I went down memory lane this week at one of our parish suppers. I entered into a brief conversation with members of the parish that had started their ministry in Burgeo, in the Diocese of Western Newfoundland. I remembered with fondness the faith community there, and the ways that I embraced life, friendships, and solidified certain parts of my ministry pattern that I use to this day. In Burgeo, in 1998, as a Lay Catechist, I prepared families for Baptism, and baptised my first children, Dawson Maxwell Frank Pink, April Rose Tucker, and Andrew John Tucker. I conducted my first funerals, and worked with the vestry, wardens and lay leaders as we introduced Vacation Bible Schools to the parish.
Beyond this, I have vivid memories of the first time we traveled to Burgeo. Burgeo is about 250 km off the Trans Canada Highway, a good 270 km between gas stations. It is an isolated outport community with a large Anglican presence. It is a vital parish in the Diocese of Western Newfoundland. When we drove out to Burgeo in May of 1998 we experienced beautiful scenery and clear roads. The drive reminded me of scenes from Baffin Island, with barren stretches of highway and tundra along certain stretches, with great outcrops of rock. There was a sense of isolation about being in this community, and there was also a great sense of community and belonging. In Burgeo my family and I were loved, supported, and enabled. Together with the faith community, we journeyed in the presence of God in that place.
When the time came for us to leave Burgeo, and return to St. John’s for theological studies, parts of me did not want to leave. We packed up our belongings, our memories, and our experiences of ministry and drove out the lonely highway one last time.
This time things were different. We drove out at the end of summer, and drove a road that we knew, yet the entire land was covered in dense fog. We drove slowly and carefully, and with each turn, each hill, though we could not see forward nor backward, I had a sense that life for me had changed.
Perhaps this may be the sense that you may have when entering and exiting ministry in community. Does your road, your pattern of life become foggy because of the wealth and breadth of experiences that cloud your path? For me, I recognized that friendships and patterns of ministry had been transformed in the living, being and serving time I had in Burgeo. My experience was so enriching that I felt as if I couldn’t fully process all of the interactions, memories, and encounters of Burgeo. From kitchen tables to sanctuary, from fishing boat to living room, I had been transformed by the presence of Jesus within the people of Burgeo. For that I am ever grateful.
Tonight I drove into Mount Pearl amid fog and darkness. It is a well traveled route. It was 11 degrees Celsius, out of the ordinary for a January night in Newfoundland. I was reminded of these memories as I drove through the fog; I was also reminded that this year I am once again stepping into the unknown in ministry. This year I share ministry with new colleagues, with new members of our parish community. This year I continue in ministry with those that have journeyed this path far longer than I. This year I no longer travel together in ministry with certain friends who have died. Into this unknown I travel, be it foggy or clear, always with the presence of God. Into this unknown we travel as the community of faith in Jesus.