Governance-St. James United Church

Governance-St. James United Church


In 2010, St. James undertook a review of our church council governance model. In an effort to streamline our decision-making, and to reduce the number of people required to keep the church moving forward, we adopted a "management team" model, approved by Presbytery.

Through three teams, the Congregational Life Team, the Resource Team and the Policy and Planning Team, all of the tasks required of congregational governance as set out in The Manual (available to download at are accomplished, and the special, local considerations of our ministry together are upheld. The various aspects of church life are marshalled within each team, with the hope that we can create a permission-giving atmosphere. Where before, each decision had to be vetted through a hierarchy of groups, now decisions can be taken at the committee or team level, thus reducing the duplication of tasks, which was causing fatigue among the faithful who have offered to serve in leadership.

To ensure smooth communication among the teams, we have a board which meets regularly with some representation from each team. Each team will have a number of sub-committees, which can be changed from time to time to respond to our call to ministry and our changing vision. The work of the Congregational Life Team is accomplished through our Lay Visitors group, our Hospitality group (greeting and ushering duties), the Worship Arts group, Christian Education group and Mission and Outreach group (which includes the Mission and Service enthusiast). The Resource Team includes the Property and Caretaking group, the Cemetery board and the Board of Trustees, as well as the Ministry and Personnel Committee, which oversees and supports the paid staff. The Policy and Planning team groups together our fundraising efforts, the articulation of policies as they are required, and ideally considers the longterm and short-term plans of the congregation in living out our vision.

The United Church of Canada follows a democratic, collegial governance model. Congregations within a regional area or cultural grouping meet together to determine policy for the churches within their bounds. This court is called the presbytery. Presbytery also provides caring oversight of all the pastoral charges within its bounds, oversees new church developments, and assists in making policy for the denomination by transmitting matters for the consideration of the higher courts

A number of presbyteries meeting together is called a Conference. Conferences usually meet annually, (although some have worked out different schedules to do their work), and at that meeting, it ordains and commissions ministers and recognizes those who have completed the work to become Designated Lay Ministers. Conferences hold all property as well, so when a church closes, the property reverts to the Conference. The day to day work of the conference between meetings is carried out by a staff, as well as by a host of volunteers from all presbyteries, making up conference committees. At the conference level, more voices can be gathered to give strength to a concern, and after much deliberation, various issues are transmitted to the national court of the United Church of Canada, the General Council.

General Council meets triennially with representatives governance2elected from all of the presbyteries across the country to determine policy for the denomination and to elect a moderator. The moderator sits in the chair for all General Council business, and represents the denomination as a figure head. The day to day operations of the denomination are carried out by the executive of the General Council, which meets regularly with the staff people hired to manage the ministries to which we are called at the national level. A big part of the work of the General Council Executive is carried out by the Executive Secretary.

St. James is part of Living Waters Presbytery. We are part of Toronto Conference.

Our current moderator is Gary Paterson, and General Council executive secretary is Nora Saunders. (Former moderators are given the honorific "Very Reverend")

Our Conference president is Ann Harbridge, and the executive secretary of Toronto Conference is Rev. David Allen.

The current chair of the Living Waters Presbytery is Pat Edmonds, a member of St. James! Chair elect is Kathi Phillips, minister of Sharon-Hope United Church. Conference staff working at the presbytery level are: Rachel Howes, Administrative Assistant, Rev. Dr. Todd McDonald, Conference Minister for Personnel Support and Jody Maltby, Conference Program Minister.