My forty years of ministry as first a diaconal minister, then ordained, have been fulfilling, frustrating, challenging, and exhilarating. I am blessed with many amazing colleagues with whom I have planned, worshipped, co-celebrated, argued, puzzled, wept and laughed. I have baptized, married, celebrated communion, preached, sung, clowned, danced, prayed and sat silently when there have been no words to share. I have anointed the dying, buried the dead, comforted the sick and grieving, and blessed the newly born. I have led adults through Bible study, teens through confirmation class, children through scripture stories. I have gone on retreat and found God at the bottom of the depths of despair. A more rewarding and interesting career I could not imagine!
I have been an active participant in the United Church of Canada since I was a child. I recall moments as a toddler feeling as safe in the church building as anywhere in the world. I had an interior knowledge that God was with me and that I would be okay, even if I lost track of my parents momentarily. As a teen and young adult the church was a place I felt at home. There my presence mattered and I could make a positive contribution. The community that gathered Sundays and throughout the week nurtured me, supported me and challenged me.'
My initial theological training came through the “New Curriculum” of the 1960’s and 70’s. Even then I realized that my church was radically different from other churches that some of my friends attended. I was curious to know why my church was different. So I asked lots of questions. And I was proud of the United Church for taking stands on important social issues.
My participation as a commissioner to General Council in 1988 solidified my trust in the UCC to be leader in justice issues not only in Canada but around the world. What surprised me most at that GC meeting was not the fact that we did indeed vote to “ordain and commission self declared homosexual persons”, but the positive and supportive response from our ecumenical guests. A woman Religious who I had become friends with told me she was so proud and humbled by the boldness of the UCC and believed that the UCC would give courage to her church to move forward. She had unknowingly commissioned me to continue justice work as a high priority for my ministry wherever that would lead me.
As a contemplative and introvert by nature, there are some challenges to overtly speak truth to power. But that was (is!) part of my call. It was inherent in my early years at home and at church. It seeped into my bones during my foundational education at the Centre for Christian Studies. It was named again and again in the work I was called into in Presbytery, Conference and pastoral work and as part of Gender Justice work (Saskatchewan Conference and General Council). I was a GC rep to the End of the Decade for Churches in Solidarity with Women at the WCC in Harare, Zimbabwe in 1998. I will never forget nor cease to be inspired by our host African women whose stories still tear at my heart.
About 20 years ago I was invited to develop a program to teach spiritual direction to church leaders through the Faculty of Theology, U of Winnipeg. Thus the Prairie Jubilee Program was born. I directed the program until I left the Prairie many years later. In this work my deep love for the contemplative and my persistent call to serve Creation were able to mesh beautifully. I am grateful to my students and colleagues who taught me so much. I am grateful to be now working with a similar program out of the Tatamagouche Centre in NS - Contemplative Pathways. One retirement project!
I have always had a desire to explore embodied spirituality. So I learned, then taught liturgical dance and embodied prayer, became a Reiki practitioner then studied 3 years of anatomy, physiology, kinesiology and more to become a registered massage therapist. It is amazing how well this body work supported my ministry. The integrity of mind, body, spirit became even more important in my work and life.
A number of years ago, at a challenging time in my ministry a friend gave me a pin that was created by women in the Church of England. It says “In spite of considerable provocation I will not leave the church.” It goes with me everywhere. I have said many times over the years “I cannot NOT do this work.” It is difficult and sometimes heartbreaking work, but as people of Jesus it is the work we are called to do. It brings me deep joy to be connected with God’s people and all Creation in this web of relationship.
As for the future Time for family - my husband (retired UC minister Boyd Drake) my grandchildren, children, sister and parents - is a high priority for retirement. As is Support to a place I call home - the Qu’Appelle House of Prayer in Ft Qu’Appelle Saskatchewan.
6/24/2018 08:27:14 am
Thanks Susan for sharing your ministry with me, you have shared your passion for diaconal ministry, welcomed me into your home and have been a good listening presence when I needed it. I feel blessed by the gifts you offer. Catherine
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Aylmer United Church
164 Rue Principale
Service and Children's Program are held
Sundays at 10:30 a.m.
Communion 1st Sunday of every Month
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