On October 23, 2021, 33 people were invested into the Order of the Diocese of British Columbia. Faith Tides caught up with some of the honourees to find out more about their work within their local parishes and for the church and their communities.
Lynne Downes, St Anne and St Edmund, Parksville
Lynne Downes of Qualicum Beach has been a mentor on the Education for Ministry (EfM) program for the last 14 years, and she is a passionate advocate for theological education.
Lynne was born in South Africa, where she was married and had children. She worked with the Anglican church and ran a nursery school. In a twist of fate, her parish priest was Michael Wimmer, who is now the incumbent at St Michael & All Angels, Chemainus. During apartheid, Lynne woke one morning to see a large dark cloud in the sky, which she later discovered had been due to an attack on a nearby oil rig. Feeling that their family was not safe, the Downes decided to relocate to Canada. They initially lived in Winnipeg, where they attended St Paul Anglican Church, before moving to Cobble Hill, where they attended the now-decommissioned church, St Andrew, Cowichan Station.
While working in Victoria, Lynne began a distance learning course in theology through McGill. This was 1994 and there was no online learning to speak of. Instead, the modules were sent out by post. When she retired, Lynne felt she could put her theological education to good use and so she signed on to be a mentor on the EfM program, which offers a distance learning program of theological education for lay people. The stated aim of EfM is to help participants “encounter the breadth and depth of the Christian tradition and bring it into conversation with their experiences of the world.”
Lynne feels that this is very important work. She strongly believes in educating Christians and encouraging them to be thoughtful and reflective. “Theology is never static. I grew up in the shadow of World War II and the world is so divided now. We have to work for peace. When you understand your own faith tradition, then other faith traditions cease to be a threat.”
Lynne feels the students she mentors get a lot from the program. In her time, she’s mentored mostly retirees from a wide range of backgrounds: teachers, nurses, foresters, government workers and an RCMP officer, to name a few. And all were at different places in their faith journey. Lynne describes their experience on the program as an “awakening.” “Suddenly they realize that there is more to their faith than just Sundays. It’s a whole way of living and being. Students always say ‘I wish I’d known this earlier.’”
Since COVID-19, Lynne hasn’t taken on new students, but she continues to meet regularly with three students who have decided not to graduate from the program (the program is four years long, but students only commit to one year at a time). The students have formed a strong bond and they now have less pressure and more freedom to explore topics that interest them. Lynne reflected on this aspect of continuing education and her own experience of distance learning: “I had to write paper after paper, but I never felt pressured to meet deadlines. I was always supported to get out of it what I needed. Sometimes life happens, during that period my mother died, and I had to go back to South Africa.”
When asked how she felt about being awarded the Order of the Diocese of British Columbia, Lynne commented that she was “totally shocked.” Lynne was able to attend the investiture service, along with four guests. During the service, one of Lynne’s guests turned to her and told her, “Don’t forget to enjoy this.” Lynne took that advice to heart. “I tried to be present. I felt the lay people were really being honoured, which I think is quite rare.”
James Moore, St Mary Magdalene, Mayne Island
Although his official title is “rector’s warden,” Jim, as he’s known, is more than happy to pitch in wherever and whenever his skills can be put to use. He spent 32 years as a teacher, going from teaching art to physical education to math. He has put this experience to use in the parish of St Mary Magdalene, Mayne Island — Jim’s home for the last 16 years — by stepping in to write and deliver sermons when needed.
During the early days of the pandemic, the parish had to scramble to adjust. The parish is small and didn’t have the technical experience to put together a well-produced broadcast — before the pandemic, churchgoers were still singing from hymn books. Jim helped put together an email list of parishioners, including those who have summer homes on the island and attend the church when they are visiting. The weekly service was then sent out to this list.
Then, another stumbling block: Blair Haggart, the rector of the parish of St Mary Magdalene and St Margaret of Scotland on Galiano Island went on leave for two months. Jim knew he could write and deliver some sermons and another parishioner offered to deliver a sermon every few weeks, but they knew they needed help. So, Jim reached out to Penelope Kingham, who at the time was the archdeacon of Haro region. Penelope offered to put together a sermon for St Mary and continued to do so even after her retirement. Sarah Tweedale, incumbent at St Margaret of Scotland, also stepped in to help and invited the parishioners of St Mary to join her Zoom services.
In recent years, Jim has been helping the people’s warden, who manages the cemetery but was no longer able to do physical work. Jim now digs graves, mostly for cremations, as well as supporting the families, who often come from other areas. Recently he helped support a man from Guatemala whose mother lived on Mayne Island.
When asked how he felt about being awarded the Order of the Diocese of British Columbia, Jim responded, “I don’t like the word ‘award,’ to me it’s about recognition. We are ministers without a collar. We just do what we do, using our God-given gifts and abilities.” However, he admits that it has been an honour and that the Order serves an important function by recognizing people’s work. “When I first heard, I thought it was just something to go through. But when it was my turn to go up, I was struck by the honour of it. It’s good to recognize people, especially those who do a lot and there’s an assumption of, ‘Oh it’s Ron, he always helps out.’ I’ve not done anything special, but some people really go out of their way.”
Another highlight of the investiture service for Jim was that his three children, who are scattered across the country, flew in to attend the service. “It was nice for us to be together again, just the five of us, without spouses and children and extended family.”
Blair Haggart arranged for parishioners to watch the service online at the church. Thinking people might be interested to see it, Jim took his medal to church with him the following Sunday. “But I guess they’d all forgotten by then!” As if he isn’t humble enough.