Incumbent Priest, Trinity Church Aurora, Diocese of Toronto (CHRP, M.Div., B.A.)
Curriculum Vitae: Dawn Davis.pdf
Go to the limits of your longing. Embody me.
Flare up like flame
and make big shadows I can move in.
Let everything happen to you: beauty and terror.
Just keep going. No feeling is final.
Don’t let yourself lose me.
Rainer Marie Rilke
This poem speaks to me about God’s great yearning for us and for our great capacity for life if we embrace God.
Hello, I am Dawn Louise Davis. Few of you know me and yet you soon will be asked to gather in the power of the Spirit and consider me, along with others, as your future bishop. To help you be as faithful as possible in this process, here are some of my thoughts and some information about me.
To begin, I want to say how deeply grateful I am to the Search and Nominations committee and to you for inviting me into this process and allowing me to be part of your journey.
I believe we are in a time of great change in the life of the church. Last year, our parish invited author and theologian Phyllis Tickle to lead a weekend retreat. In her book, The Great Emergence, she argues that tumultuous societal change happens about every 500 years, the last being the Reformation. These are hinge moments, when everything in society begins to shift, is re-evaluated, and ultimately modified to make it relevant for the next 500 years. We are in the early part of this process, which means it is not yet absolutely clear what we are becoming and where we are going.
Declining numbers and significantly shifting spiritual concerns are indicators of this. So is anxiety!
We are just beginning to realize that many of our parishes can afford a priest or a building, but not both. And we haven’t really begun to contemplate what our church would look like without mostly full-time professional, ordained leadership. Likewise, what would it mean to be Anglican without the beautiful esthetic of our buildings? Despite the many unknowns, there are a few signs of how our faith might evolve.
One emphasis that is emerging, I believe, is discipleship. We are being called back to the basics of our faith and to recognize that our mission is to make disciples: faithful, mature, confident, followers of the Way, who know and love Jesus. We are about helping people take on a lifestyle that is patterned after Christ.
The Anglican Church brings a wealth of treasure to these emerging but unsettling times: the breadth and depth of our theology, our liturgy and our polity (our governing structures). True, some treasures will have to be put in the attic for a bit. Some others will need to be taken out of the attic, dusted off and rehabilitated. Others we will want to hold onto firmly not in order to protect them but because they continue to be genuinely life-giving.
I believe the church today requires leaders who can facilitate this process of discernment. How we decide what to keep, modify or let go will require these essential leadership elements: 1. A leader must create a sense of unity and purpose. 2. A leader must safeguard the space for honest but loving discussion. 3. A leader must articulate the voice of the Spirit as expressed and heard through the community; and 4. A leader must develop a process for mobilizing the community to step forward in faith.
Considerable care must be given to our clergy who are at the forefront of this church transition. This is not a time to be alone. We will be most effective when, as the College of Presbyters, we work together as a community. The future role of the priest will likely focus even more intentionally on making disciples and helping people realize an intimate relationship with the living God. (And was that not at the root of our calling in the first place?)
Care must also be given to our laypeople, many of whom I have found are wondering what has happened and is continuing to happen to their church. They will also have wonderfully creative ideas of how to move forward. As a layperson, you may find yourself in a place where you need more intentional faith formation as you take on new and expanded roles in ministry. Welcome to one of the most exciting parts of the faith journey!
As we become more grounded in our relationship with God, we will be asked to listen even more carefully to what the Holy Spirit is doing outside the church in the world. We will also have to pay close attention to whether our message of proclaiming the Good News is being heard outside the church. If not, we must find out why and determine how to communicate more effectively. This engagement with the world is our spiritual imperative.
Here are some of my gifts I offer.
I have been fortunate to have a wide experience within the church. I was born into an active Anglican family where both my parents took on a wide variety of leadership roles in their parishes, although my father died when I was 8. As a young adult appointed to the Canadian Council of Churches in the 1980s, I was mentored by our then-primate, Archbishop Ted Scott, and exposed to a large organizational structure with enormous diversity. At the parish level, I have served in small, medium and large churches—including a cathedral, which has its own particularity—so I know first hand that one size does not fit all as a parish model.
For 10 years I worked in Toronto as the first diocesan Human Resources Officer in Canada and then as Director of Ministry Resources, leading a team that served five bishops, 300 parishes with 600 priests and deacons, and about 30,000 active laity in complex, demanding multicultural urban, suburban and rural environments. I was privileged to work with phenomenal lay, clergy and episcopal leaders, and to play a significant part in decisions that brought new life, fairness and compassion to our people. Having worked in human resources in the church has given me a deeper wisdom in how to manage change and to deal with the difficulties people find themselves in. And while my diocesan experience stripped away any naïveté, it has left me a deeply joyful and hopeful person of faith.
I now serve in the wonderful parish of Trinity, Aurora, just north of Toronto, a place David and I came to at the same time we decided to start a family. Like most parish clergy I speak to, I struggle every day with the issues of spiritual relevance, expansive pastoral needs, declining dollars, expensive property issues, aging demographics and work-life balance. Sometimes I think I am successful! Most profoundly, I have experienced that when I trust God, I not only “make big shadows for God to move in,” but even to dance in.
I do not believe I have all the answers, but I am a leader who has a vision, commitment and capacity to build community so that New Westminster continues to be a diocese where the church is vibrantly alive, healthy and active in the Lower Mainland and Sunshine Coast, proclaiming in word and deed the Good News of Jesus Christ.
During this time of discernment for the diocese, if anyone would find it helpful to speak with me, please do not hesitate to call or email me.
Once again, thank you for the privilege of being on this journey with you.