Ivy Thomas has always felt a connection to God and was actively involved in her worshiping congregation. However, when she was in her early 40s, married with two children in their early teens, and considering what she might do with the rest of her life, she felt a strong call to ministry.
It took another three years of what she called “Holy 2 x 4s” before she dared take the leap of faith to go back to school and pursue her Master of Divinity.
The challenges Ivy faced were not so much within the profession, as in the journey to get there. Her decision to follow her call led to the ending of her marriage and a difficult time of adjustment for her family. It also took her into a time of personal discernment, as she searched to understand who she was as an independent person, no longer attached to her husband.
Shortly after her marriage ended she fell in love with another woman, a fellow student in Seminary. Both of their long-term relationships were ending or had recently ended and they found with each other, a deeply spiritual connection that has continued to grow over the last 19 years.
However, the denomination Ivy grew up in was not accepting of LGBTQ2+ people and so she had to make a decision, and it was an easy one. She turned to the United Church of Canada, which has, since 1988, ordained LGBTQ2+ people. It was a natural fit not only because of her orientation but because of the social justice perspective to the gospel that is lived out in the denomination.
As an out lesbian clergy, Ivy has been warmly and respectfully welcomed by every member of her congregation. They are a welcoming community on a continual learning curve. They are willing to ask questions, hear explanations, and explore ongoing and expanding ways to be inclusive.
Ivy says, “It’s difficult to choose one favourite thing about ministry. There’s the opportunity to help people develop an awareness of the movement of the Spirit in their lives, and encourage them to open up to and welcome the fullness of the experience, finding meaningful and creative ways to remind people how much they are loved and how important it is to share that love through our everyday living.
“But perhaps the most important thing for me is inviting people to understand God in a way that is meaningful to them. This often means letting go of the traditional perception of an all-knowing, all-seeing, all-powerful, vengeful, white-bearded guy in the sky, and learning to read the Bible in a way that makes sense for us, today.”
Some advice from Ivy about deciding to enter Ministry:
Discernment, both personal and communal, is essential. Pray, think it through, and talk with others, including those in the field, about your sense of call. Listen carefully to what people are saying, or perhaps not saying to you.
Never forget that there are many forms of ministry, some are clergy roles, some are not. It’s hard to say which are the most important! Ministry is about teamwork.
Know too that the church is an organization filled with real people who are as far from perfect as you are. There are challenges to deal with and much patience required, but underneath it all, as in the rest of our lives, is a group of amazing, beautiful people trying to do the best they can with what they have at the moment.
The church Ivy currently serves is St. Paul’s United, a congregation within the United Church of Canada. They are currently leasing space from the Kelowna Seventh Day Adventist Church at 1130 Springfield Road in Kelowna.
St. Paul’s is a joy-filled congregation that believes in the respect and honouring of all people. No matter who you are, where your life has taken you in the past or where it may lead you in the future.