaplaincy position at St. Francis Xavier University. I have a HUGE rectory, so I am happy to “store” any furniture you have no space for! I am absolutely ecstatic! Mom is happy that I am only an hour off the ferry, and I am happy that I am a reasonable driving distance from Moncton.

Yesterday I took Fred up to see the rectory and Bayfield church. It is a beautiful area and I am looking forward to spending the summer there.