Celebration of Ministries
Video recording of our Celebration of Ministry Service held at St. Paul’s United Church in Orillia, as part of the regional meeting on Sunday, May 29, 2022 beginning at 3 p.m. With apologies due to broadcasting technical difficulties, the livestream recording ended early and we do not have the communion portion or the end of the service.
Guest speaker: The Rev. Dr. Martha ter Kuile
Executive Minister: Rev. Peter Hartmans
President of SWRC: Rev. Betty Lou McNabb
Office of Vocation Minister: Karen Valley
Pastoral Relations Minister: Rev. Todd McDonald
Celebration of Ministries service script – [PDF | 23 pages] PDF
Celebration of Ministries service bulletin – [ PDF | 4 pages ] – PDF
If you require a full script of the service for accessibility reasons, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
In Their Own Words
2022 Celebrant Reflections
Reflections from our ministry ordinands and admittands in advance of the Celebration of Ministries Service, to be held on Sunday, May 29, 2022.
Music: YouTube Audio Library; Falling Snow by Aakash Ghandi
Meet Our Celebrants
Photo Credit – Brian Charles
My name is Lee-Ann Ahlstrom. I have been a member of Ogden United Church in Calgary Alberta, began my ministry journey as member of The Donway Covenant United Church in Don Mills and was called to the ordination pathway at Jubilee United Church. I’ve worked with several other churches, including Rosedale United Church, Faith United Church and Fairlawn Avenue United Church as Staff Associate or Designated Lay Minister.
Before entering ministry I held a diploma in Social Services from Mount Royal College in Calgary, a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Calgary with a major in psychology and a Bachelor of Education degree from the University of Toronto OISE. My primary work in the church for many years was in Christian Education so I completed a Master of Religious Education at Emmanuel College. When the call came for ordination I began the Master of Divinity program at Emmanuel and will graduate this Spring.
For many years I felt the call for ordination but resisted for a variety of reasons. When I look back over my life I believe I felt the call as early as 10 years old, around the time of my baptism. It is my hope that I, with the Spirit’s guidance, can offer the church comfort and inspiration through my faith in Christ and the creative and transformative power of the gospel.
To send Lee-Ann your best wishes, please click on the button below. When you are redirected to her page, please move your mouse to the bottom right-hand corner and click on the pink circle with the white + sign in the middle.
Photo Credit – Kelly Harris
Rev. Dr. Trevor Brisbin
I am the Transformational Minister at Humber Valley United Church, where I joined the team in January 2021. Originally ordained Baptist, I served as the lead minister of a vibrant and growing church for 15 years. As my faith deepened, I realized I could no longer participate in the continued marginalization of LGBQT2S+ Christians. I am delighted to have been welcomed and embraced by the United Church of Canada.
I have a MDiv. from Tyndale Seminary in Toronto and a DMin. in pastoral theology from Claremont School of Theology in Claremont, California.
Marisol and I live in Bloor West Village with our three school aged children and a bernadoodle named Millie. If I’m not at the church, you will most likely find me at the rink, supporting youth hockey.
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Photo Credit – Richard Choe
Maria Christina Conlon
I heard the story of the Exodus from my grandfather and fell in awe of the activist God. As a teen-ager, I fell in with a “base community” that practiced praxis, provided primary health care in underserviced areas and reflected this in the reading and re-reading of scripture. With my family, I left the Philippines in 1972 and have been actively engaged as a community organizer in the communities where I have lived in Canada.
While at the Toronto School of Theology training for United Church ministry, I studied under Juan Luis Segundo from Uruguay at Regis College where I became a follower of the hermeneutic circle he defined that continuing changes in our present-day reality, both individual and societal, dictates the continuing change in our interpretation of the Bible. The circular nature of this interpretation originates in the fact that each new reality obliges us to interpret the word of God afresh, to change reality accordingly, and then to go back and reinterpret the word of God again, and so on. I received my Master of Divinity from Emmanuel College in 1983.
In 2013, I sought to find expression in figurative sculpture. I am currently the Community Minister at the Davenport Perth Community Ministry, which is located in Toronto. In my practice, I recognize the need for discerning the unseen in the ephemeral arts.
To send Maria Christina your best wishes, please click on the button below. When you are redirected to her page, please move your mouse to the bottom right-hand corner and click on the pink circle with the white + sign in the middle.
Photo Credit – Tegan Monaco
Over the past twenty years I’ve travelled the journey toward ordained ministry with the UCC. It all began during my commute home from work as a dietitian in a hospital. Each day as I passed Walton Memorial UC in Oakville, it was if someone whispered in my ear “you should go to that church.” Not a church goer and somewhat removed from my Christian faith, I waited, however, the whispering didn’t stop, and eventually I went, and immersed myself in faith formation opportunities. After a separate weekend retreat I realized that I wanted to study theology, so I enrolled into the MTS program at Emmanuel College.
The journey continued as I soon realized God’s whispering call to ordered ministry; leading to a change to the M.Div. program, a move to Metropolitan UC, and graduation in May 2018. It was one of the happiest days of my life! In the early months of the pandemic, I retired from dietetics, and travelled to northeastern Ontario to complete my SME with Powassan and Chisholm Pastoral Charge. It was a tremendous learning and growth experience with a wonderful community. Now I’m ready for the next part of the journey. I am deeply spiritual, and hope to guide and support others in connecting with, and deepening, their relationship with our Creator.
To send Liz your best wishes, please click on the button below. When you are redirected to her page, please move your mouse to the bottom right-hand corner and click on the pink circle with the white + sign in the middle.
Photo Credit – Kofi Asem
My name is Eric Nyarko, I was born and raised in Ghana, West Africa, where I was a soldier (Technical Assistant and a Military Instructor) in the Artillery Regiment of Armed Forces. I was a member of the Ghana Calvary Methodist United Church and now serving as the Candidate Supply at Ghana Calvary Methodist United Church. I did an upgrading courses at Burnhamthorpe collegiate Adult Learning Center, and attended Seneca college and the Humber College in Canada. I completed Master of Divinity (MDiv) from the Emmanuel College, in the University of Toronto. I am currently studying Master of Pastoral Studies (Spiritual care and the Psychotherapy; Christian stream) at the Emmanuel College of the University of Toronto.
I am excited about my personal faith in God, love for Jesus Christ, and passion in the Holy Spirit. I have a great dedication in the church and love for the Bible and prayer. I am willing to serve humanity; seeking justice and resisting evil as I commit to ministry in Christ.
I recognized my calling to ministry as I was engaged in youth ministry within my congregation years ago. The ministers I worked with during my youth ministry days affirmed my calling to ministry. I acknowledged that God was calling me into ministry. I have engaged in many activities and programs that promote learning and spiritual growth. I have served in various leadership positions within my congregation. Many people saw the calling on my life and encouraged me to pursue ministry. Though I was hesitant at the beginning, but the more I tried, the more I feel God’s calling clearly in my life. I find joy and excitement when I do ministry or engage in the activities of the church.
One of my hopes for ministry in the United Church is to present the Gospel and the love of God to children, youth, and young adults in the church.
To send Eric your best wishes, please click on the button below. When you are redirected to his page, please move your mouse to the bottom right-hand corner and click on the pink circle with the white + sign in the middle.
Photo Credit – Cynthia O’Connell
Born in Toronto, I have lived across Canada but call New Brunswick home. It is in the Maritimes where I pursued my formal education graduating from Mount Alison University with a BA Honours in Religious Studies (2006), and from Atlantic School of Theology (AST) twice, with an MTS (2009) and an MDiv (2021). My faith journey, like my living experience, has taken me to many locations. Name a denomination and I have probably attended one of its worship services. I grew up with a strong personal faith in and relationship with God and Christ, however, it was not until my undergraduate experience that I first began to attend church regularly. It is because of the chapel program at Mount Allison University and the community of Sackville United Church that I began to trust in the church and the power of the church to have a positive impact on my life.
As I continued to pursue my academic studies through AST and then later the Toronto School of Theology, I found myself at a crossroads. It is in Toronto I discovered my eventual home church, Glebe Road United. It is their welcome, along with the former Youth at Toronto Conference program that helped me hear God’s call to ordained ministry. For me, youth ministry is ministry.
It is because of the youth/young adults and other lay leaders of Glebe Road United, Westminster United in Orangeville, and the wider region that I will be called Rev. Cyn. The United Church of Canada has become my spiritual home, though imperfect, it is where God has called me. My hope for my ministry is that others might experience, as I did in the UCC, the love of Christ; to be seen and loved for who they are, not for what others or even themselves expect them to be.
To send Cynthia your best wishes, please click on the button below. When you are redirected to her page, please move your mouse to the bottom right-hand corner and click on the pink circle with the white + sign in the middle.
Photo Credit – Arthur Mola
Rev. Dr. Michelle Voss Roberts
I come to Admission to the order of ministry from the United Church of Christ, a denomination in full communion with the United Church of Canada. Ordained in 2015, my home congregation is Congregational United Church of Christ in Greensboro, North Carolina. I have attended Windermere United Church in Toronto since moving to Canada in 2018.
My ministry setting is Emmanuel College in the Toronto School of Theology, where I am professor of theology and past principal. As the first woman to lead the institution as principal in its 90-year history, I led the school through a consolidation of its multireligious programs, a period of significant faculty renewal, and the first 18 months of the COVID-19 pandemic. I was drawn to this ministry through a conviction of the impact theological education can make in the church’s public witness.
My teaching integrates the study of Christian theological traditions with theories of gender and sexuality, disability studies, and religious pluralism. My educational preparation includes a BA in Religion and Theology from Calvin College (1998); a Master of Theological Studies from the Candler School of Theology at Emory University (2002); and a PhD from the Graduate Division of Religion at Emory University (2006). I have published five books on comparative theology, systematic theology, and Hindu-Christian relations. I look forward to contributing to the United Church’s priorities of becoming an intercultural and anti-racist church.
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Licensed Lay Worship Leaders
This year we are proud to also be celebrating the following new Licensed Lay Worship Leaders serving Shinining Waters Regional Council for the next three years: Christine Leblanc and Cheryl Stenson.
Photo Credit: Christine LeBlanc
Christine LeBlanc is a member of East End United Regional Ministry in Toronto. A few years ago, she felt the urge to play a bigger role in leading prayer and portions of worship services in her home congregation. As she became more involved, she enrolled in the Licence Lay Worship Leader program. Christine is currently a part-time MDiv student at Emmanuel college and was licenced as a LLWL in Shining Waters in March 2022.
Christine enjoy’s leading and participating in worship services, and on occasion designing them as well. She experiences great fulfillment in motivating a congregation to see where God is present, and where the Spirit is active. One of her greatest joys is to have the sense that her words, her prayers, has allowed someone to be challenged, comforted and/or re-energized in their spiritual journey. Her hope and prayers are that her witness will help people to increase their connection with the divine.
To send Christine your best wishes, please click on the button below. When you are redirected to her page, please move your mouse to the bottom right-hand corner and click on the pink circle with the white + sign in the middle.
Photo Credit – Helen Tansey, Sundari Photography
Cheryl has been a member of Glebe Road United Church since getting married there in 1996. She began at Glebe serving coffee and tea in fellowship hour, became secretary of the board, then Clerk of Session, and then Chair of the Board for many years. Her greatest joy at Glebe has been singing in the choir and the yearly musical events.
The Glebe sanctuary has been the venue of Cheryl’s wedding, the baptism and confirmation of her daughter Melodie, and the funerals of her grandmother, mother, and, most recently, her husband, Bill. And her church family, the “Glebers”, has seen her through it all.
Over the years, Cheryl stepped into the pulpit when Glebe’s minister was away and found a passion in creating services and sermons. Eventually, she decided to take the Licensed Lay Worship Leader (LLWL) course with the United Church of Canada, receiving her license in November 2021.
Cheryl firmly believes that God led her to Glebe for many and varied reasons which have revealed themselves over time. She has found joy in worship and support in friendships and she is a devoted “Gleber” (a term she coined many years ago). Cheryl also helped coin Glebe’s mission statement, “Inclusive. Inventive. In Faith.” She aspires to reflect those same qualities in her work as an LLWL.
To send Cheryl your best wishes, please click on the button below. When you are redirected to her page, please move your mouse to the bottom right-hand corner and click on the pink circle with the white + sign in the middle.
Ministry Personnel Retirees for 2022
We celebrate the journey of those ministry personnel who have decided to retire in 2022. Please join us in giving thanks for their ministry:
Karen Hilfman Millson
Reflections on Retirement
Here are the statements from our retirees about themselves and their journey in ministry.
The Reverend Jeffrey Bacon
When I graduated from Queen’s Chemical Engineering in 1979, a minister was the last thing I thought I would be! I headed out to Calgary in my 1972 Volkswagen Beetle and started my career as a Reservoir Engineer with Imperial Oil, helping to develop the Norman Wells oilfield in the Northwest Territories. And then oil prices crashed and I took a leave of absence, got married to my high school sweetheart, and enrolled in an MBA program at Western University.When I graduated with my Western MBA in 1983, a minister was the last thing I thought I would be! I joined Gulf Canada in their head office Financial Planning and Analysis group where my engineering, oilfield development, and MBA experience would all be important. I coordinated the business unit financial plans, valued them, and consolidated them into our Annual Financial Plan for the Board. An acquisition offer was made for Gulf Corporation in the U.S., and because of my work with the Canadian business unit financial plans, I was selected to work with a Board Committee and their Financial Advisors, Burns Fry. After the transaction, Gulf Canada reorganized in Calgary and I was asked to join the Burns Fry Mergers and Acquisitions team.
When I joined the Burns Fry M&A team, a minister was the last thing I thought I would be! After working on M&A deals for more than 25 years, during a backyard discussion with Rev. Hugh Reid, minister at Kingsway-Lambton United Church, I expressed my curiosity about Christianity. I asked if there was a course he might recommend; maybe at Emmanuel College. Hugh suggested that if I had the flexibility, I could enrol in the first year of an MDiv degree. If the first year didn’t satisfy my curiosity, I could continue on.
After enrolling in the MDiv program at Emmanuel College, a minister was still the last thing I thought I would be! But my curiosity was never completely satisfied and I continued on, growing in faith and ministerial ability. I was ordained serving part-time at Aurora United Church and then I was called to lead St. Bartholomew’s United Church in Brampton, which I have done my best to do since 2013.
On January 31, 2022, what I thought was just a sore neck from poor computer and cell phone posture, required complicated surgery to repair vertebrae degenerated by cancer that originated in my prostate. The cancer is in several places and the doctors tell me it cannot be cured. It’s time for me to retire. I face each day with hope and faith, knowing that each day is a miracle. Looking back on my diverse pursuits, I have two main observations: always do what inspires you; and all things eventually lead to God!
To send Jeff your best wishes, please click on the button below. When you are redirected to his page, please move your mouse to the bottom right-hand corner and click on the pink circle with the white + sign in the middle.
The Reverend Doctor Constance denBok
My parents joined the United Church as immigrants, eager to make a new life as Canadians in Toronto, and so I followed a Baby Boom trajectory: Baptism with a dozen other babies, Sunday School in public school classrooms while St. Bartholomew’s United Church was still under construction, a spiritual awakening at old downtown Grace United, and youth Group at St. Paul’s – all in Brampton. At the time, when both Ontario and the United Church were predominantly British heritage, having parents who spoke English with a different inflection was unusual enough that we were often asked where my family was “from,” even into seminary at Emmanuel College.
I met my husband, Rev. Doug McLeod, just as he was beginning his candidacy and together we did summer internships in Alberta, Saskatchewan, the eastern townships of Quebec, and the interior of British Columbia. We chose to be settled on the prairies – and still cherish friendships with classmates, colleagues, parishioners, and mentors who have been such an important part of our lives. Imagine being ordained at the age of 23 – and entrusted with a two point charge!
My graduating class of 43 students from Emmanuel College represented the full theological diversity which was the ecosystem of The United Church of Canada and, I think, a source of resilience and vitality. As I leave this stage of ministry, it is with a heart filled with gratitude – to God first, to my always patient spouse and family, to the people in the pews who have been such a source of inspiration and support, to colleagues and committees, to the brave Executive Secretaries, Personnel Officers and others who let me try new things before they were mainstream, and brought me back to earth again – you will always be part of the Call I love.
To send Connie your best wishes, please click on the button below. When you are redirected to her page, please move your mouse to the bottom right-hand corner and click on the pink circle with the white + sign in the middle.
The Reverend Karen Hilfman Millson
More than thirty-three and a half years ago I was ordained into a ministry that has been rich, expansive, engaging, exciting, exhausting, energizing, filled with learning, and at times heartbreaking. From my internship at Harcourt in Guelph, settlement in rural Comber Pastoral Charge, ministry with St Paul’s Orillia, consulting as a Facilitator of Significant Conversations, to conference then regional staff to develop Clusters and Networks and Collaborative Ministry Models, I have experienced and been blessed by the incredible opportunity to walk with people as they discovered their gifts and calling, and deepened in their relationship and connection with the Divine to root us in the source of love, with the power of Spirit to guide us, and with Christ Consciousness to awaken us.
A central focus of my calling has been to identify and develop the principles and practices of creating Circle Culture or Authentic Connection Culture through Small Group Ministry and Circles Processes for visioning and healing – where we create a culture in which we are encouraged and supported to engage life from our true essence which is love, and to listen deeply for the wisdom and creativity within us and amongst us to discern the life-giving and transformative power of God’s vision for us. The impact of this work rooted in my passion for awakening to what is possible as we seek to be a reflection of God’s love in the world, has been seen when people’s personal lives have shifted as they discover the power and wisdom within them, and the ministry of communities of faith has deepened as they experience a renewed vision that emerges amongst them for engaging with their neighbourhood and collaborating with other communities of faith and organizations in the ministry we all share. There is a transformational call that enlivens us when we seek to create opportunities for people to experience the kindom of God’s love here and now which is supported by an intentional shift toward the theme of this year’s regional council meeting of the Common Good whose principles align with Circle Culture and Beloved Community.
After being on medical leave with cancer for a year, I returned to work for four months before my retirement when I had the opportunity to develop what I think of as my legacy project – a resource to support communities of faith to develop their Living Faith Story that includes Self-Assessment
processes that are rooted in the Covenant with the regional council. My hope and prayer is that when this resource is introduced it will be supportive and life-giving and create experiences of the blessings of Circle Culture in communities of faith. Three months after retiring I found out the cancer has returned. It is now stage four. So, I am entering back into my pilgrimage with cancer, a journey I am writing about to be the basis of my second book to offer my perspective and insights that are rooted in my life work of creating beloved community where we face hard realities and are open to life-giving possibilities, a perspective that is timely in the life of the church at this time.
As I again intentionally choose how I will respond to the reality of my life, I surround all of you with light and love with a prayer that Spirit’s nudging will lead the church in expressions of healthy life-giving relationship with those whose stories and presence we encounter, with the earth we walk upon, and with ourselves, to deepen our connection to the Divine Holy Mystery that calls us into community to respond to our deepest longing for authentic connection that honours the light and love at the core of all of life.
Wherever the journey takes us, may we be open to the blessings of joy, open to the raging energy that empowers us to stand up to domination that destroys, open to the creativity, wisdom and love longing to emerge amongst us, open to the peace that holds us and draws us deep into awareness
of what really matters.
To send Karen your best wishes, please click on the button below. When you are redirected to his page, please move your mouse to the bottom right-hand corner and click on the pink circle with the white + sign in the middle.
The Reverend Douglas McLeod
My journey in ministry began at York University Toronto when I came to faith in Jesus Christ in the early 70s. Graduating in 1975, I sensed a call by the Holy Spirit to ministry. Encouraged by my pastor, I was a candidate from St Paul’s Brampton and attended Emmanuel College from 1975-78 which included summer internships in Alberta and Saskatchewan. I delayed ordination and served as lay minister at Lemonville Pastoral Charge near Stouffville ON. After ordination by the Toronto Conference in 1980 I was settled in Creelman Sask, later accepting a call to Saskatoon. In 1988 we returned to the London area and served near Ilderton ON. I left the ministry for a few years to get a degree in education and teach school. Later I served as minister at Painswick UC in Barrie, a new church development. I arrived at Parkdale United Toronto in 2012 and retired January 1 2022. Forty Four years in ministry!!
I appreciate all those who I worked with in the various courts of the church over the years and my ministerial colleagues who I call friends.
It has been a blessing and a privilege to serve the local church. Many thanks to the people of the congregations I worked with over the years across Canada. I love you and you will always remain in my heart.
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The Reverend Edith-Ann Shantz
Edith-Ann was called to Don Mills United Church in Toronto in 1986, and went on to be their minister of Don Mills-Thorncliffe Park Pastoral Charge when they amalgamated in 2000. Edith-Ann retired from her call with her long time community of faith in December 2021.
To send Edith-Ann your best wishes, please click on the button below. When you are redirected to her page, please move your mouse to the bottom right-hand corner and click on the pink circle with the white + sign in the middle.
The Reverend Dr. Andrew Stirling
It has been a singular honour to have served the ministry of The United Church of Canada over the past 41 years. Having grown up attending United Churches in Bermuda and the Maritimes, I began my ministry after having left Cape Town, South Africa in the fall of 1980. I was graciously
received as a Trained Lay Supply in River John, Nova Scotia, and through my sojourn there completed my M.Div. at the Atlantic School of Theology.
After ordination in Maritime Conference, I served the Parrsboro-Port Greville Pastoral Charge in N.S. After enjoying the beauty of the Fundy Coast and its warm people, I accepted a Call to Woodlawn United Church, Dartmouth, N.S. where I was privileged to serve for six years. Woodlawn was a dynamic congregation with a vibrant youth ministry and strong social outreach. During my time there I commenced my writing ministry and was a Visiting Scholar at Harvard Divinity School.
In 1992, Parkdale United Church in Ottawa approached me and over the next six years I enjoyed the life of the church at the heart of the capital city. It was a time of tension in the nation as it struggled with the Quebec Referendum and it was fascinating to be part of the national conversation. Parkdale is an engaging community, and it was during my time there that they encouraged me to be engaged with the wider church and the ecumenical and inter-faith community.
For the past 23 years I have served Timothy Eaton Memorial Church in Toronto. This has afforded me the opportunity to enjoy preaching and pastoral ministry in a full way. Over the years it has enabled me to complete doctoral work, teach homiletics in various seminaries, preach in various
countries, write and edit books, and be an academic Visitor at Oxford. I am also delighted to have helped establish Chairs in Preaching in three divinity colleges. However, the most important part of any church is the faith of its people, and it is that that above all I will remember for the rest of
my life I have been blessed, therefore, to serve our glorious Triune God among faithful and caring people who have loved the Gospel and have been actively concerned for the justice of the world. I continue to serve this same God now as the Ambassador for the Canadian Bible Society but owe a debt of gratitude to the United Church for its love and support.
To send Andrew your best wishes, please click on the button below. When you are redirected to his page, please move your mouse to the bottom right-hand corner and click on the pink circle with the white + sign in the middle.