Miriam Winstanley

It was interesting that as the daughter of a pastor, church work was not really on the list of things I wanted to do when I grew up. I was pretty single-minded about wanting to be a social worker, and I was privileged to work in that vocation for nearly 20 years. I had the blessing of being raised by faithful Christian parents who brought me to worship and Sunday School, taught me to love God’s Word and my catechism, and modeled to me service in Christ’s Church. I was able to be active in whatever congregation I was a part of – serving as organist, Sunday School teacher, choir director, board member and chair – and in every role there was someone, whether it was pastor or lay person, to offer encouragement and training. I learned early on about some of the joys and struggles of serving in the church.

In 1999 I accepted a full-time position at Prince of Peace Village, but it wasn’t until the principal of the school, and later my pastor, spoke with me about the possibility of training to become a deaconess that the idea of full-time church work became real to me (up to then I had only ever thought of Lutheran teacher as an option, and somehow that idea never took hold). Even then, the application for colloquy sat on my dresser for about 2 years before it was submitted. Was I too old? How would I manage the course work if I couldn’t be on campus? What about my family (my husband owns a small business and my three children were still in school)? Could we afford the tuition?

Even with all the questions, the desire to pursue church work did not abate, and my husband and children were supportive. I tested the waters by doing the first course (Old Testament) by correspondence with Concordia University River Forest in 2002-2003. New Testament followed, and I could see God at work making a way for this to be done. I submitted the colloquy application while I was completing my third correspondence course, was accepted, worked out with Dr. Paul Schoepp what courses had yet to be completed, and over the next 4 years, took one course a semester. All but one could be done through Concordia University College Alberta in hybrid delivery (that meant that I could do them from Calgary). I commuted to Edmonton weekly for one course. During this time, I was able to work as Secretary and Music Assistant at St. Matthew Lutheran Church, where I was now a member. The congregation and its pastors supported my studies, and encouraged me on this path.

The next hurdle was internship. I was anxious about the possibility of being separated from my family during that year, but blessedly, I was placed at Foothills Lutheran in Calgary. There was the same anxiety about my first assignment, but I was privileged to be able to continue to serve at Foothills. In the end, my Lord graciously answered every question and concern for both myself and my family.

It has been three years since I was placed as DPS at Foothills. My primary role is in the area of Children and Family Ministry. What a privilege it is to encourage parents in their God-given role of nurturing the faith planted in their children in Holy Baptism, and what a joy it is to see those children grow in Christ. How wonderful to work with committed volunteers in our Sunday School and Vacation Bible School, and to see them grow right alongside of their young students. Our God is gracious and merciful, and in spite of my failings, sees that His work is accomplished for the sake of His beloved. I give thanks every day that He has made me part of that work.


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