updated April 10, 2022
We were very pleased to welcome our new minister, the Rev. Michelle Down on September 1, 2020 from London Ontario.
Michelle participates in our weekly pastoral care and friendship online gathering Wednesday mornings at 11 am. Check the Tidings newsletter in your email for the link to join. You will also find short video blogs from Michelle on our Facebook page. To interact with each other and join in conversation with our ministers, join our Facebook Fellowship Group.
And of course we are getting to know Michelle as she leads worship service Sunday mornings at 10 am in the Sanctuary or using live videoconferencing technology. The link is sent out on Fridays to all those on our email list and to those who have chosen to “be our friend”. The link is also found in our weekly newsletter.
Thanks to Carolyn Bond for the following article published in Tidings
in April 2022
In September of 2020, a bolt of pure energy hit our church in the form of Rev. Michelle Down, her partner, Joyce Payne, and their little dog, Quincy. Covid was raging and we could only meet them in a rainy, masked, drive-by at the front of the church. How did a minister so beloved by her large congregation in London, Ontario, end up at Edith Rankin? Michelle was happy in her position in her very active church in London when suddenly, the organist who was a very close friend, passed away and left her bereft. Her father, who had lived in B.C. for 30 years, decided to move to the Kingston area to be nearer his family (her brother lives in Kingston.) She happened to see our posting when the search team was looking for a new minister and without looking anywhere else, applied for the job. In her words, she felt “called here” and believes she is here for a reason. It feels right to her, and she is extremely grateful to be here. Michelle was born and raised on a dairy farm near Sunderland, Ontario. She and her three siblings, Heather, Steven and Allison, had a happy family life with their mother staying home with them until Michelle was ten. When her mom went back to school, the kids were assigned cooking the meals for the family of six, each taking one night a week. As the two younger children, Michelle and Allison ended up doing most of the work, so she gradually became a very good cook. As the baby of a family who was mostly introverted, she was the only extrovert and became the entertainer of the family. Coming from such a close family, companionship is very important to her and so she has always been outgoing and social.Allison went to Queen’s so Michelle followed her to Kingston, enrolling in St. Lawrence College for a diploma in business administration and human resources. She went on to Lakehead University for a Business Administration degree, then to Emmanuel College at U of T for a Masters of Divinity. Church life had always been important growing up and she always knew she wanted to be a minister. She was ordained in 1995. Michelle feels that everyone needs a safe place to tell their story. She feels comfortable here at Edith Rankin, so related to the path she has taken as a lesbian woman. Her aunt was ordained when Michelle was twelve. At that point, she knew she wanted to follow in her aunt’s footsteps but wasn’t sure how to do so in the United Church where being a gay minister was not accepted at that time. By the time she was twenty, the landscape had changed and the United Church allowed gay and lesbian ordination, so she was able to take the path to ministry. When taking her Masters training, Michelle met and married her wife of twenty years. The breakup of their marriage was a shock and a heartbreak that has been hard for her to overcome. She had committed to the marriage for a lifetime and was shaken to the core when it ended. It took her a long time to come to terms with it and move on. Joyce was a member of the congregation at the church where Michelle was working in London. As time went by, they became partners and have been together for ten years. As for Quincy, who will be eleven in August, Michelle jokingly says “Well, he was my dog first!” Now he is the delight of both their lives.
In case you’re wondering about your minister preaching in bare feet, Michelle calls herself “just a barefoot girl”. She didn’t wear shoes at all until a trip to town with her maternal grandmother when she was five years old. The hot pavement burned her feet, so her grandmother had to buy her a pair of flipflops. She’s just more comfortable without shoes… and she invites you to try it too! Michelle has a varied work background. She has done mission work in Tanzania, has been a hospital chaplain in Oshawa, held a youth and adult portfolio in the Quinte conference and was a campus minister at Western University. As well, she was an intentional interim minister for a congregation with special needs. She thinks we are at the cusp of a big change. Sharing her vision and pooling resources in the community are very important to her and she would like to have community partners both within and outside of the Christian context. She would like a sense of discipleship, wanting people to hear that they are loved by God so that they are changed and transformed and become agents of further change and transformation. What does she do in her spare time? Basically, she doesn’t have it! She can’t sit and do nothing and calls herself “a doer”. She sews, knits, quilts, and gardens when she has time, and looks after her parents. Her father has made his home with her, Joyce and Quincy.
So there you have it! A concise version of a full and complicated life dedicated to helping others. We are so fortunate that Michelle is here at Edith Rankin and that she can’t think of being anywhere else!