Interview with Gladys Abigail
11:00 a.m., Thursday, January 14th, 2016
Church of the Ascension
Where has your faith journey taken you?
A lot of people can say the exact moment when God came into their lives, or when they realized that there was a God, but there’s no moment in my life when I can say that God wasn’t in my life. I grew up in a small village in Newfoundland and I was baptized when I was about a month old. I was taken to church every Sunday regardless of the weather. We were an Anglican family and, as I said, it was a small village; church and school were about the only two things that were available to us. It was an important part of our lives, and the church was very different from what it is now.
Children had to sit and not speak or make any noise, and you had to go to church, and you had to go to Sunday school. I always knew there was a God and He was there and we prayed. It was such a part of our lives that I never really questioned it. We went to church and we said our prayers every morning and every night and we had family prayers at night. We’d kneel on the kitchen floor—it was still warm—and we prayed. As a child in Sunday school I learned to say a grace at mealtime that I say to this day.
I don’t know at what age in my life I thought about praying for specific things. Maybe when I was ten years old it started to dawn on me that, hey, there’s a God and I can pray and maybe I can find answers to what I’m looking for. My dad worked away from home and I worried about him a lot, that he could get hurt. He worked in lumbering, forestry. He could’ve been hurt at work and traveling.
It was a simple life but it was a hard life. Church and school were such an important part of our lives. I guess I started praying that dad would be safe, that God would look after him, and I guess if I had a test the next day I prayed that I’d do alright. God was just there for me. He was a father figure to me. If I was bad then I told Him I was sorry and, like my dad, He would smile at me and give me a hug, and I knew He loved me regardless of whether I was good or bad. He was my comfort zone, I guess.
There were no jobs where I grew up and I finished high school when I was about sixteen and I moved to Cornerbrook [Newfoundland]. It was a city of about 25,000 people at that time and it was big compared to where I was raised. While I was still in school I started teaching Sunday school, and I got interested in the children. We didn’t have a regular program as such. There were books and pictures of shepherds and Jesus that we could colour. And when I started working I joined another church and started going to AYPA meetings, Anglican Young People’s Association. I started helping out in the church office on Saturdays. I’d go over and type up the Bulletin for Sundays. Then I started teaching Sunday school. Church was still a big part of my life.
And then I moved to Sudbury and I found another church. That was the Epiphany downtown on Larch Street. As I lived downtown, it was close. I became a Sunday school teacher, and there was a youth group. I met people, friends I’ve kept for many years. I met my husband; I got married, and then my life changed. I had children. I still went to church but then I wasn’t involved in the church while my children were young. But they were baptized and confirmed.
There again it was change, but God didn’t change for me. He was still God. He was still my Father. And of course with raising a family you have problems, you have things you need help with, and I found that prayer may not have given me any big answers but it calmed me, it settled me down, and then I found solutions. Whether they would’ve come to me if I hadn’t prayed I don’t know, but I prefer to think that it was an answer to a prayer—the right answer. And sure, I made mistakes, but who doesn’t? But you can’t let your mistakes influence you. You have to put them aside and go on, find right answers and go from there.
We moved to New Sudbury when my son was about nine months old and then I started coming here [to Ascension]—but not as often, as my husband worked shift work and with the baby, the churches didn’t have the facilities that they have now for parents. But he was baptized at the Epiphany when he was a couple of months old. My daughter came along and as they got older I started taking them with me here to Sunday school and we stayed here until they went away to school. And I’m still here!
I became envelope secretary thirty-three years ago. I joined the ACW when the kids were still young and it was a small group and some of the same people that were in it when I joined are still in it now and it’s been a part of my life, the Anglican Church Women.
Were you ever on the ACW executive?
I’ve been the President of the ACW in this church, I was Deanery President, and I was Diocesan President. As Diocesan President I attended national meetings everywhere from Fredericton to Vancouver. And I’ve met a lot of very special women. It was very, very interesting to find out what was going on in the west coast and the east coast and central as we compared what we were doing and what they were doing and accomplishing.
I would get on a plane and fly to Toronto and, say, fly to Vancouver and I’d get off the plane in Vancouver and I’d never been there before. I’m walking down the stairs and I see a man holding a sign saying, ACW. And I often think it was rather stupid of any woman to go to a city as big as Vancouver and get in a car and drive off with a man! But he was holding that ACW sign and that was my security. I never thought twice that there was anything wrong with going with him.
Has the main purpose of ACW been fundraising?
No. It’s promoting the Kingdom of God. Doing that we had to support the churches. ACW has kept many churches afloat. They did fundraise to put a roof on the church or to get the kitchen supplied with things so that they could raise money for churches. And they have worked for the church for many, many years, about a hundred and fifty years now. At one time they’d bring pennies to their meetings as a collection; that’s how it all started. And for a lot of the women, too, it was the only way they’d get out of the house really. It was a break for them and they could do something for the church and for God. And it was a part of their faith to sustain ACW. It’s been really interesting.
You have tremendous trust and faith in God. Are there challenges?
We’re being challenged right now because when I started in ACW with my mom it was an outing for us. It was a way to get out because we were home raising children. And nowadays the mothers that are raising their children—most of them work—and they have their children into everything: sports, music and dancing. You name it and their kids are doing it. They just do not have the time to go to ACW meetings and to fundraise for ACW. They are strapped now trying to keep everything in control. And ACW is in jeopardy of closing. A lot of branches have closed because they just do not have the women to keep it going.
Do declining numbers affect your faith?
No. No. Because people are bringing their children to church and that’s what it’s all about. They’re learning about God and Jesus and what They’ve done for us and it’s just a different way of doing things. The ACW started off by collecting pennies; they knit socks for soldiers. The needs then and now are completely different, so the way we operate has to be completely different. We cannot do now what we did then; it doesn’t work. And twenty years from now, the need will be different from what it is now, and we won’t be doing the same things.
Where do you see the future of this church?
I think the church will go on because there will always be people of faith who will keep it going. But I have seen a lot of changes in this church over the years. ACW was depended upon to keep the church going, and now this church is not supported by ACW. The same people that go to ACW support the church, yes, but our money doesn’t go to put a roof on the church. People are giving where at one time they didn’t. They didn’t have it to give. It’s a different society. Things have changed. People now are happy to give more generously. And early in ACW nobody had that much money. We couldn’t support the church but we could go out and work, we could bake, we could take twenty dollars’ worth of material and make cakes and cookies and other goodies and sell them to raise the money.
And we’re using technology now, and that has made a big difference. You reach more people. Go back to the old telephone party line . . . and now every twelve-year old has a cell phone in his hand. Everything has changed.
Through it all, for you, God has remained constant.
That is the only thing that hasn’t changed. With technology, God still hasn’t changed. He still listens. And he still helps us. He doesn’t need the computer to do it. As much as everything else in the church has changed, God hasn’t. He’s still there. If I’m driving, I’m praying. It doesn’t matter what I’m doing. God is there. If I were falling down stairs, I’d probably say, “You better stop me, Lord, because I’m going to get hurt here.” God doesn’t change. We’ve come so far in everything—medicine, everything you name has changed tremendously. A lot of us feel that we don’t need God because we have all this other. But to me God has to be in every aspect of my life. It doesn’t matter how small or how big.
Is God near?
He’s here. He’s all around us. He is a part of us. And with all the terrible, terrible things that are going on in the world that we can’t change. But God can. He’s the only one that can make a difference in this world. And if we don’t approach Him, why should He do anything? He’s not going to decide one day that, “hey, I should do something.” But He might do it for me. He might do it for you if we ask.
It’s a simple faith. It keeps me going.
Written by Shannon Hengen, Lay Reader
Faith Journey Interview with Jen Ames – Peoples Warden
Church of the Ascension
Thursday, March 3rd, 2016, 10 a.m.
Please talk about your faith journey.
My faith journey started when I was young. We always went to church. I was in Sunday School. We went to the Anglican church in Coniston. The minister was Fr. Lumley. I’m not sure I got Baptized there but I know I got Confirmed there. My dad was a Lay Reader there, so he was very busy and active in the church. He went every Sunday. My mom didn’t go as often.
I learned actually a funny story that I didn’t even remember from when I was young. When I was working as a PSW I met a lady and she wanted to know what’s my maiden name and I said “Nicholson” and she said, “oh, are you related to Ted Nicholson?” And I said “yes” and she said, “when we went to church he was one of the Lay Readers and I remember him being up there and reading, and I remember you as a young girl when he went up to the front you’d run up beside him and hold onto his leg the whole time.” I don’t remember that and he’s not around to ask. I thought it was just a lovely story for her to tell me.
Growing up, we went to church every Sunday until we became teenagers and social life was a little bit more important at the time. I kind of got away from the church. My dad was always faithful with that, and when Rev. Genny [Rollins] came they became best friends, so they were very close.
I ended up getting married and when I was pregnant with our first daughter, Lauren, I said to my husband, “I want to take the kids to church. I grew up going to church.” But even through the time I didn’t necessarily go to church, I still had a strong faith that God was with me. He had a plan for my life. So in my heart I was always there. And I think that’s from going to church when you’re little and you’ve got that foundation that no matter what you’re going through He’s there for you. So then I started taking our kids to the church in Lively—we lived in Lively for nine years—because it’s what you’re supposed to do. It’s hectic when you’ve got little kids, trying to get everybody rushed out of the door and get to church on time. We were very close, and we were always very late! Something like this church!
But when I really felt God, the Holy Spirit, knowing that He was real was when both my parents were sick and I was working at the time, and had two young kids. Like all families, it’s tough being young and married and young kids and everybody’s working and just the family stress of that, marital stress. Then my mom was sick with a brain tumour at the time and we were looking after her at her home. At that time then we found out that my dad had kidney cancer that spread to his lung and he didn’t want to get any treatment done because he wanted to be there for my mom, so my brother and I helped. When I was done work I would go over there and I would help him until maybe about 11:00 at night. We were very lucky because my brother quit his job so he was there all during the day. We had VON coming in—they were wonderful. I always said, “when I get another job or my dream job it would be as a PSW to help other people because they didn’t just help my mom and dad, they helped us, too.” Just for that support. And they’re wonderful so that’s what actually drove me to take my PSW course.
During all of this going on, it was after work and I was driving the bypass from Lively to Minnow Lake, and I was kind of running my day through my head, and all the stress in things that were going on, and worries, then I started thinking of different things that happened that day, like somebody saying something to me, or a hug from somebody, or just a conversation that didn’t have to do with anything that made me start my thought process on how God really is there for you, and He’s there through other people. He puts people in your path and in your life who are going to help you and build you up and give you comfort and peace. Even now it could be somebody I meet in the grocery store and I start talking to them, and they say something I need to hear. Sometimes I think I’m there because maybe something I have to say is for them.
I just started getting so full and I could just feel God. I could feel His love. I could feel His support. And I pulled over and I just cried. I had the faith and it was there but it was that actual feeling that God was real, God was with me, God was caring and loving me. I think that’s when my faith journey started, or got more enriched. We have our steps in our faith and we can grow stagnant and then God does something in our lives or something happens that changes that and strengthens our faith. That happens all through our life. Because not only did that experience but other experiences in my life have enriched my faith.
As strong as my faith was, I didn’t really talk about it. I talked about it with my kids and I talked about it within my family unit but I didn’t really go out and talk about God or even mention God. I wouldn’t have that conversation with people. A friend of my daughter’s–their family was very religious and had strong faith–the mom became a good friend of mine. She had no problem talking about God and her faith. Just even saying to somebody, “I’m going to pray for you.” You know they say God puts people in your life for a time. So we’re not close anymore and we’ve kind of gone our separate ways, but I believe she was in my life for that reason, and I’m so thankful to have had her friendship for that season because it really taught me. Because then I was able to speak with her, so it wasn’t so difficult to talk about God or my faith or even just to say to somebody, “can I pray for you?” Or to say to somebody, “can you pray for me, because I need it?” That was another stepping stone to my faith—this friendship and being able to talk about God.
Actually what I hope we can give the children in Godly Play is that comfort to be able to speak about God and their friendship with God and their love for God and their faith, and that they’re Christians.
I know my faith is still growing and I have a lot to learn but I know that I’m where I’m supposed to be and that God keeps guiding me and planting seeds and so I just have to listen to that. I think that was another part of my learning and my faith–listening to that little voice. Even though I’m afraid to do something or unsure or it’s out of my comfort zone to just do it because God’s with me, He’s guiding me and He planted that seed for a reason.
When your husband became ill, was it the same experience as when your parents were ill?
It’s always there after that moment because I just knew He was always there and that really did help us through my husband’s illness. I knew that God was with us, God was guiding us, so we prayed a lot. I believe in the power of prayer. We had people from all different denominations and from all over the world helping pray for him. I just think it helped keep our faith and our strength up because we knew that He was with us. We’re not going through this alone. And there were some very difficult times because the doctors told us at one point that he’s not going to make it to Christmas. I just had to believe that God was with me and helping me to keep strong to do what I needed to do to take care of him and my kids.
I spent a lot of time in the chapel, so when I felt weak I would go in there and have a good cry and get filled up again. God put people in our lives, for sure, to help us. We had so many amazing people that helped us and supported us. People we didn’t even know who just came forward. So we do try to make sure we give back because we were so blessed.
We started the Terry Ames Care Foundation to help families who are going through cancer that need help to pay their bills because there’s so much to worry about. At the time when Terry got sick I was a stay-at-home mom, so once he couldn’t work there was no money coming in, but I never worried. I always think of the part in the Bible where He says the birds are fed and taken care of, and so just think of what God does for us. And so I never really worried about that. It was a worry for him, of course, because he’s got this family that he wants to take care of. But I would always think of that story and know. We really were taken care of in many ways, whether it was financial help or prayers or comfort or an ear to listen.
I remember once going to a yoga class and—you know what?—nobody knew who I was there, and just that was a blessing. Nobody was there to ask me, “how’s Terry? What’s going on?” And so it was wonderful. I would just go in, I would do this exercise, and I would leave, and that was a blessing.
Another thing that helped through that too was this church and all the people in it. We had moved from Lively to New Sudbury. Terry’s Catholic. And a lot of times he does work on Sundays so it’s me taking the kids and he said, “I don’t know if I want to go to an Anglican church.” And I always told the kids, “it doesn’t matter what church you go to as long as you believe in God, believe in Jesus and have that faith.” And you get that community through the church.
So we actually did a bit of church hopping, and when I walked through the doors of the Church of the Ascension, it was home. I remember that moment, and I said to Terry, “I don’t care if you come with me, because I’m taking the kids here. This is our home.” And it’s felt like that ever since.
One of my favourite parts of the service is just to watch everybody come down from Communion because whether I get to talk to everyone every week or it’s just a “hello,” I feel like everybody in the church is my family. There’s just so much support.
You’ve been involved in Sunday School and now Godly Play.
When I was in Lively, it just started because the kids wouldn’t go down without me! So I went downstairs and there was another lady, Cindy Harbottle, who was in Lively, and she was the Sunday School teacher there, so we each had our little group. Through teaching the kids, I learned.
Then when we came here I was a Sunday School teacher. Then we heard about the Godly Play and this is another thing about God planting seeds because I’d heard about this conference and I didn’t really know what it was, and I didn’t know if anybody else was going. I ended up emailing Cindy [Caines] and saying, “I want to go,” and I signed up, and it was something out of my comfort zone, something I wouldn’t have normally done, but for some reason I had it in my head that I had to go and see what this was.
From that conference, that day, the Holy Spirit was in us. We were like, “we want this to happen.” It was great because [Rev] Anne had heard about it and she was all for it and it just kind of blossomed. We’ve had so much support from everybody in the church and they’re enjoying it when they hear it. I feel like it’s more of a worship for the kids. So when they outgrow Godly Play and they walk into the church it’s not going to be so different. We have the Scripture reading, we hear a story which is like a sermon, we do some prayers in it. It’s a nice little worship time for them, and we try to make it special.
We have bonds forming where they open up about things that are going on in their life, and we’re learning to pray for each other, and different ways to pray and to talk about God, and the language to talk about God. I know when I pray, I’m talking to my friend. I don’t use fancy words. I want the kids to know that there’s all different ways to pray, and there’s no wrong way or right way. You don’t need big fancy words. As they grow up in their faith and in their church, I want them to feel the same support and love and know that no matter what goes on out there, they can always come here, and it’s kind of a safe place and a comfort place and a place that they know and where they’re accepted and loved for who they are. They don’t have to be anybody else. There’s lots of pressures out there, especially for kids now, but God is here for them. God loves them and so do we as a church community.
Anything else on your journey?
Not yet, but there’s more to come!
Written by Shannon Hengen, Lay Reader