It’s not uncommon for a minister to have two pastoral charges, but Rev. Peter Bartlett of Perth Road United, near Kingston, Ont., has embarked on an unusual yet exciting journey: taking on a second charge more than 2,000 kilometres away.
St. Andrew’s United in Sioux Lookout, Ont., has been seeking a minister for four years. The congregation has struggled to find someone willing to take a part-time position in its small community halfway between Thunder Bay and Winnipeg — since they’re the only local United church, there isn’t an option to combine the job with another part-time call.
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The congregation “has embraced the idea of virtual ministry,” Bartlett says. “I think the pandemic nudged them further into thinking they could find a minister who doesn’t have to be there every Sunday, but can help out in other ways.”
Barlett, whose contract runs from February to December, leads the 45-minute worship service on Zoom, complete with time for coffee and socializing at the end. He’s also helping the church renew its mission statement and decide on priorities for the future.
St. Andrew’s is still looking for a permanent minister, but plans to continue the Zoom services in combination with in-person gatherings. The position would likely still be long-distance, with a subsidy for the minister to visit in person, perhaps for 10 days every two months.
“It’s exciting working with the congregation,” Bartlett says. “[They] have created an innovative ministry possibility for a changing church.”
“We’ve been going it alone for four years, and we’re grateful to have Peter for his leadership and guidance,” says Cameron Airlie, St. Andrew’s board chair. “Peter has risen to the occasion, and I’m sure he enjoys the challenge. We’re really happy to have him.”
With files from Reeti Meenakshi Rohilla
Peter Bird is a writer and member of Perth Road United Church.
This interview first appeared in Broadview’s September 2021 issue with the title “A Minister 2,000 Kilometres Away.”
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Although a great idea, who is shepherding the flock that are sick, lonely and hurting? Church for a "pastor" is not just a "Sunday morning" job. Church for the "sheep", I hope, is more than seeing each other every Sunday morning.
I trust the Elders are doubling up to fill that gap.