Thursday, June 11, 2015

Memories of Ministry

18.5 years ago I started working at Kids Kottage, a crisis nursery program in Edmonton.  Next Tuesday they are having a celebration of 20 years of service to the families of Edmonton and area.  I was asked to share a written message.  Here is what I came up with:

In the summer of 1996 I was thinking about what I might do once my summer camp job was over. And so I was sending resumes all over the place. Having been exposed to the idea of a Crisis Nursery as part of one of my seminary classes in Saskatoon, when I heard that there was a similar ministry in Edmonton they got on my list.

Fast forward a couple months and I got called for an interview, which led to being offered a part-time position and I started in mid-November.

I then worked at the Kottage until August of 1999, and then over the next winter volunteered at least one afternoon a month when I was in town during my time in Lacombe. Most of the time I was there I was working pretty much full-time. And for a good part of it I had the dubious honour of being the only male on staff.

One of the things that gives people satisfaction in a job is the sense that what they are doing makes a difference. And working at Kids Kottage certainly did that. Maybe it was the relief I could see in parents as we met and talked either at intake or discharge, the very real sense that even if we could not make it all better they knew there was someone who cared. Or there was the Client Christmas Party where we had gift bags for the parents and our shock at how touched those parents were at these simple small gifts. Or the joy on the face of a child when you showed up for work (part of me is still astounded that I got paid to spend much of my day in a playroom or out on the playground). Or the difficult time of sitting with a mother as she had to call Child Welfare to say she needed help, that she was at the end of her rope coping with her special-needs child. A difference was being made every day.

An anniversary is a time for memories. And so I do want to share one of mine. I mentioned above that I was often the only male staff-person. That had some strangeness to it. There appeared to be a favourite game amongst my co-workers called “let's see how red we can make Gord get”. Everybody seemed to take great enjoyment at that one (some more than others—and they expressed that joy quite openly). The other strangeness was knowing that it pushed some of our clients to have to deal with a male intake worker. Never really bothered me. But then there were some parents who were openly uncomfortable with me who I later got to have really good discussions with.

One of the things the church asked of me as a part of my formation was to have an experience of social ministry. They had one idea of how I could do that – volunteering at the Bissel Centre. At the time I thought “but I have been living out social ministry for two years”. It may have been a job, but Kids Kottage was also part of my education. And so I thank you.

Earlier I called Kids Kottage a ministry. Many people might have referred to it as an institution or as and agency or as a service. But to me it is one of the ministries in which I have worked. We are all called to serve each other, some of us phrase it in religious terms, some of us don't. For me Kids Kottage was a place where that calling to serve each other was, and is, a place gets lived out every day. When people ask me what we did I would tell them to think of a reason a parent might need emergency child care. We had seen that, and probably a few most people would not think of. Many of us were blessed to grow up with parents who had lots of support. Many people don't get that chance. Kids Kottage is there. You are doing holy and important work. Blessings on 20 years of serving Edmonton families. Blessings on many more years of service to come.