“To hear people’s stories and to journey with them has been the greatest gift that ministry has offered me.”

Primary Media
Portrait: Graham Brownmiller
  • Where: Burnaby, BC
  • Current Ministry: Congregational
  • Years in Ministry: 8 ordained / 20 total (youth ministry, administrative ministry, lay ministry)

How and when did you know you were called to ministry?

I was born and raised in the United Church. My mom was an active member of the church who died when I was seven years old. After her death no one else in my family went to church, and so neither did I. Then, when I was 10, I went back with the help of members of the congregation. Through my teenage years, I got involved in presbytery and Conference youth activities and became increasingly involved in a variety of governance structures. Through that time people would ask, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” and I often answered, “I’m not sure—maybe a lawyer, or an accountant?” One day, when I was about 15, I answered, though I was not sure from where it came, “I’m going to be a minister.” Like Samuel in the temple with Eli, I kept hearing God calling, but it took a while until it became clear what I was hearing!

Why did you pursue ministry in The United Church of Canada?

There were no other young people in my congregation as I was growing up, but there were other Christians in my high school, and therefore I was often invited to youth groups and church functions of my friends. Early, I came to realize that The United Church of Canada was very different than other churches in my hometown; a church that welcomed all people. Through my involvement in presbytery and Conference, I met many mentors who encouraged, and challenged, my call to ministry. However, there was no other church in which I would have pursued ministry; the United Church is home.

What has been the greatest part of entering ministry?

I have been humbled by the trust that people put in the office of minister. I have been privy to amazingly joyful moments and truly sorrowful moments in people’s lives. To hear people’s stories and to journey with them has been the greatest gift that ministry has offered me.

What has been your biggest challenge in ministry?

One of the biggest challenges I have experienced is that there is so much more to ministry than can be taught in seminary. I had no idea how to react to a family whose eight-month-old died in my third month of ordained ministry. I had no idea how to interact with other judicatories in an ecumenical shared ministry, nor how to deal with a $67-million real estate development deal. The greatest challenge I have experienced, however, is finding time to meet the demands and expectations of everyone, including myself.

If someone said they wanted to be a minister, what would you tell them?

I would tell them that ministry is one of the greatest, and most difficult, vocations in the world. As my mentors did with me, I would challenge them and encourage them to continue to discern their call.

Any other comments about your ministry and vocation?

Every day I am thankful for this amazing opportunity, and every day I wonder what I would do if I wasn’t in ministry; I still don’t have an answer to that question!