Acadia Divinity College (ADC) presented the 2020 Alumni Distinguished Service Award to Rev. Wilma Janzen on August 26, 2020 during the ADC Big Summer Stop, a virtual celebration of God’s work at the College.
The ADC Alumni Distinguished Service Award, inaugurated in 1995, honours graduates of the Acadia University School of Theology and/or Acadia Divinity College whose gifts for ministry have contributed significantly to the Christian Church in Canada or throughout the world. With great pleasure, Acadia Divinity College recognizes and honours Rev. Janzen’s commitment to prison chaplaincy.
In presenting the award to Rev. Janzen, President Anna Robbins stated “Acadia Divinity College is glad to honour you on this occasion and is deeply grateful for your many contributions to the Christian faith. We celebrate you and with you.”
Rev. Janzen, a class of 2008 graduate of the Acadia Divinity College Master of Divinity program, also holds an ADC diploma in Prison Chaplaincy. She was ordained in 2009 and is accredited as a Justice of the Peace by the Nova Scotia Department of Justice. A lifelong learner, Rev. Janzen continues to grow her knowledge through professional development sessions on addiction prevention and treatment, crisis intervention, suicide intervention and restorative justice. Rev. Janzen has served as Chaplain in the Central Nova Scotia Correctional Facility in Dartmouth and as Facilitator at St. Luke’s Renewal Centre in the Springhill Institution, a ministry of Concilio Prison Ministry. She is currently the Manager of Spiritual Care at the Northeast Nova Scotia Correctional Facility in New Glasgow.
During her work with preschoolers and youth early in her career, Rev. Janzen’s heart was touched by stories of trauma starting in childhood, continuing throughout teen years and into young adulthood. These stories, along with her experiences volunteering with inmates through Kairos Marathons at Springhill Institution, brought her to follow God’s leading her to prison chaplaincy and to Acadia Divinity College.
Rev. Janzen’s relationship with Kairos Marathons continued as she studied under Rev. Dr. Charles Taylor, Professor of Clinical Pastoral Education at ADC and the driving force behind the establishment of Kairos Marathons. This healing circle at Springhill Institution, the longest continually running volunteer program within a federal prison, has been a pivotal experience for inmates and volunteers. Many continue to name the experience of the circle as an important part of their spiritual growth. Wilma was delighted to celebrate with the Charles J. Taylor Centre for Chaplaincy and Spiritual Care and Concilio Prison Ministry in 2019 as they marked 50 years of Kairos Marathons and ADC’s continuing commitment to prison ministry.
Speaking of the challenges facing those in prison ministry, Rev. Janzen explains “Beneath an exterior that can be crude or rough, inmates are facing the same issues that many pastors see in the lives of the people to whom they minister – pain, anger, shame, guilt, and confusion.” She is quick to point out, however, that the joys and delights outweigh all challenges. These same inmates grow and mature in their faith and inspire not only other inmates but the staff as well to become more interested in their own spiritual lives.
Rev. Janzen also recognizes the value of the participation of the wider faith community in the process of healing and recognition. “The volunteers who come regularly to the jail to lead worship services and talk with inmates contribute greatly to their healing and growth. They show compassion, are non-judgemental, and are encouraging to the inmates. The blessing of God through the agape love and acceptance of the wider Christian family is what will encourage inmates to continue with the changes that I see them starting to work on while they’re in jail.”
While her experience and training at ADC equipped Rev. Janzen for her calling to prison ministry, as a member of the ADC alumni she is grateful that she can continue to call upon the faculty who are always ready and willing to answer questions and offer sound theological advice.