ADC Alum Amanda Henderson-Bolton shares her journey in ministry and how her time at ADC continues to equip her for her call.
The Beginning of the Journey
An important moment in the faith life of a Presbyterian is when we are old enough to take membership classes to join the church. On the Sunday I was supposed to give my profession of faith, I pulled our minister aside and said I couldn’t do it. There was still so much I didn’t know! His words have stayed with me since that day: “This is just the beginning of the journey, and our faith will grow throughout our lives.”
He was right. My faith journey continued, and in my last year of high school, I felt called to mission work. Travelling to Nicaragua as part of a work-mission tour ignited my passion for travel and study. My undergraduate studies took me to western Europe and Southeast Asia, after which I volunteered in both Ukraine and in the Iona Community. Throughout that time, I began to feel a call to ministry, but I was still uncertain. I decided to attend Acadia Divinity College to do both my Master of Divinity and Master of Arts (Theology) while working in Christian camping ministry during the summers.
Space to Grow
My time at ADC was incredibly important in my life. It was a place where I went deeper in my faith, asked questions, and continued to discern my call. It also allowed me some unique study opportunities that aligned with my passion for travel, including touring Israel and Palestine and attending a theological student conference. ADC was a place where I felt welcomed, where I made lifetime friends, where I decided to continue my call in the Presbyterian church—and where I met my future husband. Not bad for four years!
I found the College’s approach to ministry and learning incredibly helpful in my journey. When I wanted to research and explore ideas, my professors helped me find creative ways to do that. And I never felt limited in what ADC viewed as a call to ministry – I felt like I was given a wide range of experiences and the space to try new things. Because of this, my time at ADC continues to impact my ministry today.
A Ministry of Adaptability
For the past nine and a half years I have been the minister at the Kirk of St James in downtown Charlottetown (pictured above alongside a small glimpse into my work with wonderful people).
Ministry is joyful and at times anxious. It has been one of the biggest blessings in my life. We worship as a community and then do our best to live out our faith outside the church walls. As a church we try to follow Christ’s call as best we can, taking part in outreach within our congregation, city, and beyond. Whether it is volunteering at the local soup kitchen, helping the Island Pregnancy Centre, or supporting ecumenical work in the city, we are involved in whatever ways we can.
Ministry is unique – you never know what you might be faced within the run of a day. A phone call, a stranger stopping by the office, or an e-mail can change everything. I have found it requires a great deal of adaptability, thinking outside the box, and an openness to the possibilities of God’s call to us as a community of faith.
Ministry is also tough. Our modern context can be challenging, and the church is ever evolving because it is a living, breathing community. We’ve changed since the pandemic and we are still working to understand those changes, and how people’s needs have changed, too. I’m grateful that ADC instilled in me the confidence to look at things more widely, and not be constrained by one way of thinking.
Bread Upon the Water
I came across a quote in our Lenten Bible study last year that spoke to me and my current place in ministry. In Ecclesiastes 11:1 it says, “Send out your bread upon the waters, for after many days you will get it back.” In her book Lent in Plain Sight, Jill Duffield writes:
Cast your bread upon the waters…we must be willing to throw our bread on the water even when we do not have any idea how it will come back to us. We must scatter those gifts with which we are entrusted, knowing that God will use them in ways beyond our hopes and imagination, but perhaps beyond our time and ability to see the results…Therefore, we cast our bread on the waters with abandon and with joy, trusting the One who rules heaven and earth, to use it and bring it back to us, a beautiful mystery, divinely certain, humanly impossible to fully understand.
So much of life and faith is a complete mystery to me but I love that line “cast your bread upon the waters.” A reminder that the God we worship is bigger than we can imagine, and more creative than we expect. It is exciting (and nerve wracking) to imagine that with God, the best is yet to come. Sometimes ministry is hard, exhausting work and you are not sure where you’re headed but, then we are reminded to hold on. Annie Dillard wrote in her book Teaching a Stone to Talk:
Does anyone have the foggiest idea what sort of power we blithely invoke? Or, as I suspect, does no one believe a word of it? … It is madness to wear ladies’ straw hats and velvet hats to church; we should all be wearing crash helmets. Ushers should issue life preservers and signal flares; they should lash us to our pews.
Annie isn’t wrong! It’s too easy to forget how big God is and the impact of our faith when we are in the middle of daily routines. It’s good to be reminded to hold on, have faith, and see what God will do next.
May we always cast our bread on the water and trust in the God who calls us to fullness of life.