One Year In

One Year In

It’s been a year since Marion Martin, Tammy Bleue, Keith Hall, and Lynn McGrath graduated from the Centre for Christian Studies in 2019.  It seems like a good time to check in and find out what ministry held for them in and where God has been leading in their first year of being diaconal ministers.  We continue to hold them in prayer as their creativity, nimbleness, and resiliency is called upon in the days before us. 

Lynn is in ministry with the people at Agassiz Pastoral Charge in lower mainland BC.

Since graduation, I am using skills I developed and refined during my learning at CCS by providing space for a Caregivers peer support group and facilitating “exploration of faith” discussion groups. I am living out my diaconal identity by supporting people on their spiritual journeys, and building relationships within and beyond my community of faith. I am involved in community events, which included a goat milking competition last fall! During this time of isolation from gatherings, I am providing Sunday worship by email and recently created a “Prayer Wall” outside my church building where passersby can add a prayer for the world.

Keith is the Minister for Youth and Young Adults, Newcomer Relations, Volunteer Management, Outreach, Pastoral Ministries  and Pastoral Care at St. Martin’s United Church in Saskatoon, SK

Since my commissioning, I have been involved in a number of initiatives which I have found profoundly life giving. In team with another diaconal minister and a lay leader, we have prepared 12 youth and young adults for a mission trip to Cuernavaca Mexico through the Quest Mexico program. This was the site of my student global experience and my third trip as a leader. We were going to leave on April 8th but those plans have had to be cancelled.  This is a disappointment as we were hoping to participate in the festivals surrounding Easter in Mexico as well as all the religious components to this very important celebration in Latin American culture. In the past, these trips have been transformative for the participants as they had opportunities offer service with Quest Mexico partners to learn about the experience of marginalization as well as to examine their privilege.  I hope we will be able to be part of this learning experience some time in the future.

Since commissioning, I have grappled with what my service to the wider church might look like. I have tried several avenues but they weren’t a good fit. In late January, I was asked to fill in for another diaconal minister as part of the interview teams for student interviews being conducted by the Prairie Candidacy Board. I found this, while a significant responsibility, sacred and life giving time with a group of colleagues deeply committed to ensuring that students are cared for and supported in the new Candidacy Pathway process. I hope to fill a more permanent role in the future. It was indeed yet another example of the spirit moving me to clarity despite my impatience. Thanks be to God. 

Tammy is in ministry at Stonewall United Church in rural Manitoba.

As I sit to write this I find it hard to believe graduation was almost a year ago, time has flown by and life is busy and full.  Last July I started a full time call at Stonewall United Church and now understand what people meant when they said, “God will send you where you need to be.”

Ministry at Stonewall is busy, full, and so life giving. They are a group of people who are welcoming, open, and change is something they meet head on. Every day I feel blessed to be serving here. Small group study is one area that I find gives me life, we had a study group during Advent and started a new group in March called “The Way of Forgiveness.” 

One highlight for me in the last year was the response from my congregation when we had a ‘Reverse Advent Calendar.” This event saw us donate almost 1300 items of food and over 100 toys to the local foodbank. I was amazed at the generosity and at the ways in which the congregation gives back to the community.

There are days I miss school, the time spent in circle, digging into an assignment and chatting with classmates, but the skills and tools CCS has given me have prepared me well for ministry and each day I am thankful for my journey of walking with God.

Marion is in ministry with the folks at St. Paul’s United Church in Milk River and Raymond United Church in southern Alberta.

It is good to hear from you. I think often of the inter-cultural ministry gathering in Edmonton. I also think about Eric Law’s words…and find them so true, “If it’s not awkward, it’s not a real conversation.” Many conversations are awkward…I have come to learn, in ministry. 

At this time, the pastoral charge is having many awkward conversations. The little church of Raymond has made the difficult decision to cease as a congregation. This leaves Milk River looking for another faith community to join with, in order to be able to have a minister.  We are having many real conversations with another community of faith. It will be a long road and awkward for sure. Both communities will have to learn to play together in the sand box if this arrangement is to work.

So I reflect on the things I learned from CCS: The process of preparing for a student led….you must journey through all the steps of the process in order for things to works smoothly….Skipping the first step is not advised, or trying to rush through it (which is often our nature). I learned this in my years at CCS and am using that wisdom in this process of negotiation here.

You must get to know one another, and must take the time to work through all the steps TOGETHER.

I was so relieved to be graduated and then commissioned…relieved to be done with school…all the reading, all the assignments, all the learning.  After a few months I found myself feeling relieved, YES, but also a bit out of sorts.  After speaking with my spiritual director and some contemplative reflection I came to the conclusion that I was having withdrawals. Withdrawals from learning and exploring.  CCS had instilled in me the desire to learn…to be a life long learner.

I picked up a theological book and couldn’t put it down…I have found I am the happiest when I am both: serving and learning. Attending workshops, spending time with colleagues and reading are just as life giving as being Christ’s servant.