Our own voices, our own stories
Storytelling is an integral part of our faith. As a progressive, emerging church with a diverse, intercultural congregation, we have many stories to tell.
Here are a few personal stories from some members of our congregation. They wanted to share their life experiences and reasons for being a part of our Saskatoon church family.
I came to Canada in 2001 as a teenage refugee. I spoke no English. Light switches and elevators surprised me because most of my young life I was in an Ethiopian camp, where my mother and siblings still live. After a year in Ontario and nine years in Calgary, we came to Saskatoon. I knew nobody.
August 29, 2010 was our first time to Grosvenor Park Church. The day before, we happened to drive by and my seven-year-old son said, “Look at that big church! We should go there!” And we did. And people talked to us, asked about us and before you know it, it’s home for us. My kids really love coming, especially to Grace Land.
When things in my marriage went wrong, I felt blessed that at church I can share things that are painful, and people were there to offer the help and support in everything I had to go through. I could speak English, but I had to learn to write it so I could pass high school. For five years the Grosvenor people have had my back, looking after my kids whenever I go to school. They’re making sure I do everything I can to get my education. And now I’m in my second year of university!
I’m pretty sure I am who I am today because they committed to help me. It’s something I always thank God for, the day I walked in this church and they opened the door for me and still, today, they open the door for my children.
In Korea, I was very involved in the peace and justice movement. I also worked in the General Assembly office for Korea’s Presbyterian Churches. That’s where I met HyeRan Kim-Cragg from St. Andrew’s College here in Saskatoon. She encouraged me to study abroad. So I arrive August 21st, 2014, and began my Masters of Theological Studies.
HyeRan recommended Grosvenor to me. Since I lived at the university residence, I thought, Yes! It was very quick to this church! But soon I saw much more benefits. It really fit to my values, and then, within two weeks I was asked to apply for a Sunday school teacher! I thought at the time, Oh I cannot do, because of difficulty with language and culture, but many people really encouraged me. And when I got the job, so much support. I was a stranger and I was surprised by the people who has a wonderful mind and warm spirit.
I was surprised by really many things – I can talk more than one hour on this! In Korea we call ourselves a “one-blood country” so all look same – we are rooted in Confucius and Taoism, so men think this way, women that way. But here I can meet many people who has different ideas, gender orientation. I love that.
My wife and daughters moved here shortly after I did. This past summer we all went back to Korea, and when we got back to Saskatoon we say, “We are arriving at home.” And our first Sunday back to church we really feel we arrived home. We really love this church.
I’m all about making a difference in the world. Outreach projects are so important. For me, that’s one of the main things a church should be doing. You need to be aware of everything around you. Like Nobuko said in her sermon today: Sometimes we think a problem isn’t a problem if it doesn’t effect us personally. But that’s not true.
When I joined Grosvenor, I liked that the people were trying to help others, and I was overwhelmed by how welcoming they were. I was 13 then and I’m 15 now. My parents always took me to church. Like any kid I sometimes didn’t want to go, but now I see it’s a place I belong.
When I first moved to Saskatoon from Prince Albert five years ago it was really kind of scary. We started at a different church, and at youth group I didn’t know anybody – I just wanted to run! But at the end of my first meeting one of the boys looked at me and said, “Come again.” He’s now one of my good friends and see the group as a kind of a family. When our group moved to Grosvenor a couple of years ago, it was a good fit because of our common interest in outreach.
When I went to work in Africa this summer, it wasn’t a religious thing. Any mission work I do isn’t so much connected to my faith as my faith stems from my mission work. Grosvenor people were extremely supportive, they gave me donations and wished me luck. Some had been on similar trips. When I came back they wanted me to give a presentation. These are the kinds of things that keep me coming to this church.
When you’ve faced discrimination as I have, belonging to a congregation that cares about social justice is especially important. I moved to Grosvenor three years ago because it’s an Affirming Congregation. These people openly address the issues that LGBT2Q persons face. I’m committed to making our church and country a safer place for us all, so this place feels right for me.
In the ‘80s I was privileged to play a significant role in The United Church of Canada’s history. I was an original member of Affirm United and a national spokesperson for Affirm at General Council in 1988. That’s when the UCC made the ground breaking decision that gays and lesbians could be ordained!
The decision meant that I could follow my own calling into ministry. I attended St. Andrew’s College here in Saskatoon and was ordained in 1994, serving both rural and city congregations. Now I’m retired and live with my married partner, Jan. She and I attend Grosvenor regularly – it’s an exciting place to be!
Our minister, Nobuko, has many and various gifts, including thoughtful and knowledgeable sermons. The worship band and guest musicians provide us with upbeat meaningful music each Sunday. Singing in the choir and serving on committees such as Ministry and Personnel are fun and fulfilling. Here you’re supported, as well as challenged, to grow in faith. We want each member to come and be her/his self. There’s a real sense of a close knit community, but our circle is wide.
I’ve belonged to this church for 45 years and have always felt really attached to the congregation. It began in 1972 when I was hired on here as the fulltime administrator. Later I did double-duty as treasurer. It was challenging at times, but my fifteen years working for Grosvenor were the most rewarding of my life.
I did the usual managerial work, but my passion was organizing and meeting with the people, and I don’t mean just the members. I was always so proud of the fact that the Board allowed me to offer so many different groups the chance to meet here, as part of my job. For example, a Spanish group, and Eritrean refugees – at no charge! I enjoyed the international people so much. And we also began offering meeting rooms to Alcoholics Anonymous, eventually growing to six groups and two Al-Anon groups. Helping in this way was so fulfilling.
Back then there wasn’t the same kind of cross-section of people at Grosvenor that I appreciate so much now, but it was still an interesting mix of backgrounds and occupations. There were a lot of university students, many of whom struggled financially, and there were a lot of professors and successful business people. For my husband Layton and I, this was our neighbourhood church, just as it was for most of the people who attended.
I’ve seen a lot of changes in 45 years, but I’ve learned to adjust and enjoy. I have deep connections with other long time members and newer people who’ve been very good to me. I feel loved here.
As someone who studied for over seven years to become a priest, I’ve really appreciated the opportunities Grosvenor’s given me to utilize my training and gifts. Congregants are encouraged to take part in leading worship, so I’ve given the Reflection from time to time. And I enjoy proclaiming the word. For me, this means reading scripture aloud in such a way that the meaning of the message contained in the text is better understood by the people.
The consensus process used in a United church, and the Council-Committee governance is hard to get used to, coming from the Catholic way of doing things, but of course, there’s lots to like! I first attended Grosvenor in December of 2011. My then partner and I were looking for a church where we could be ourselves. And he wanted to leave his conservative church where homosexuality was unacceptable. We’d heard this place was an affirming congregation, so we came two Sundays in a row and made the decision very quickly. To this day, the fact that I’m welcomed here unconditionally, just as I am, and that others are too, that’s what keeps me coming back.
Why didn’t I become a priest? Well, in my last semester of seminary I concluded that I was gay. And I came out. But that didn’t sit well with one priest who deemed me to be an inappropriate candidate. Eventually I forgave him and I’ve moved on. I don’t have a problem with the larger church and when I go back to my hometown, I’m still a practising Catholic.