In conversation with … a husband and wife team: The Reverends Sue-Ann and Jeff Ward

For the past seven years, Sue-Ann and Jeff Ward were Co-Rectors of Grace Waterdown and St. Luke’s Palermo. Recently Jeff became Rector of St. Cuthbert’s Oakville and Sue-Ann Rector of Grace Waterdown. St. Luke’s Palermo is seeking its own Rector.

They are one of a few wife and husband priest teams who have ministered together in the same parish in the Anglican Church of Canada.

The Niagara Anglican presents their conversation in a two-part series over the next two months.

Niagara Anglican (NA): Describe your ministry journey leading to your Co-Rector appointment.

Sue-Ann and Jeff: After graduating from Trinity College and being ordained together in 2005, Jeff served a six-month interim at St. Paul’s Westdale before becoming Assistant Curate at St. Simon’s Oakville. Sue-Ann served her interim placement at St. Aidan’s Oakville before becoming Assistant Curate at Christ’s Church Cathedral.

In 2007, Jeff became Rector of St. Luke’s Palermo while Sue-Ann became Executive Director of HARRRP and Vicar of Christ’s Church Cathedral.

In 2011, a conversation occurred with Bishop Michael Bird regarding Sue-Ann and Jeff engaging in team ministry. Eventually we became Co-Rectors of St. Luke’s Palermo and Grace Waterdown.

Sue and Jeff Ordination
The Reverends Jeff and Sue-Ann Ward at their ordination in 2005. Photo: submitted

NA: Why did you accept the joint appointment?

Sue-Ann and Jeff: Attending seminary together had been a very positive experience for us and we often talked about how wonderful it would be to serve together at a parish.

When we shared this dream with Bishop Michael, he laughingly responded that it had better turn out to be a good dream and not a nightmare.

NA: How did you organize your ministries working as a married couple?

Sue-Ann and Jeff: The ministry began to unfold with us alternating Sunday worship services at the two parishes, so parishioners would experience worship leadership from each of us every other Sunday. Other ministry areas were divided between us.

Jeff took primary responsibility for adult Christian education, cemeteries, buildings, pastoral care, men’s ministry and seniors’ ministry for both parishes.

Sue-Ann took primary responsibility for children, youth, family and young adult ministry, worship, outreach and community engagement, grant writing and reporting, stewardship, women’s ministry and hospitality for both parishes.

Both of us participated in Corporation, Parish Council, the management of finances, social gatherings and building projects at Grace and St. Luke’s. During the seven years of our team ministry, we jointly oversaw, along with outstanding lay leaders, a $450,000 accessibility and greening renovation project at Grace, and the construction of a $3,000,000 parish community centre at St. Luke’s.

NA: What joys, satisfactions or accomplishments came from your working as a clergy team?

Sue-Ann and Jeff: There were many benefits to the shared ministry arrangement.

We were able to spend more time together and coordinate our schedules more effectively than we had when serving at separate parishes.

We learned from each other and were able to utilize our own and each other’s strengths in various situations.

We were able to bounce ideas off each other, both knowing the nuances of the parishioners and other ministry elements involved.

Challenges could be faced together, and there was not the sense of aloneness or isolation that some clerics experience at various times in ministry.

Much laughter, wonderment, joy and satisfaction were experienced as we served God side by side with each other, and alongside so many faithful and loving Christians at the two parishes and in the diocese.

NA: What were some of your challenges or adjustments?

Sue-Ann and Jeff: There were some things that felt difficult at times.

It was hard not to feel like we were engaged in ministry all the time, rather than just having time together as a couple.

Evening walks and romantic dinners out would often turn into debriefing sessions, where we would update each other on parish happenings.

For a few years, St. Luke’s parish gatherings of every kind (meetings, socials, morning prayer, bible study, Christian education sessions, youth gatherings) happened at our home because the church was either being prepared for construction or under construction.

The benefit of this was that parishioners came to feel very much a part of the family. But at times it was challenging for our children to have parishioners in our small townhouse morning, afternoon and evening as they tried to engage in the typical activities of home life.

(Next month, Sue-Ann and Jeff will share more challenges they faced ministering as Co-Rectors and present highlights of their husband and wife team ministry in two parishes.)