Jeffrey Mackie-Deernsted: Summer Ministry in Yukon

“I saw the church in Mayo in the Anglican Church calendar long before I went there and wondered what it is like to be an Anglican in the Yukon. This spring, I was on the phone with Valerie and Charles Maier, who do ministry in that church, answering their call for a theological student to run the ministry for the summer.

In July, I flew to Whitehorse, the farthest north I had ever ventured. I was met at the airport and brought to the bunkhouse next to the Cathedral in Whitehorse, my first introduction to northern hospitality. On the five-hour journey to Mayo, I was able to discuss more about my background with Valerie and to learn a more about Mayo, which is in Na-cho Nyak Dun First Nation. The drive was also a way to experience the magnificent landscape of the Yukon.

My second day in Mayo featured a wedding, presided by Charles, which brought the whole community together.  I was surprised that I was welcomed at the dinner, not something I had experienced in Montreal. The next weekend, we had a baptism in the parish and welcomed more people to St Mary with St Mark’s.

I relished having full responsibility for services for the first time in my ministry. I wanted community involvement in the services, and some of the congregation responded by doing readings. Fellowship afterwards was always great with BBQ and conversation. Being in Mayo was my first experience living and worshipping with First Nations people. It helped me to gain more understanding of their realities and the work, particularly in the area of relationship building, that needs to happen around Reconciliation.

I met many people in the company of the Maiers. I was invited blueberry picking and to a hide tanning workshop. We had the church open daily and people from the community working there on various projects throughout the summer. I also participated in the Wednesday lunch program coordinated by the parish, where volunteers offered food and hospitality for those in need. I learned a lot through stories and anecdotes. It was a blessing to break bread with others in a community far from my home, connected through the church and the gospel.

I was in Mayo for the signing of the Peel Watershed Land Use Plan, a major event for all First Nations of Yukon as their cooperation led to a major environmental protection agreement. At the celebratory community feast, I was more recognized, which impressed upon me the importance of the church being understood as part of the fabric of the community. Just before I returned to Montreal, on the opening day of school, the Anglican ministry was asked to pray, led by Valerie Maier.

I am thankful to have enlarged my own vision of what ministry is in the Anglican Church of Canada. I also experienced such amazing hospitality in a most beautiful region of Canada and am thankful to all who welcomed and supported me.

My summer in Mayo was valuable to my formation for priesthood in the Anglican Church. I believe a program to allow Ordinands to have experiences like mine, living and working outside of their southern, urban reality, would be tremendous for our national Church and the Reconciliation process. It would enable regions and dioceses to better understand each other as we bring the Good News to our country.   Mussi Cho.”

Jeffrey Mackie-Deernsted

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