I’m Rev. Claudine Carlson, retired since 2017, but still enjoying supply preaching and volunteer work at Trinity Village as a visiting celebrant. Ordained June 11, 1993, pastoral ministry was my fourth and final career. Mt. Zion, Waterloo, was my first call, followed by serving congregations in Burlington, Richmond Hill, Etobicoke, Hamilton (Diocese of Niagara), and Kitchener.
What were your earliest experiences in ministry?
My earliest ministry experiences were exciting, creative, challenging, fruitful and fun. Since my first field placement was at Mt Zion, and I’d helped with confirmation camp each year while in seminary, I already knew the people fairly well. Pastor Mark Harris and I enjoyed a supportive, collaborative team ministry in this vibrant congregation, with daily shared laughter a gift of grace in particularly busy/stressful times.
We fully shared worship leadership, while I was responsible for youth and social ministry; both areas provided opportunities for creative leadership that were challenging and enjoyable. From planning youth retreats and fundraisers to organizing an interfaith community march and rally against racism, the work was important and there was always more to accomplish.
The ever-changing demands of pastoral ministry fed my personal need for variety and on-going learning. I also led the Mt. ZionWomen’s Retreat each year—joyous weekends of deep bonding, spiritual growth, worship, good food and playfulness. I am ever grateful for such a positive first experience in pastoral ministry. It was a joy and blessing to serve such an open-hearted parish with a gifted and supportive colleague like Pastor Mark. At times, it almost seemed too good to be true!
What have been the joys and the challenges of your ministry?
I faced only two serious challenges in 23 years of active ministry. The first was the loneliness I felt after moving to Burlington, ON. Waterloo Region had been my home for 25 years, and my circle of close friends and deep community connections were life-giving anchors that I missed greatly. Such loneliness is common for single clergy, and is an expected part of each move, I learned.
The next challenge was in Richmond Hill, ON, when it became clear the church could not afford a full-time pastor. Their decision to move to part-time had my blessing. However, I could not live on such a pay cut, so I resigned with hopes of a new call
This was when severance packages were rare, and none was offered. Living on Employment Insurance for five months was painful, faith-building work, but also led to a new call in transitions ministry.
Training with the Interim Ministry Network, I was certified as a transitions specialist, and that vital work comprised my ministry until retirement—rewarding work indeed!
Pastoral care, teaching Bible and confirmation studies, and preaching were particularly joyous parts of parish ministry. In the wider church, retreat ministry and teaching spiritual formation at the seminary were especially meaningful. Also, I was a member of National Church Council when, in 2011, our ELCIC became a fully-welcoming, affirming and inclusive church. Utter joy, gratitude and sense of pride.
What are your hopes and dreams for the future of the church?
My hopes and dreams for the church are “simple”—that we remain faithful in proclaiming God’s love in Jesus Christ as we expand our work of justice and reconciliation. May our faithful leaders and pastors ever listen “with the ears of our hearts” to the Spirit’s leading, that our hopes, dreams and visions align more closely with those of our Creator. We need not be afraid.
—Rev. Claudine Carlson