Facebook reminded me that I nine years ago I woke up in my new apartment in Halifax for the first time. I had been living in Claremont, Ontario, for the past four years, where I had been settled as a brand new minister. I had wonderful and challenging experiences of ministry and am still connected to some folks there. However, the siren song of home and the ocean became too strong to resist and accepted a call to United Memorial, a church in the north end of Halifax, in the heart of the Hydrostone.
So much excitement, potential and possibilities! I wanted to put down deep roots with the faith community, to dig in and help the church once again become an integral part of the community. Starting at a new church is like the beginning of a relationship, there is energy and connection and EVERYTHING is wonderful. Until it is not, and you hit a few bumps on the road, and you wonder if you were really meant to be together.
We had more than our share of bumps; a search committee that was far ahead of most of the rest of the congregation and I believed what they told me about change and opportunities, a culture of sidelining the minister, which was kept in check by one of the wisest, kindest patriarchs I have ever know. However, when his health forced him to start attending a church closer to home, it became very apparent just how much his quiet, determined, unflagging support of the church’s ministry AND me, were key to the health of the entire system. A congregation that, like many congregations, was more concerned about preserving the past than living into a different future.
We did some amazing things over the six and a half years we spent in ministry together: study programs that reached out into the community, in fact, more of the wider community usually participated, a community brunch for those who were hungry for food and/or companionship, a pastoral care team that was more than friendly visiting, opening our space to a wider section of the community. Baptisms, confirmations, funerals and same gender marriage. I laughed and cried and learned and raged. I took a sabbatical, which gave me the first uninterrupted time in my adult life to reflect and put into perspective all I had been experiencing. I came back, refreshed and re-energized to tackle the future. However, within a month of my return, it was evident that the hopes, dreams and plans with which I had arrived six years before, were not going to come to fruition. I am not one to give up easily and there had always been enough good to keep me going through the very bad. But I had reached a point and knew that for the sake of my health, for the sake of my future ministry, for the sake of my soul, I had to leave.
Life has changed a lot in these nine intervening years, both personally and professionally. I served one year as a Supply Minister to a congregation who was looking for their next one, I trained as an Interim Minister and am now appointed to serve the Elmsdale Pastoral Charge, a two point charge on the outer edges of the presbytery in that capacity and am absolutely loving it. Being appointed is more like an arranged marriage, both parties have only the barest outline of the other and have to trust that it is the right decision. Relationships grow more slowly, but also more realistically. I trained as a Spiritual Director, and while I don’t formally direct anyone right now, the training had proved invaluable for ministry and managing anxiety and transitions. I recently allowed my name to stand as President Elect of Maritime Conference and was elected. I am both excited and a little apprehensive to serve the wider church in this manner staring next May.
I am married and we built a home in the community in which my husband grew up, on the outskirts of Dartmouth. We have grandchildren.
I am older, perhaps wiser, and there is very little I would change.
That’s my window on God’s world.