A New Journey For All
After 7 years of service Reverend Joanne Webster along with her husband Jeremy will be leaving St. Paul’s Anglican Church in Leduc and will start a new journey in Spruce Grove, serving at St. Augustine’s Parkland Anglican Church.
Reverend Webster decided to make the change in late 2013 when she felt God calling her to something different, but wasn’t clear what it was. Not long after, she was asked by the Anglican Diocese Bishop, Jane Alexander, if she would consider serving at the Spruce Grove parish. After praying and giving it some thought she decided to visit St. Augustine’s, it was then that she realized that this would be a new and different way that she could serve. “I am very bereft to leave here but I’m also excited for what God is calling me to” says Webster.
Currently the parish is experiencing their own sadness of their loss; however Webster is certain that St. Paul’s will be fine. “It’s sad because we have such close relationships, there’s good people here and good leaders” she says with confidence. “Above all, the church isn’t defined by one person or one leader the church is defined by God and the whole family, the body of Christ.”
The church will also be losing her husband Jeremy who has made his own presence known and appreciated in the church. As a member of the congregation he has shared his talents with several different ministries, two that stand out are teaching the senior Sunday school class and sharing his musical talents. Many Sundays he can be seen at the front of the church, guitar in hand, passionately singing and playing to the congregation. His strong voice and powerful guitar playing has been enjoyed for years which will be missed in many weeks to come.
St. Paul’s is the first parish that Webster has served in, and although she recognizes that there will be a new adjustment she is excited for the new things that God will do at St. Paul’s Church.
In the time that Webster has been with the parish the congregation has increased about 35%, there have also been renovations, an addition put on the church and the installation of an elevator. Webster feels that many blessings have come to the church allowing the various improvements to take place. “I think we have been incredibly blessed, we really have. Through many, many people, I really feel Gods hand and blessing in the gifts that we’ve been given from many people”.
She has also been involved in bringing in a variety of studies and programs to the parish including the Alpha course which was done a couple of times and the Marriage Alpha Course three times, which she comments has been a great course for couples. “I’ve seen some really wonderful things happen through that course” she says with a smile.
Vacation Bible School is one of the big programs that the church ministers to because it’s an outreach to the community. Webster recalls two children who attended last year who had never heard of Jesus or God. “It was so exciting to be able to share that with a child. Those moms came because of another new ministry that we had started which was the Parents Morning Coffee Group. So because of that, these parents were comfortable with the church building and the people here to bring their children to spend some time with us”.
Prior to serving at the Leduc parish, Webster had spent a few years in the inner city of Edmonton, serving a lot of outreach communities including community meals and services to a women’s shelter. It was then that she felt God calling her for more and the priesthood is what came to her mind. This journey was not a quick one, in fact it took her about 5 years all together. It was, however, all part-time with the exception of the last 18 months. This allowed her to still be a stay at home mom while she did evening and long distance courses to begin her master’s degree in theology.
St. Paul’s has meant a tremendous amount to Webster; she proclaims that God and the people have taught her so much about life, love, ministry, faith and discipleship. “I am very thankful for the experience that I’ve had here” says the Reverend.
To assist her in her new adventure Webster admits there are many things that she has learned to take her to the next part of her life, however there is one important lesson that stands out to her. She declares, “In life, leadership, discipleship or faith, we are first and foremost defined by our relationship with God. So I think as a leader when we are confident in that we can serve most effectively.”
As we all do in life, Reverend Webster confesses that she has had her share of challenges while serving in Leduc, she has learned better time management, prioritizing and how to manage a building; amongst it all she feels that the hardest part is when she is journeying with someone who is struggling. “That’s the hardest part but it can also be the most rewarding. You feel like you’re really make a difference” she proclaims.
Being at St. Paul’s for several years has blessed her with many memories and in her heart she will bring them all with her. One of her favorites is watching and journeying with people in their faith and seeing how they grow and how God is working their lives.
Webster and her husband moved to Leduc in February of 2012. They have really enjoyed being here and a part of the community that they are serving in. She enjoys being able to go someplace like the grocery store and seeing people that she knows. Webster says, “It’s great to be here and to live amongst people who you serve.” They will move closer to St. Augustine’s in time, however they are not sure when that will be yet.
The children in the parish are extremely special to the Reverend and she said that about 20 kids will be included in the worship on her last Sunday, which she feels, is such a huge celebration. “They are dear wonderful young people in our parish with beautiful hearts, I believe very strongly in nurturing them in their faith and being just role models for them in their life” she says passionately.
As Webster looks back at the past 7 years she expresses how lucky she has been to be a part of St. Paul’s. “I just know that I have been incredibly lucky to be in this place and to be loved by these people, forgiven by these people and just encouraged in my own leadership” she says with appreciation.
Webster would like all of those involved in this process to keep the words of God with them as they transition to the next phase. “I would like for this parish, for me and the parish that I am going to, to keep these words in our hearts.”
“For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope. Then when you call upon me and come and pray to me, I will hear you. When you search for me, you will find me; if you seek me with all your heart. (Jeremiah 29:11-13 (NRSV).”
St. Paul’s Anglican Church will celebrate Reverend Joanne on February 23, 2014 and on March 8, 2014, the parish will be blessed with a new journey of their own when their new Reverend, Susan Ormsbee, joins them.
There is no doubt that a loving parish will welcome their new Reverend with open hearts and minds, but for now saying goodbye to a friend who has touched many hearts, will be a difficult one for many.