“The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet”
One of the most energizing aspects of congregational life is walking alongside individuals within our church as they discover and pursue their gifts and callings for service within the faith community. Often, this involves laity discovering places of service through our various Committees and Boards or through congregational opportunities to serve our larger community. Sometimes, this sense of calling leads individuals to pursue further study and dialogue with the congregation about creating new opportunities for service.
In the midst of all the challenges COVID has brought, this energizing work has continued. You might recall that in May we celebrated the graduation from the Atlantic School of Theology (AST) of two FBCH members (in addition to Mary Banks, who serves as the FBCH bookkeeper).
Lic. Arla Johnson completed her Master of Divinity degree (M.Div.). The M.Div. degree is the standard, professional graduate degree pursued by those considering vocational ministry. Often, those who earn a M.Div. degree go on to pursue ordination within their church tradition. Arla has been on the ordination track both with FBCH and the Canadian Association for Baptist Freedoms (CABF) for a few years. The Congregation of FBCH licensed Arla to ministry in 2017. In 2019, the CABF granted her an Association License to Minister. This constituted the first steps in the ordination process. Currently, Arla is working with the CABF Credential Committee and is completing a one-year mentorship under the guidance of Rev. Dr. Marjorie Lewis, University Chaplain for Acadia.
Arla has engaged conversation with Rusty and the Diaconate about her sense of calling. She is already serving as the Halifax Regional United Baptist Association appointed Chaplain through Dal’s Multifaith Services office. She is also interested in leading efforts at FBCH to connect with the LGBTQ2S+ community, recognizing that this community often has unique concerns stemming from decades of mistreatment by faith communities. Arla is already leading a team that is planning a monthly church gathering specifically for those who identify as LGBTQ2S+. In addition, Arla has a keen interest in walking alongside people facing issues related to death and dying. She has already stepped-in to offer significant pastoral care to members of FBCH as part of her calling.
In conversation with Arla, she is eager to put her calling to service alongside the Congregation of FBCH. She is at a stage in life where she can pursue this calling on a volunteer basis. Thus, the Diaconate is recommending to the Congregation that we call Lic. Arla Johnson as our Minister of Inclusive Community. You can read more about the position and about Arla in the links below.
David Bourque is a long time member of the FBCH Congregation. He has served in a number of lay leadership positions and is currently a member of the FBCH Choir. In May, Dave graduated from AST with his Diploma in Theological Studies. This is the same program Lic. John Dalton completed, along with study and preparation through the Baptist convention in the early 2000s. The program provides an introduction to theological studies, including classes in Christian Scriptures, Christian Theology, Hebrew Scriptures, and Pastoral Ministry.
Having completed his Diploma, Dave expressed his interest in becoming more involved in the pastoral care ministry of the Congregation. Specifically, he feels called to reach out to members who are not able to leave their homes on a regular basis—offering phone calls, cards, and visits to those who live in institutional settings. Already, Dave has been active in this outreach work.
The Diaconate recommends to the Congregation of FBCH that we acknowledge this call of David Bourque and the investment he has made in theological study by licensing David as one of our Lay Ministers (consistent with our Licensing of John Dalton in 2006 and Pauline Allsop in 2007). Further, to acknowledge the gifts of ministry offered to the Congregation by those who have pursued formal theological and pastoral training, the Diaconate recommends FBCH establish a category of service titled Lay Minister. Lay Ministers would be active members of our ministry team, offering their unique gifts to the overall work of ministry coordinated by our Diaconate, clergy, lay leadership, and ultimately the Congregation. You can read more about David and a position description for Lay Minister in the attachments below. Our first two Lay Ministers would be David Bourque and Lic. John Dalton.
Further, the Diaconate hopes that in creating the Lay Minister category of service, others in our Congregation might consider their own callings and explore opportunities for further study to equip themselves for service within our church and the local community.
These are energizing conversations for a Congregation to have! As Baptists, we value the role that each person has within our faith community and celebrate the ways we can support those offering themselves in service to the church and to the Way of Jesus. The Diaconate looks forward to bringing these recommendations to the Congregation on our 194th Anniversary Sunday, September 26. What a great way to celebrate the life of our congregation!
Recommendation One: FBCH establish the (volunteer) part-time position titled Minister of Inclusive Community and that FBCH call Arla Johnson to serve as Minister of Inclusive Community
Statement from Arla:
My call to ministry, I would say, occurred approximately 30 years ago and after 22 years of saying “not yet God” or placing it on the back burner I finally said yes. I today feel as the old hymn says “here I am Lord, is it I Lord, I have heard you calling in the night, I will go Lord if you lead me, I will hold your people in my heart”… I still cry every time I hear this song. I know my calling is now, and at this juncture in my life I feel I am being called to reach out to our LGBTQ2S+ communities that have been and continue to be marginalized from our churches. I as well, feel God calling me to work with our maturing congregants and also work with families who are experiencing grief related to death and dying. FBCH is my home and I feel truly blessed to continue my ongoing work in ministry here, within my church home and to work with my siblings in Christ.
Recommendation Two: FBCH grant David Bourque a Licence to Minister.
Statement from David:
Once I made my decision to pursue religious studies at AST, I made it part of my daily prayers to ask God to let me know what he wanted me to do with the rest of my life. I reflected a great deal on this over the last few years. The words of one of my favourite hymns “The Servant Song” kept coming back as a calling to Pastoral Care, showing me how best to live out a life of service to others, as Jesus did.
Recommendation Three: FBCH establish the (volunteer) category of service titled Lay Minister and call Lic. John Dalton and David Bourque to serve as Lay Ministers
Further, the Diaconate encourages others in the Congregation to consider their own calling and explore opportunities for further study to equip themselves for service within our church and local community. There are a number of programs that might be of interest from the Diploma program at AST to online study programs in theological reflection like certificates in Earth, Justice, & Spirituality and Gender, Sexual, & Racial Justice from a historic Baptist divinity school. If you are interested in exploring opportunities for study, you are encouraged to have conversation with Rusty. You can also read more about Dave’s experience in the AST Diploma in Theological Studies Program.