Deb Kigar – at the Hub of Ministry
When the United Church of Canada implemented organizational change in 2019, churchgoers and leaders had a steep learning curve. Not only were there new processes and terminology to get used to, but they also had to learn how to use a portal called ChurchHub to connect to the new database.
ChurchHub, according to the United Church website, is “the support structure for communication between the denomination, ministry personnel, communities of faith and members who participate in regional and denominational ministry” and the place where the search process for calls and appointments begins. The intention is for each minister and each pastoral charge (a single church or group of churches) to have a profile page.
In the midst of prayer, study groups, pastoral care, worship preparation, and crisis calls, every minister and every pastoral charge was asked to create a profile on ChurchHub. For many with little time or technological interest, it was put on the back burner; however, it couldn’t stay there. There were regular reminders that any minister wanting a change or any church seeking a new minister had to use ChurchHub. And everyone needed to post a profile.
Fortunately, the United Church of Canada contracted with retired diaconal minister, Deb Kigar, to help walk people through the process in her role as “ChurchHub Specialist”.
People who are struggling with the technology call her up. Often she just listens while they rant about the trouble they’re having. Then Deb says, “Let’s see what we can do.”
“We work together on whatever they are having difficulty with,” Deb says. “Frequently they are laughing at the end of the conversation or saying, ‘You made my week’.”
Part of the frustration people have had trying to figure out how to use ChurchHub is that initially not everything worked. Deb’s involvement with training has meant that she hears what the people who use it have problems with. Her role has evolved to include consulting with and advising the developers on issues that need to be fixed. Then, when they make changes, she tests the new processes to make sure they work.
Deb’s first career involved computer technology and managing data in a neuroscience research lab. Little did she know she would be using these skills again a decade after she retired from there. Following that career, she entered ministry and was settled as the minister in Harrington Harbour, a tiny island off the coast of Quebec in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. Her training at the Centre for Christian Studies and experience working in the church have given her pastoral skills for patience and listening. Her work chairing committees at all levels of the church has deepened her administrative expertise.
As a student, Deb remembers wrestling in a reflection for Ann Naylor with the use of the United Church Manual. Ann pointed out the importance of structure for creating space for Spirit. It was a huge “aha” moment for Deb when she realized administration was also ministry.
Deb’s administrative and pastoral skills, knowledge of the organization and technology, and willingness to help out made her a perfect fit for the work she is now doing. She sees the Spirit at work in the breadth of resources that are directly available to churches and ministers. Before 2019 each Conference and the General Council Office had its own database and changing information was cumbersome. Now contact information or profiles can be updated immediately and in one place. There are also more opportunities for communities of faith to work cooperatively and to strengthen links to the wider church.
When Cloverdale United Church was struggling with getting signed on with ChurchHub and creating their posting for a ministry position, Pat Bird, their Pastoral Charge Supervisor, suggested that they call Deb. Pat reports, “Deb Kigar was such a big help with all of that and I was so grateful to be able to connect her directly with Cloverdale folks.”
David Hewitt, the Pastoral Relations Minister in Region 15, has expressed his appreciation for Deb’s work too. He says, “I am confidently referring ministers and pastoral charges to you…[they] are reflecting back to me that you are prompt, responsive, and very helpful. They may not always like ChurchHub, but they very much appreciate your assistance! Thank you!”
Irritations and struggles notwithstanding, Deb is confident that ChurchHub will grow into a valuable tool for communities of faith and leaders. “We’re getting there, slowly.” Deb recalls, “At the beginning there were hundreds of e-mails every day. Now there are about 30.” While it may not seem like it yet, as people learn its capabilities ChurchHub will streamline processes and connect people in churches across Canada.
And for Deb Kigar that is ministry.