I'm Rev. Dr. Cheryl Gaver, the new Presbytery Ministry Animator for the Presbyteries of Ottawa and Seaway-Glengarry. I am also a Presbyterian minister, piano (and theory) teacher, and a Research Associate with the University of Ottawa's InterCulture Research Group.
Background: I grew up in Préville on Montréal's South Shore, but actually went to the U.S. to study French! Graduating from Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, New York with a B.A. in French Literature, I returned to Montréal only to discover that a B.A. in French did not mean very much in a French province. In 1978, I moved to Ontario, eventually settled in Oakville.
Education: Over the years, I've earned a number of degrees, including: M.Div. from Knox College in Toronto (1982); M.A. in Religion & Culture from Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo (2005); Post-Graduate Diploma from the Centre for the Study of Jewish-Christian Relations in Cambridge, England (2005); and a Ph.D. in Religious Studies from the University of Ottawa in 2011. My doctoral thesis looked at the relationship between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal peoples in northern Anglican congregations in the post-residential school era, and discovered that - regardless of any goodwill or still-present racist tendencies - cultural differences continue to challenge that relationship.
Religion: Religion has always been an important part of my life but I'm just about the only Presbyterian in my family. My father was a Methodist from Ohio, while my mother (also from Ohio) was Church of Christ. Although I grew up in the United Church of Canada, I also attended a Catholic school for a while to learn French and picked up a love for some Roman Catholic liturgies and traditions. As a teenager, I frequently attended an Anglican church close to my high school. One Presbyterian youth-event, however, changed my life and led me to the Presbyterian Church.
I am particularly interested in how cultures shape religions, beginning with the shift in early Christianity from the Jewish to the Greco-Roman forms of Christianity. That led to an involvement in Jewish-Christian dialogue which, eventually led to an interest in other religions - particularly Buddhism, Taoism and Aboriginal traditions - and to my teaching world religions at Sheridan College. Currently, I'm interested in learning more about Aboriginal influences on Christianity.
Work: I was ordained in the Presbyterian Church in 1982, and served at Norwich-Bookton for a couple of years but felt called to teach. Since then, I have taught a variety of courses (World Religions, Aboriginal studies, Global Studies, and Business English) at Sheridan College, the University of Ottawa, and Wilfrid Laurier University; served as Youth Ministry Co-ordinator in an Anglican Church in Oakville; led Bible studies and confirmation classes at a Presbyterian Church in Oakville; and worked as Administrator, database designer and branch webmaster at Atomic Energy of Canada Limited (AECL) in Mississauga.
A New Journey: Peanut (my chihuahua) and I moved from Oakville to Prescott, Ontario in 2015, and I am excited about finding a position in the Presbyterian Church that allows me to combine both passions: ministry and teaching. I look forward to getting to know "everyone" over the next while and to walking with you on your adventure in faith.
You might be asking yourself,"Just what is a Presbytery Ministry Animator?" Good question, and it's one I've been asking myself for a while now. The positioned is supported in part by The Presbyterian Church in Canada. The job description states that the challenge is to help congregations, camps and para-church organizations "grow disciples of Jesus Christ," and recognizes that this requires a comprehensive and cooperative approach:
OK - so that's the official description, but what does this really mean in practice?
This summer (2016), Marian Mendoza (LIT Director), Mackenzie Palmer (LIT Participant-Observer), and I provided the leadership training program for four LITs at Gracefield ensuring that we met the requirements set by L'Association des Camps du Québec.
The LITs earned their Emergency First Aid certificate, and their Level 3 or 4 of the Ontario Recreational Canoeing and Kayaking Association (ORCKA) program. They developed leadership skills, led worship, played, created a map to show where all Gracefield campers come from, and interned for a week as Camp Counsellors. They survived sprained ankles, poison ivy and an intense program, and shared their laughter, generous spirits, and many talents.
I have been meeting with clergy, elders, and congregations to explore how they can respond to changing demographics and other challenges as faithful witnesses to the Gospel and what help they may need from me. This includes developing workshops, such as Pastoral Care and Being Faithful in the 21st Century: A Participatory Action Workshop.
I am the Chair of the Presbytery of Ottawa's Youth Working Group. In September, a number of Ottawa's youth reflected on reconciliation with Canada's Aboriginal peoples. This was sponsored by the Presbyterian Church's Justice Ministries, First Nations Child & Caring Family Society, and Cazabon Productions which produced the video (available online). Ottawa's youth also harvested crops for a food bank and participated in a Scavenger Hunt/Mummy Decorating Activity in October.
In the New Year, I will be meeting with youth ministry workers and youth groups in both presbyteries to explore challenges they are experiences and discover how I can best support them.
Have questions or suggestions? Want to contact me? Simply fill in the form below and send it!
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