As you may know, our new pastor, Beryl Barraclough, is a Crawford Park Kid. The house she grew up in is just a couple of blocks from SouthWest United. But it was the Anglican church around the corner that she was sent to as a child, and attended for much of her adulthood.
“My mother wanted to sleep in on Sundays,” Beryl told me with a laugh, “so we were sent to Sunday School! All the kids went in those days. Every family had 3 or 4 kids, so the Sunday schools were packed.”
I’ve had the opportunity this past week to chat with Beryl, both in person and via e-mail, and ask questions about her faith journey. Here are some excerpts.
Amy: You've said you now realize God was calling you your whole life, but you either didn't have words to understand this call, or were afraid to answer it. You answered this call in your sixties; at a time when most people are looking to retire, you started a whole new vocation.
Beryl: I believe Creator has been with me from my earliest memories. However, being unwillingly deposited in Sunday School at the age of five brought a keener awareness of God’s presence.
It was about that time I began searching for God on church rooftops, under pews and even in the tree tops as I wandered the back lanes of Crawford Park. As a young child, I did not possess the language or wording required to describe this need to be close to God (or whatever it was which seemed to be calling me). Sunday School provided me with the images and the naming of that presence.
My experience with the Holy has been tumultuous. As a child of the 60’s and 70’s, there were times I lost faith, especially when the Kennedy brothers and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. were murdered, innocent students were shot at and killed at Kent State University, and, of course, the war in Vietnam. These events, coupled with the poor choices I made in my own personal life, provided ample excuses and opportunities to ignore God’s constant urgings over the years.
When I retired from my job at Concordia in 2013, at the age of 67, it became obvious that all personal hurdles had been cleared and I had no more excuses to give. It was time, finally, to say yes to the calling. It seems that God is patient and willing to wait until you have no where else to run to.
Amy: How and when did you first come to SouthWest?
Beryl: After spending some 50+ years in the Anglican Church, in 2005 I snuck into the back pews of the then Crawford Park United Church, hoping no one would notice me, and the rest is history. I came for several reasons but, most important, I wanted to sing with its choir!
I would be remiss if I said the transition was easy. Ritual had been a big part of worship at the Anglican Church and I missed reciting the Creed and having Communion every Sunday.
In retrospect, it was liturgical ritual which, to some degree, had stifled my spiritual creativity. The United Church, and the congregation at SouthWest, in particular, provided the opportunity I so needed to explore my spirituality and, unknowingly gave me the permission I so desired to finally start my journey.
Amy: Can you describe the training and professional development that got you to where you are now?
Beryl: Sometime in late 2006, Rev. David asked me if I would be interested in the Licensed Lay Leadership Development Program. This was a two-year process, spread out over weekend retreats, where those interested in leading worship in their own communities (and as pulpit supply for other United Churches) would receive adequate training to enable them to lead worship, provide pastoral care and preside over funerals. Upon completion of the program, I was recognized as a Licensed Lay Worship Leader in 2008.
In 2012, I felt it was time to move forward. I approached SWU and asked for the discernment process. This was a year long journey of meetings and specific UCC approved questioning by an appointed team – an Ordained minster and three members of my own congregation.
Upon their recommendation of my qualifications as a candidate for ministry, I was required to choose from three streams: Ordained ministry, Diaconal ministry or the Designated Lay Ministry program. For financial reasons and because of home obligations, I chose DLM.
DLM is paid, accountable ministry, under specific conditions and approved by the United Church. With a supporting member of SWU – Linda Dixon - we attended a two day “evaluation” process with the then Montreal/Ottawa conference where I received approval to go forward.
In January, 2013, I made my first journey to the Christian Learning Center (CLC) in Fort Qu’Appelle Saskatchewan for a ten-day intensive learning circle (9:00 am to 9:00 pm with two hours off for lunch, including Saturdays).
All learning circles are preceded by a two-and-a-half-month period of required readings and on-line submissions of assignments. Post-circle on-line submissions are a part of the self-evaluation process.
This process would continue twice a year (June and January) over a three-year period. In January 2014, after the closing of the CLC in Calling Lake, the program moved to St. Andrew’s College on the campus of the University of Saskatchewan. It was from there I graduated in October 2016.
I should mention that since 1980, I have been an independent student at Concordia University and, as of 2017, I have acquired 24 credits in both Religion and Theology. In retrospect, I guess God let me do it my way.
To-date, I have been privileged to serve Lacolle/Clarenceville and Hemmingford pastoral charges from 2013-2016 (two services every Sunday) and, from 2016-2019, Kanesatake United Church in Oka.
Amy: Would you like to share a high point, or a low point, in your ministry so far?
Beryl: The best part of ministry, for me, is the opportunity to walk with people and share whatever part of their life journey they may be on. I love visiting with those who are unable to join us for Sunday worship. In fact, I have a routine for home visits: the PTP (portable tea party). I bring everything but the milk (but will bring that too if required). Tea and biscuits is a great way to spend time in a relaxed and familiar setting, sharing and listening to someone’s personal story and journey. Tea time is good time!
Many people are or have been part of the SouthWest story over the years, whether in ministry, or music, volunteering on committees, or simply attending services. Sarah Fraser suggested it would be interesting to get to know some of them better through interviews. I agreed, so from time to time, I don’t know how often, this newsletter will introduce SouthWest people you may not know very well, or thought you did! Amy