A very strange thing happened at Thanksgiving before the COVID-19 pandemic. I received an email, inviting me to join Sunday worship at Kamloops United in B.C. Although this was a very thoughtful gesture, I live in Calgary and had only visited Kamloops twice in my lifetime.
I racked my brain to try and figure out who might have added me to their email list but I came up empty. Each week, I received a new invitation, and then the church’s electronic newsletters started arriving.
Fast forward to March 2020, and I began to receive daily meditations from Kamloops United’s minister Rev. Michael Caveney. One day, out of both boredom and curiosity, I opened one. I was hooked. Caveney is the ultimate storyteller. I emailed him to let him know how much I enjoyed his daily meditations and to inquire if he knew how I ended up on their email list. He responded to my email right away, but he didn’t have a clue, either.
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A month later, I received an email from the church’s pastoral care group requesting my new telephone number because the one which began with area code 250 did not work. I used Google to search the telephone number and located someone with my exact name who lived in Kamloops. Caveney has since confessed that he typed “@gmail.com” when adding her email address instead of “@telus.net.” Mystery solved.
When Kamloops United began hosting Tuesday Zoom coffee parties, someone said they were so confused when I read scripture on Good Friday. They said, “That isn’t the real Jayne Martin, and that is not the Jayne Martin I went to school with.” I became known as the “fake” Jayne Martin! It was a wonderful opportunity to get to know the congregants better.
In my personal prayer time during the pandemic, I surrendered my life to God. I felt called to join Kamloops United virtually. At first, I dismissed the idea. An hour later, I was literally down on my knees bawling my eyes out. My old church secretary called it my “Saul” moment. I remember saying to God, “But I don’t even know if this is possible!” I sent an email to Caveney and waited. The next day, I received the most welcoming email. I had been afraid that he would suggest that there were many good United churches right here in Calgary.
I do believe that this was God’s way of answering my prayer. I had been volunteering at my old church to the point of burnout and had prayed to God to lighten my load. Before joining Kamloops United, I had been a Presbyterian. Interestingly enough, before Caveney became a United minister, he was too. It was like I was following him.
I also love how inclusive the United Church is. When Caveney welcomes “all” at the beginning of each service, he means “all.” For years, the Presbyterian Church dithered on whether or not they want to be an affirming church and recognize and accept the LGBTQ2S+ community as members and leaders. It wasn’t until their 2021 General Assembly that the church agreed that married or single LGBTQ2S+ people could be ordained and serve as ministers and ruling elders.
At Kamloops United, a transgender woman shared her story and I felt like there had been a hole in my heart that had finally been healed. I was so touched by her journey and by how warm and welcoming Kamloops United had been when she first walked into their church one Sunday. I did not realize until then how much belonging to a church unaccepting of others had hurt me. It made me feel ashamed, bitter and angry. I wasn’t aware I had these feelings until I heard her speak and her words cut me right through to my core.
I do believe that this was God’s way of answering my prayer.
In a March 2021 electronic newsletter, the church mentioned that they were looking for volunteers to sit as “members at large” on their Council Circle. I sent an email requesting that if they would consider their church larger than four walls or a province, then I would be interested in throwing my hat into the ring. Not only was my nomination unanimously accepted, but I was also asked to join their Radical Hospitality Committee. I now share Zoom hosting duties for the congregation’s after-church coffee times and Tuesday coffee parties.
Initially, when God called me to join Kamloops United, I presumed that I was supposed to physically move to Kamloops. My girlfriend plaintively cried out: “Please don’t leave.” So, I took it to God in prayer and asked, “Now what?”
Remember when Paul wanted to go to Rome, and God said, “No?” Well, I received a very strong message that I was to stay in Calgary. Sadly, my girlfriend has been diagnosed with liver cancer, and I want to stay to help care for her. Kamloops United will start in-person worship services again on Sept. 12, but I will still be attending virtually.
I am not sure what God’s plan is for me, but I think he has been after me for a while now to join this church. In June 2020, I received an email from a congregant at Kamloops United asking if I had attended a handbell conference in St. Albert, Alta., the previous July. I had, and being on my own, I remembered that a group had adopted me and invited me to join them for meals for the entire weekend. It turned out that they were all from Kamloops United!
Jayne Martin is passionate about sharing others’ end-of-life journeys through her palliative care volunteering.