Hespeler, 8 May, 2016 © Scott McAndless – Mother’s Day
1 Samuel 18:1-9, Ephesians 6:10-17, Psalm 3
hen I was a student studying at Presbyterian College in Montreal, I was given an extraordinary opportunity – an opportunity that few students for the ministry are afforded these days. There was a small church in the city of Laval, just across the bridge north of Montreal, called Northlea United Church. It was a church that was struggling as an English church in what had once been, but was no longer, a fairly strong English community.
The church needed a minister to care for them but couldn’t afford fulltime ministry. A student seemed like an excellent option for them, but the United Church, as a matter of policy, wouldn’t allow their ministry students to minister in that way. The Presbyterian College didn’t mind if their married students (I don’t know why, but you had to be married) did take a pastoral charge while studying, but there were no Presbyterian congregations in need of a student minister. So, when I (a married student) came along, I was asked, “Say, would you like a job preaching to and taking care of a little United Church in Laval for a bit of money and a manse to live in,” I jumped at the chance.
It worked out beautifully and not just for the obvious financial reasons. I still believe that that church taught me at least as much about being a minister as the college did. I had this wonderful place where I could take the things that I was learning in classes and apply them to the real life of the church while I was learning them. I had this place where I could go and make mistakes and get things wrong – and yes, I made lots of mistakes and got lots of things wrong – and the people still loved me and we worked through any of the ensuing problems together.
When I finally finished my studies and was ready to move on to my next steps as an ordained minister in a Presbyterian Church, the people of Northlea threw us a party. They gave thanks for all that they had shared with us. They gave us their blessing and promised to pray for us. And they gave me a gift: this preaching gown.