Where once there was one, now there are two.
The Little Red Church has a new ministerial duo in Tina Overbury and Rev. Lorraine Ashdown following last year’s departure of long-time minister Rev. Shelagh MacKinnon.
Lorraine, who’s lived on-island since 2002, works for the Bowen church eight hours a week. As an ordained minister she can do communion, weddings and baptisms (in the United Church there are just two sacraments––communion and baptism). She’ll preach every second Sunday of the month and do other pastoral care on Bowen. But Lorraine works at St. Andrew’s-Wesley United Church in downtown Vancouver as minister of elders, pastoral care and outreach, so Tina will carry the other parts of the job, including preaching the rest of the Sundays.
Tina is in the candidacy path of a three-year lay ministry program with St. Andrew’s College. “In the lay ministry path, it’s really getting your theology chops while you’re on your feet,” says Tina. “It is community born, so the community says ‘we see this in you.’ ‘Yes, we are going to rally around you.’ And, ‘yes, we’re going to walk with you as you follow your call.’
“And that was such a perfect fit for me.”
Though Tina will get training through the United Church, she won’t be ordained at the end of this program.
The somewhat unorthodox ministerial answer came about last year after MacKinnon had left and both Tina and Lorraine contemplated applying for the position.
“I thought you know, I’m just going to apply. I know I have no credentials, and there’s nothing but heart behind me,” says Tina. “And then I didn’t apply, which is so not me.”
But a week later, Tina and Lorraine were talking while on the ferry.
“We ended up in this conversation about this place that we love,” says Tina. “We were both going to apply and we were both like but we can’t.”
So they decided to co-apply.
“It’s a beautiful partnership,” says Tina. “I get all the support of not having anything between my ears yet of knowledge with Lorraine…and then I get to be support for Lorraine.”
“It’s like God’s hands are all over this man, because this is the last place that makes sense for me to be here,” says Tina. “Yet, if you look at it, it was like well, duh, of course you’re supposed to be here.”
Lorraine and Tina say that the United Church is changing on a national level.
“It’s a very interesting time to be in the ministry,” says Lorraine, “because I refuse to say that the church is dying. I just say that it’s reshaping.
“We’re re-envisioning church, as a faith community, a place where you come to hear a solid message of hope. But it’s less rigid than it used to be and that’s a good thing.”
“It’s more face to face and it’s all about relationships,” says Lorraine. “That’s what we want to build on. Building relationships into the community, not just with our flock.”
Tina has personal experience with finding spiritual solace in the Little Red Church from outside the “flock.”
“I would have called myself the seeker,” she says. “I would just slip in the back. It was really was a slip in…I didn’t want anyone to see me.
“I just want to be in it. I was spiritually hungry. And I think that that is very alive on Bowen.”
“We hope to answer the hunger,” says Lorraine.
“We’re all spiritual beings, but lots of people don’t know where to go with that, or what to do with that, or how to answer that, or how to be that,” she says. “So we want to provide portals for all kinds of people to be that in all kinds of different ways.”
“I just want to get at all of those people who are allergic to church and say, well, just try again because we’re becoming something new,” says Lorraine.
Beyond Sunday church services, part of Tina and Lorraine’s job is pastoral care. So they visit people who aren’t well, who are isolated and people who need some form of connection.
“It’s showing up and saying I care about you. You are loved. We haven’t forgotten you. You’re on our radar,” says Lorraine. “If the person has some sort of faith belief system, then we’ll pray with them. If they [don’t], I will remind them that they’re loved by God and that they’re precious. All those messages that we would give them here.”
The two also plan programs and have a steady presence in the community.
“This Little Red Church, it is the hub of so many arteries on this island,” says Tina. “So many services connect back to the Little Red Church.”
Many of those services a legacy of Shelagh’s 20 years on-island. “So we inherit that,” says Tina.
Everyone is welcome at the Little Red Church. There’s also a youth group that meets twice a month on Saturday nights for youth grades 7 to 12 led by Christina Atkinson. For more information: firstname.lastname@example.org.