Announcing the 2022 Companion of the Centre – Aileen Urquhart

Announcing the 2022 Companion of the Centre – Aileen Urquhart

The Centre for Christian Studies is pleased to announce that the 2022 recipient of the Companion of the Centre Award will be Aileen Urquhart.

Aileen is a retired Diaconal Minister of the United Church of Canada. She grew up in Glasgow, Scotland, with limited connection to church. Her faith was awakened by nature and science, and she pursued an academic career in plant science. She also felt a strong commitment to social and economic justice issues, so when her contract in biology at the University of Manitoba ended, Aileen took up a role as coordinator of the West Broadway Community Ministry in Winnipeg. While working there she discovered that the work she did and loved – outreach, education, leadership development, pastoral care, social justice – was diaconal ministry. With the introduction of the Western Field Based Training Program in 1989 she found a community of learners with which to prepare for ministry.

She was commissioned in 1994 and served in Fisher River Cree Nation, where she engaged people in conversations, stories, and respectful dialogue. In 2000-2002 she served as Co-director of the Jesse Saulteaux Resource Centre (now the Sandy-Saulteaux Spiritual Centre), creatively modeling diaconal educational philosophy while supporting Indigenous ways of knowing and gathering. Following this she ministered to St. Andrew’s United Church in Sioux Lookout, and was especially connected to the local Out of the Cold program. Following her retirement she has served as acting Personnel Minister for the All Native Circle Conference, volunteers in Pastoral Relations for Prairie to Pine Regional Council and the Keewatin Circle, and is a member of the Sioux Lookout Truth and Reconciliation Committee. One of the people who nominated Aileen said that she taught her how to be white in Indigenous space – how to support Indigenous leadership without undermining, circumventing, speaking for, or patronizing.

Aileen is an artist, a writer, an educator and resource creator, and has been a much-appreciated guest resource person for the Centre for Christian Studies. Not only does she imagine church differently, she does church differently.

Aileen will be presented with the Companion of the Centre Award at the Annual Service of Celebration on April 3, 2022.