Minister for the little people
Where are they now? Lori Crocker ~ CCS Grad ~ 1980
Lori Crocker was born in Windsor, Nova Scotia. Growing up she was involved in Sunday School, children’s choir, Explorers, CGIT, youth group and Sherbrooke Lake United Church Camp in Franey Corner. She remembers loving the music and the musical, Jesus Christ Superstar. Lori got a B.A. in Education. She planned to be a High School English teacher. However, she took an elective that introduced her the Bible as literature and learned about hermeneutics and interpretation. Lori asked herself, Why aren’t people learning this? Lori crossed paths with her Grade Seven Sunday School teacher, Catherine Pace, who was now enrolled at CCS. Lori knew she wanted to go.
But when she arrived, she was challenged by learning in community, as she was used to learning in a regular academic setting. Her studies at Emmanuel College were easy. But participating in the CCS CORE Program was a challenge, especially, the idea that her contribution and her learning was only one part of the picture. Lori learned about conflict styles, letting go, how transformation happens and celebrating the outcome.
Her first field placement was at St. James Bond and Ted Dodd was her supervisor. (Her student number at Emmanuel happened to have a 007 in it. There were jokes about Lori being a secret agent for Jesus.) In her second and final year at CCS, she was at Deer Park on St. Clair Avenue, with Jean Parker. Lori learned about the fight for Diaconal ministers to be members of Presbytery in the early ‘60s. She met a lot of the women who paved the way for new church curriculum and other initiatives. She also became editor of APCW newsletter and went to their national meetings.
In one of the last years when diaconal ministers weren’t settled, Lori joined the staff at St. James and St. John United Church in Miramichi, New Brunswick. She was tasked immediately with running a Vacation Bible School. Her next two settings were in Grande Prairie and Innisfail, Alberta. She recalls congregants expected her to be the Christian Education staff person, coordinate youth rallies AND “fill in” for the ordained minister. It was an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink ministry.
Next, Lori spent seven years in South Korea. She learned Korean and worked with Women’s Associations to support women ministers and women’s visibility and empowerment. For many of the women, learning English was an essential step in empowerment. Lori learned she’d taken for granted learning English as a first language. The colonial reasons for the place of English as an international language was discussed, even as the women in South Korea wanted, and needed, to learn English to advance. Lori’s CCS training helped her to understand militarism and feminism.
Lori says living in a foreign country and learning the language was invaluable. In Korea, she learned the news was not the same as back home. She went to see an Ingmar Bergman film in Swedish. The subtitles were Korean. Lori couldn’t follow the plot. But this was a huge education. And stores were full of Halloween stuff, despite South Koreans not celebrating Halloween. Regardless, international department store chains shipped Halloween paraphernalia to the stores in Seoul.
Lori returned to Canada and ministered at Trinity United in New Glasgow, and developed contemporary worship services that included skits and interviews instead of sermons. She later served with Milford-Gay’s River-Lantz Pastoral Charge. It was her first experience in solo ministry.
Lori regards her training at CCS as vitally important. She recalls a situation where there was conflict at one congregation and an expectation that Lori be authoritarian. There was a mutiny in reaction to Lori not trying to control everything. Yet, Lori applied group theory about conflict and addressed the situation directly. She used her CCS training. The church survived the conflict. “It gave them the chance to do some of the things they wanted to do,” Lori remembers.
Lori currently serves in a half time position in St. Paul’s UC in Mount Uniacke and is semi-retired.
The difference CCS made to Lori has been curiosity, openness and having a strong sense of justice.
Where she ministers there are two young children (7 and 8) coming to the church, brought by the grand and great-grandparents. (Other children attend, but sporadically.) The grand and great-grandparents didn’t want to teach Sunday School, preferring craft time after the Children’s Story in worship. Now, the children lead the congregation in the Lord’s Prayer before they go to craft time. They also chose to join the choir, so there are now two children’s hymns in the early part of each service. Lori’s ability to “let go”, as she was taught at CCS, helped her discover where the spirit was leading, and these two children are now the anchors to the early part of the Sunday service.
For decades Lori has been asked, “Why aren’t you ordained?” A woman once asked her this in the narthex. But, her granddaughter exclaimed that Lori’s teammate was the minister for the “big people, and Lori’s the minister for the little people.” Lori has taken that to heart, giving voice to all the “little people” in the church and the world who need a place at the table.
~ Ray McGinnis