Published: February 2006
Related Topics: People
Across the Diocese of Niagara, men and women are exploring a 'call' to ordained ministry. It is a time of discernment, excitement, apprehension, joy, uncertainty – and deep prayer and reflection. Spirituality is one of the most mysterious elements of being human, and everyone involved in the discernment process discovers new challenges in responding to the infinite mystery we call God.
A third year student at Trinity College, Toronto, Cheryl Barker has almost completed the academic and experiential preparation for ordination. Matthew Griffin has completed his first semester of study, also at Trinity College. Together, they bring years of study in other fields, several degrees, professional experience, participation in the Church, and deep commitment to their recently chosen path.
A member of St. Jude's Church, Oakville, since the age of four, Cheryl admits that she "walked away from the Church when I was about 15 or 16. I felt I didn't have a place there; I wasn't good enough to be there... I always had a good relationship with who I now understand as Jesus, said my prayers." She admits, "I thought about the priesthood, but had no young women (as role models)... Then Nissa came! She taught confirmation classes, and showed me maybe women can do this." (The Reverend Canon Nissa Basbaum is Co-Rector of the Church of the Transfiguration, St. Catharines.)
Cheryl began nurturing a talent as a photographer. As well as art, it was also "a conversation with myself and with God. It was my way of journaling..." (Many people, both spiritual and secular, find help in discerning what is happening in their lives by entering daily thoughts, feelings, and ideas into a notebook for that specific purpose. Matthew Griffin comments on journalling: "The process of careful attentive reflection is the real teacher...)
After earning a B.A. and a B.F.A. (Bachelor of Fine Arts) in art history at the University of Toronto, Cheryl realised that she had "developed a really spiritual base... a very personal awareness of God being in images... (In) the Book of the Revelation, my favourite book in the bible, the images appeal to artistic sensibility, (identifying) God as ultimate Creator." As well as nurturing her own gifts, Cheryl has taught photography courses for the Halton Board of Education.
Matthew's Anglican mother and Presbyterian father "left us to discern" the personal choice of denominational affiliation. He grins, "The extent of my religious upbringing was an illustrated children's Bible! I had fun exploring, responding to the power of the stories." In high school, friends brought him to St. James' Church, Dundas. Matthew was baptised and confirmed on the same day by Bishop John Bothwell. "I had gone to a bunch of different churches, (but Anglican) was the one that felt right – not just St. James'... There's something in my response to Anglican services that convinces me, 'Yeah, I'm in the right place."
Matthew holds a B.I.S. (Bachelor of Independent Studies) from the University of Waterloo. He comments "It seemed ludicrous... (but) more reading than anything" lead to his thesis on myth in the works of Robert Kock, whose works include "magic realism, some pretty strange things!" At Waterloo, Matthew served as a Don at Renison College, the Anglican residence. "It was an incredible experience, to be able to sit and listen to people... It was a training ground to pay attention to more than words... We tend to minimize the importance of quietly listening, being actively present, (which is) a big part of my conception of ministry. God calls us to do two things: to be present, and to love. It isn't always the Hallmark version, but far more complicated. It can even look not nice, but still be love."...
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