Twenty-five years ago, Archbishop David Crawley took a bold and visionary step in the ministry of the Diocese of Kootenay. Innovation and creativity have always been characteristic of this diocese. Spread over a vast geographical area and separated by several mountain ranges, it has been a continual challenge finding clergy to minister throughout the many small, isolated, rural churches in the diocese’s remote regions.
Kokanee Region was one such region in the West Kootenays. It consisted of the following churches at that time: St. Saviour’s Pro-Cathedral, Nelson; St. Andrew’s-by-the-Lake, Willowpoint; St. Michael and All Angels, Balfour; St. Matthew’s, South Slocan; St. Mark’s, Kaslo; St. Stephen’s, New Denver; and St. Mark’s, Nakusp. In 1991, the bishop appointed The Ven. Dirk Rinehart-Pidcock as Regional Missioner to develop the Mutual Ministry model among the churches of the region.
Mutual Ministry envisioned “a ministering community” rather than “a community gathered around a minister. Out of this premise, congregations were encouraged to identify leaders from amongst themselves, including ordained priests and deacons.”1 This isn’t really a new concept. Though the Church has relied for most of its history on vocational priests who are formally educated and trained to lead churches in ministry. The early church had no such formal training. Formation happened within a local church. Locally-trained priests in this diocese also remain in their home parish rather than move from place to place. A major challenge for many small, remote parishes is turnover of their seminary-trained clergy who often move on after a few years, and many full-time vocational priests gravitate toward larger urban centres rather than small rural parishes.
Four candidates were prayerfully chosen for ordination to the locally-trained priesthood through a careful and intentional discernment process within the congregations of the region: Mary Johnson (St. Mark’s, Kaslo), Ann Wood (St. Matthew’s, South Slocan), Marcella Mugford and Maxine Maclean (St. Saviour’s, Nelson). The four were ordained transitional deacons on December 15, 1996, and ordained to the priesthood in May, 1997.
Marcella Mugford remembers, “The service was deliberately kept low key. [Bishop] David would have ordained us as priests and skipped ordaining us as deacons first but, because of the rules of the church, he felt he had to ordain us as deacons first. Some bishops were not happy he was ordaining priests who had not gone to seminary.”
Archbishop David Crawley wrote in a letter to Ann Wood, “As we faithfully, but somewhat fearfully, pursue this new or renewed shape of ministry in and by our communities of faith, we need to recognize that the Spirit acts in and through the community as well as in individuals. I am very much looking forward to being part of this exciting new step.”
1 The Ven. Dirk Rinehart , Flagship of Kokanee: “The Kokanee Region and Mutual Ministry” (Nelson: 2010, St. Saviour’s Pro-Cathedral) edit. John Lavender, p. 48