Profiles Sharilynn Upsdell Back to Profiles Commissioned 2003 at Salmon Arm BC and settled to Lax Kw‟alaams (Port Simpson) – a small Tsimshian fishing village on BC‟s far north coast) Program of Formation CCS 4 year program community based program What called you to Diaconal Ministry? As a young teen I was usually involved in Worship leadership in Guiding and […]
Commissioned 2003 at Salmon Arm BC and settled to Lax Kw‟alaams (Port Simpson) – a small Tsimshian fishing village on BC‟s far north coast)
Program of Formation CCS
4 year program community based program
What called you to Diaconal Ministry?
As a young teen I was usually involved in Worship leadership in Guiding and Youth programs. For many years, as an adult, I had enjoyed volunteering in the church in creative educational and social justice areas. However, the scope of volunteering was not enough for me. In 1992, when my youngest child went to Kindergarten I began the formal (brand new that year) Discernment Process. During this process, I accepted a Staff Associate position, to work with an Ordained team-mate, and to my dismay, my Discernment Process was closed. Others in the wider church felt I had made my decision to pursue only Staff Associate Ministry. While I enjoyed my work, I continued to yearn for formal training and more in-depth work. I knew some folk in the Western Field-Based program and was encouraged as I saw Diaconal Ministers working creatively in team- based styles and I appreciated their in-depth questions. I reopened a new Discernment Process, and searched out the possibility of training in Diaconal Ministry. In 1998, while The Centre for Christian Studies was moving from Toronto to Winnipeg, I began my Leadership Development Module in Toronto and then continued in the first Field-Based program at CCS that same fall.
Describe some of your experiences of ministry.
Settlement charge – I was the sole paid accountable minister in a small Tsimshian fishing village on the North Coast of BC. The congregation was from 6-25 on a Sunday, but for special services 300 could be present. As the only minister in that community, expectations included Sacraments, pastoral care, and rites of passage for the community of 1000 people.
Aldergrove, a small town in BC‟s lower mainland. A mix of urban and rural ministry and a congregation of 60-100. I was the only paid accountable United Church Minister in the community. Sacraments were part of my ministry.
Fraser Presbytery Youth and Young Adults Ministry. and Young Adults for the Presbytery. Setting up programming for Youth First Church in Kelowna. 1 year maternity coverage in Christian Education, and Outreach with folks living in the inner city, and global connections with a sister city in El Salvador.
Work with DOTAC (Diakonia of the Americas and Caribbean) is a big piece of what I am currently doing. I am enjoying connecting with diaconal folks at the international level about the challenges and joys of diaconal ministry around the world.
How I explain Diaconal Ministry to others …
When people wonder aloud how diaconal ministers are different than ordained folks, I say something like: “We are equal in the extent of our training, and in pay, benefits, etc, but often we have a different focus. We have passions for and receive intense training in education, justice, and pastoral care. Most of us have a strong preference for working in team, whether with other ministry colleagues, or with lay people within our faith communities. Often we are found working as sole paid accountable ministers in positions that have traditionally been the area of ordained persons, and YES, we can be licensed to do Sacraments. In BC, that is the norm for Diaconal Ministers serving congregations.”
What gives you the most satisfaction, reward, sense of fulfillment from the ministry you do?
I am rewarded when I see people growing spiritually, getting a sense of what faith is about, and what action that calls us to together and individually. I love to see the sense of who people believe themselves to be growing, and the sense of how other people see them expanding as well. I am delighted when people claim that growth for themselves and offer it back to the world. I recall one young woman who came with babe-in-arms, to a group I was leading many years ago. Initially she came late and left early so people would not talk to her. In time, and through deep spiritual growth she (and that now-adult „babe-in-arms‟) have become two of the strongest, passionate, and skilled justice-focused leaders in the church and community. Lives are changed positively through engagement in ministries of diakonia – and the ripple continues – that fills me to overflowing.
9 March 2011
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