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Fresh Start

Transition in parish leadership raises many important issues in the life of the community. The early years in this new relationship are critical and formational.

Fresh Start is a one-year program offered by the College of Bishops to clergy and congregations in transition. Part of the wellness initiative of the Diocese of Toronto, it’s a facilitated process for new incumbents/priests-in-charge and associates, as well as their parishes.

Fresh Start was created by the Episcopal Church in the late 1990s. After successful use in more than 40 dioceses in the United States, a Canadian version was developed by the Ecclesiastical Province of Ontario. It is being used in the dioceses of Huron, Niagara and Toronto, and facilitators have been trained for the dioceses of Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island, Eastern Newfoundland and Labrador, and Ontario. Fresh Start is available to all dioceses in the Canadian Church. See the Fresh Start Brochure.

The Diocese of Toronto, which now holds the copyright on Fresh Start, completely rewrote the curriculum in 2019/2020 to make it more responsive to the needs of clergy and to incorporate learnings from Appreciative Inquiry.

The time of transition between clergy can be a stressful time of uncertainty. It can also be a fertile time of newness and opportunity that can bring about health and growth. An excellent resource to help you and your congregation through this unsettled period is “A Change of Pastors . . . And How It Affects Change in the Congregation,” by Loren B. Mead.


  • Helps with the transitions issues inherent in any new ministry.
  • Sharpens the skills of lay and clergy leaders for congregational development.
  • Strengthens the collegial relationships among the clergy of a diocese.
  • Deepens the trust and interconnection between and among the clergy, the lay leaders of congregations, and the bishop/bishop’s staff.

For congregations

At the time a new incumbent or long-term (2+ year) priest-in-charge is appointed,  the Parish Selection Committee coach or diocesan Fresh Start facilitators will invite the congregation to attend a Fresh Start session called “Welcoming Your Priest.”  Later, you’ll be encouraged to participate in a Fresh Start parish celebration with your new cleric, maybe as part of the celebration of new ministry, called “History Sharing.”

For more information, see the Fresh Start for Congregations page. Contact Elizabeth McCaffrey for more information.

For clergy

Clergy in new incumbencies meet monthly in their episcopal areas. These gatherings are led by trained Fresh Start facilitators and offer a collegial environment in which to:

  • examine transition issues in the new ministry
  • consider critical incidents in ministry brought by the participants

As stated in your appointment letter, clergy are expected to participate in this important program. For more information, see the Clergy Fresh Start page.