by The Reverend Deacon Nina Page
Looking back, I can say my journey to the Diaconate began years ago.
In 1976 my husband John, with our young son Mark, joined a new church in Meadowvale —“St. Francis of Assisi”. The parish priest at the time was the Reverend Andrew Hutchinson, who later in his life would become Primate of the Anglican Church in Canada. With his encouragement and the quote from James 2:14-26 “Faith without works is dead” so began my journey to be part of the community: getting involved with pastoral care, visiting the sick, involved with Cheshire House and being a part of the first pastoral care team at the Credit Valley Hospital, leading services and visiting.
Father Andrew taught me what a Christian community is all about — caring for one another and our neighbours.
Fast forward: We moved to Milton in 1995 and started to worship at St. George’s (Lowville). Again. I became involved in parish and community ministries by volunteering at Allendale Long Term Care (LTC) and the Milton District Hospital. Along the way I took courses on pastoral care and palliative care. I have now been involved with Allendale LTC for 25 years.
We moved to worship at Grace Anglican in 2005 because we wanted to worship at a church in our community. Yet it was not until Father Chris Snow became rector at Grace in 2009 that I felt a nudge from God.
Father Chris had invited Dr. George Summer to preach at one of our Sunday services and a seed was planted in my heart. I was not able to go to college as a young person due to family circumstances so this was going to be a big step for me.
Two years later I received a Diploma of Lay Ministry from Wycliff College in Toronto. During that time of study I also learned of the role of a Deacon in the Anglican Church. I further explored this with Father Snow and, with his encouragement, applied to the Niagara Diocese to seek ordination. I was ordained with two others on The Feast of St. Francis on October 2012.
I remember Father Chris asking me if I was ready for this ministry; a ministry that is not 9 to 5, 5 days a week. Was I prepared for missed dinners, missed family gatherings; being ready to go to the hospital or someone’s home because they needed comfort or prayers at any time of the day or night. This was not my ministry it was God’s.
I had already been asked if I would take on the role of Chaplain at Allendale LTC and would I also be prepared to do some extra schooling to become a Registered Psychotherapist. This was to be another major step going back to school for a further four years. Yet, with lots of prayers, together with encouragement from Father Chris, I took that first step on a new journey. I have learned that when God opens a door you step through it.
This new stage in my life began with help from Allendale, the Diocese Education Fund and a personal line of credit. These studies would take 4 years part time. I still had a job to hold down! I loved every minute at the Toronto School of Pastoral Care. I was challenged intellectually and spiritually as I worshipped with other faith groups. All this helped me understand where I was a Christian woman. I also learnt about the Muslim faith and similarities between the Bible and Quran. My friend Abier and I shared the worship service together on our final day of school in 2016
I was accepted to the College of Psychotherapy in 2017 and I foolishly thought I was finished my education. God had yet other plans and I explored the possibility of specializing in grief, trauma and bereavement. It was during this time when I met Melinda who was a hospice and bereavement counsellor with Acclaim Health. She suggested that I become a volunteer with Acclaim Health and help run bereavement support groups. I could hear my husband John groan, “not another unpaid job”.
It soon became apparent that this was God’s plan for my life.
Within a year I was asked if I would accept a position as a Bereavement Counsellor with Acclaim Health. I am even more surprised by getting paid for doing something I have been doing as a volunteer for years.
I now am now a Hospice, Bereavement and Spiritual Care Counsellor with Acclaim.
With Father Chris’s encouragement I grew in my role as a Deacon, getting involved in the community of Milton. When Father Chris died I lost not only a good friend and priest but also my mentor.
Over the years my Deacon’s role has changed. I am now part of the pastoral team at Milton District Hospital, I am still Chaplain at Allendale (though really missing my Allendale family because of COVID-19); I am also Padre for the Milton Legion and provide pastoral and palliative care in the community.
During this time of COVID-19 I have continued with my community work, taking hot meals to families in need; being involved in food drives; finding ways to work with the local service clubs as well as the Muslim Food Bank and Salvation Army. With my trauma training I feel I am well equipped to offer special support and counselling for those suffering.
I could not do what I do without the support of my husband John; from those 6 am drop-offs at the GO station, late dinners and many missed family events. The support of my parish family, together with spiritual support of my friends both ordained and laity, the College of Deacons and our Chaplain Father Tom makes my ministry possible.
When I was ordained, a friend who was not an Anglican thought I was going to be a “Beacon”. I like that title. I pray that I can continue to be a “beacon” where-ever God places me and for whatever God has planned for me next. I am sure there are going to be further adventures in my future.