Where does the time go? Twenty years ago—December 1996—I was a student at Queen’s Theological College (QTC) and a student minister at the Bathurst Pastoral Charge. Bathurst Pastoral Charge, which consisted of Althorpe and Bollingbroke United Churches and Calvin United Church (Dewitt’s Corners), had been a “student charge” for over 100 years.
The folks in these congregations were the tough descendants of Scottish and Irish farmers determined to make a living on the bare bones of the Canadian Shield and to add their stamp to generations of United Church ministers like me.
That December, Advent 1996, was one that stands out for me still. Karen was “great with child” as we awaited Emma’s birth. We were first told that our impending child was due December 28, which meant a possible Christmas birth …Then Dr. Adamson said “probably January 4.” Well, suffice it to say that Karen finally had to be induced on January 17 and Emma finally showed up on the 19th …
A lot of patient waiting that year!
What stands out for me, 20 years later, are the themes of the advent season: Waiting, patience, hope, expectation were so vivid, so real. It was a time, of course, of finishing up term papers, writing exams, attending UCW Christmas parties, advent candles, carols, cravings (a lot of trips for Jos. Louis!!). I was also anticipating the end of my training for ministry and, God willing, being ordained in the spring of 1997.
But there is very little that I can recall that matches the feeling of aliveness of that time. I was so blessed to have had that ministry job that included a manse to live in, a pay cheque. But, more importantly, a group of people--Conboys, Millers, Viaus, Kilpatricks, Norrises, Jordans to name a few—who persistently but gently provided a firm foundation for what I was learning at QTC. It is their smiling faces that comes through the fog of memories: lighting the advent candles at Bolingbroke United Church on a snowy Sunday morning, as Charalee played Christmas carols on the pump organ; the blazing heat on the back of my head from the wall-mounted quartz heaters (while my nose froze) at Calvin; Charlie, with his guitar, singing “O Holy Night” on Christmas Eve.
We headed to Chesterville that Christmas Eve, the car packed with presents and Simon, our dog. And as we drove down Highway 43—through Perth, Smith’s Falls, past Kemptville and my parents, down the familiar turns at Sandy Mountain and finally to my in-laws—little did I realize that life would never be the same as those heady December days of 1996.
Emma finally arrived, and a couple of years later, so did our “Made in Newfoundland” Malerie. I graduated Queen’s Theological College (as Valedictorian, how did that happen?) and was ordained and we were off to Bonne Bay Newfoundland.
So many things have come and gone: people, places, hopes and dreams. But I will always remember the admonition of the hymn sung that Advent: "O Come, O Come Emmanuel." “Rejoice! Rejoice.”