Saskatoon in winter.
If you follow me on social media, you will know about a big change coming up for our family. Next month we will be moving to Saskatoon Saskatchewan. Saskatoon is my hometown - it is where I grew up from age 6 on up.
Felicia also grew up in Saskatoon. Both our parents still live there. The reason for the move? The first reason would be for the sake of our children. Our children have had fleeting times with their grandparents - here and there at far-flung vacation spots and maybe a handful of times in Saskatoon itself. But, they have never had a prolonged time to be able to forge deeper relationships.
Another reason is that the pandemic was very difficult in various ways for all of us. It caused us to reassess priorities and even calling. Felicia and I both feel that family is important. Our parents are getting older and we want to be able to enjoy them as long as we can.
But why Saskatoon of all places? The world is literally wide open to us. With Felicia's job as a nurse, she could work anywhere. There is also nothing tethering me to Ithaca anymore. After making the decision, I've even turned down 2 job offers from churches in Los Angeles and Miami! Saskatoon over the pleasant climes of southern California and Florida? What are we thinking?
Well, the physical environment is not as important as the emotional, psychological environment for human flourishing. I've felt miserable in beautiful places. And the feeling of being home will be more pronounced where extended family is located.
Saskatoon itself is a great city - great restaurants, coffee shops, and cultural options. Another plus is that Canada seems to invest a lot more into community amenities. Saskatoon hosts many community centers with gyms, swimming pools, exercise rooms, squash, racketball, and tennis courts. Ithaca by comparison does not have a community center like that. The closest might be the YMCA.
Saskatoon also has a great sense of community. I think this has to do with the bitterly cold winters there! The long stretch of frigid cold will be one of our biggest adjustments. Felicia and I have not endured a Saskatchewan winter in over 25 years. And our children have never experienced -30 temperatures. I was talking to some friends and they told me you just need to embrace it. Take up cross country skiing! Somehow I don't see myself embracing it a whole lot! We will likely have to plan at least one hot weather escape to Mexico or Hawaii to compensate!
This kind of pic will be rarer in the coming year.
Another change will be that I will not be in full-time vocational ministry for the first time in 25 years. (I did have 2011-2013 off when I was looking for a new position - but was still doing a lot of interim preaching). This time I will not be seeking a pastoral position for at least one year. I will take the occasional speaking opportunity, but even those will be limited to maybe once or at most twice a month.
This decision is based on a couple of factors. One was that I was turned down for 3 pastoral positions that I interviewed for. Churches in Vancouver, Coquitlam, and Calgary. These were all healthy, good-sized churches. I was a final candidate, up against between 2-5 others in all these churches. And I was turned down for all three.
At that point, I started to wonder if this was a sign from the Lord to take a step back from ministry for a season. The other reason and this one was more potent was when I thought about entering a year of ministry leadership, it felt oppressive. I did not want to launch a new sermon series or plan for Christmas or Easter. And when I thought of NOT having to do that, a huge burden felt like it was lifted off!
So, until I get that sense of excitement and anticipation around pastoral ministry again, I will be seeking other employment. At this point, I have secured a part-time position doing communications for a Christian ministry. This is not pastoral ministry as it will almost entirely be me behind a keyboard.
We have decided to visit 4 churches in Saskatoon and then make a decision on where we will land. We don't want to church hop and hope to find a church home quickly. I think this is healthy for all of us, but especially for our kids to have a sense of security and continuity. We will visit the church that is closest geographically to our new house. And then my parent's church and then maybe a couple of others. My preference would be that we attend the church closest to us as that seems to foster closer community relations and it is easier to invite my neighbors' to a church 5 minutes away than one that is 30 minutes away.
So, that's our big news. The big move. We are very very excited about coming home. In terms of leaving Ithaca, we will miss friends that we have grown very close to. I will miss the Vineyard Chruch of Ithaca who was so generous and hospitable to our family the short time we were there. I will especially miss my weekly meeting with Ward Davis and Elijah Grubb where we would solve the world's problems together.
See you in the great white north soon!