When we first get to know people, we usually ask, “What do you do?” and in the Greater Toronto Area, we often add, “Where do you live?” since so many people commute for work and school from cities an hour or more away.
What do I do? I’m a Master of Divinity student at Emmanuel College, University of Toronto; the pastor of Sugarbush Christian Church, an open and affirming congregation in Guelph; and the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Canada’s appointee to the Women’s Inter-Church Council of Canada (WICC).
Where do I live? When my WICC board position began, I was living and working in Winnipeg, Manitoba. I moved to Toronto, Ontario five years ago for seminary. Throughout my studies, I stayed with my future in-laws in Markham and my sister in Aurora during the weekdays, and on the weekends, I commuted to Guelph for church and visited my partner in London. So, whenever I was asked the question, “Where do you live?”, I said that I lived on the 401! However, during the pandemic, I’m finishing my studies and working from Markham. These days, I live on Zoom, GoToMeeting, Facebook Video Chat, and so many other platforms to stay connected with people I love and partner in ministry.
WICC is one of the ministries that I’m proud to be part of. When I met my mentor, Pastor Janet Anstead, she was finishing her term as the Disciples of Christ appointee to WICC as well as her final year as past president. She wanted to pass the torch to a younger woman from our denomination. She saw gifts in me that I didn’t quite see yet in myself, and am still learning to see and accept. I’m grateful for her vision and for making room for me. In the last 7 years with WICC, I’ve served on the grants review committee, was chair of the communications team, and currently I am the liaison to the International Committee for the Fellowship of the Least Coin (ICFLC). For the latter, I served as the vice-chair and I’m currently the chair.
These positions have connected me with women of all ages, from all denominations, ethnicities, and nationalities. I’ve been inspired by the faith and commitment of women across Canada who have prayed for peace, justice, and reconciliation in their own lives and have offered generous donations ranging from nickels to dollars so that women and girls around the world can have peace, justice, and reconciliation in their lives through nutrition programs, vocational training, clean water projects, and human rights advocacy. These are just some of the impacts of what Christian women from all over the world working and praying together can do.
I’d like to share a story with you that has touched my heart. Recently, WICC received an online donation from a woman. For the one year anniversary of her sister’s death, she gave to the Fellowship of the Least Coin. She mentioned that her sister had always supported women and had worked in a transition house for women and children escaping domestic violence. This was how she wanted to honour her sister and how she lived her life.
When we meet people, we often ask simple questions. But in this time of social distancing and self-isolation, I hope that you and I can ask deeper questions. I hope that we can ask others how they’re really doing during this pandemic. I hope that we can ask ourselves, how we want to be remembered. More importantly, I hope we ask ourselves how we want to live out our faith – today.
Thanks for sharing your story, Awit! I’m so grateful for the opportunity to get to know you and work with you at WICC. I too am grateful for Pastor Janet Anstead who mentored me when I joined WICC. You yourself are inspiring women of all ages, particularly younger women who will follow your example in pursuing justice with prayer and action. Thanks for the many ways you do that. May God richly bless you in your various ministries!
Great article, Awit! Good to know even more of your story. I most appreciate your call for us to ask questions to start dialogue with friends we haven’t met yet. I like that you ask us to consider moving beyond the superficial greetings to questions that matter. Questions that push us toward more vulnerability and deeper connections, especially now when isolation and loneliness is the norm.