The Rev. Diane Hilpert Mcilroy (R) with Archbishop Anne Germond

The Rev. Diane Hilpert Mcilroy (R) with Archbishop Anne Germond

Mentoring new clergy in the Diocese of Moosonee during a Pandemic

By the Rev. Diane Hilpert Mcilroy
Mentor for Clergy and Spiritual guidance, Diocese of Moosonee  

2020 was a year that most of us will not soon forget. We were separated from our families, friends, neighbours, schools, jobs, and churches. The global pandemic changed most of what we call “normal.” Many people began to rely on the Internet for shopping, socializing, working, and even worshipping. Before the pandemic began, although I am retired, I had been doing some supply work, but obviously, with churches closed, supply clergy were not needed. After a few months of lockdown I began to question what God might be asking of me. Early one morning I prayed that Jesus would reveal God’s plan to me. That very evening I received an email from Archbishop Anne Germond asking me to prayerfully consider the position of mentor in the Diocese of Moosonee. 

Archbishop Anne and assisting Archbishop Fred Hiltz were looking for a new and inventive way of engaging their clergy in continued learning. I was invited to mentor the clergy who had graduated from the Moosonee School of Ministry and to be a spiritual support and confidante to the other clergy in the diocese. There wasn’t a ministry description per se, but the focus was on mentoring newer clergy in preaching, liturgy, and Anglicanism. 

I was confident that this was going to be a learning curve for me. The first item on the learning list was conquering technology. Thankfully, Zoom is easy—and after sending out a Zoom invitation with the wrong date, I learned to connect with clergy all over Moosonee. Most of the clergy from the Moosonee School of Ministry have participated in weekly Zoom sessions, daily phone conversations, emails, and texts. 

The Zoom sessions on preaching focused on Paul Scott Wilson’s The Four Pages of the Sermon. We had conversations and demonstrations on how the Episcopalian priest, professor, and author Barbara Brown Taylor preached and how the Presbyterian author and professor Rev. Dr. Tom Long preaches. And lastly, we looked at how Phyllis Tickle and Fredrick Buechner “tell the story in today’s language,” keeping true to the text. This way of preaching is a powerful way of putting people into the story with Jesus.

To study Anglicanism, we concentrated on a general view of the Anglican Church in Canada. Many of us are taking the Anglican Origins course out of the Diocese of Montreal, which is giving us an overview of the history of the Anglican Church. When this course ends we are planning to join with the people from Henry Budd College, where the Indigenous clergy and students will discuss how Anglicanism has affected them as First Nations people. Moosonee is well represented, with about a dozen people taking the course.

The teaching has been reciprocal. We have shared resources for funerals and baptism rites, the church seasons, and feast days within the church. The liturgy sessions will be based on the work of several people, including Nora Gallagher’s The Sacred Meal, Let Us Give Thanks by David Holeton, Catherine Hall, and Gregory Kerr-Wilson, and others that are listed at the end of this article. After each session, notes are sent to the participants.

We were blessed to have Rev. Norm Wesley teach us about the shaking tent. Some of the experienced clergy are interested in having at least one Zoom session on moving forward after the pandemic in the “new normal.” There are many exciting possibilities for us, but we also know there will be issues. Working together as colleagues in ministry is a strong and powerful way for equipping one another to build Christ’s Church, here in Moosonee, well into the future.

Our Zoom sessions begin with a short devotional service and/or a prayer, and end with prayers. Over the months that we have been together, there have been all kinds of questions, as well as enlightening and lively conversations. The clergy in Moosonee who take part have a deep desire to continue to grow and learn. We keep in touch between Zoom sessions, and we have built caring and supportive relationships with one another. I have been blessed to meet some amazing, deeply devoted Christian people in this vast and beautiful diocese. 

Originally, I was to mentor and teach, but over the weeks and months, we have all learned so much from one another. I am grateful for the ways everyone is willing to share their ministry experiences and advice. It is a privilege to walk the good road with clergy in Moosonee, and I am excited to see what God is going to do in Moosonee next. Ω

Bibliography and Suggested Reading List

  • Baycroft, John. The Anglican Way. Toronto: ABC Publishing, 1980.
  • Baycroft, John. The Eucharistic Way. Toronto: ABC Publishing, 1981.
  • Bays, Patricia. This Anglican Church of Ours. Winfield, BC: Wood Lake Books, 1995.
  • Braver, Barbara, ed. I Have Called You Friends: Reflections on Reconciliation in Honor of Frank T. Griswold. Cambridge, MA: Cowley Publications, 2006.
  • Carter Florence, Anna. Reshaping Scripture: Discovering God’s Word in Community. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2018.
  • Chapman, Mark. Anglicanism. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006.
  • Gallagher, Nora. The Sacred Meal. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2009.
  • Guenther, Margaret. Holy Listening: The Art of Spiritual Direction. Chicago: Cowley Publications, 1992.
  • Long, Thomas G., and Thomas Lynch. The Good Funeral. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2013.
  • Maybee, Maylane, ed. All Who Minister. Toronto: ABC Publishing, 2001.
  • Mission as Transformation: Welcoming the Stranger. Toronto: ABC Publishing, 2007.
  • Sacks, Jonathan. Lessons in Leadership. New Milford, CT: OU Press, 2015.
  • Willimon, William. Thank God It’s Friday: Encountering the Seven Last Words from the Cross. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2006.
  • Wright, N.T. Mark for Everyone. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2004.

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