Morinville – There is a new woman behind the pulpit at Morinville United Church. Alice Hanson recently arrived in Morinville after ministering in Dawson Creek and most recently Spirit River, Alberta. Prior to entering the ministry Hanson spent many years as a teacher. The transition was a natural one for her.
“The journey involved retirement as a teacher. I’d been teaching for many years in both the area of music and French,” Hanson explained. “I then made the decision to retire a bit early and go into the ministry. I took the studies involved with that, and began to do ministry in the Peace Region area, and it gradually lead to deciding to make this rather significant move in our lives to make Morinville and Redwater part of my ministry.”
Hanson said the switch from teaching to ministry came about as a result of a deep awareness of the call and presence of God in her life and the life of others. “The God who is still speaking to us today that calls us, and in that calling is the sense and awareness of the partnership with God in what God is still doing today,” she said, adding she believes God calls individuals as well as communities. “I personally experienced that sense of call over a long period of time.”
The minister said she had always been a person of faith and active in the church, particularly in the area of music, and that her connection with church lead her to a stronger desire to study that faith more deeply.
Hanson explained within the United Church of Canada there are two streams of ministry: the ordained and diaconal. “To me I explain the two streams very much like the two streams in teaching, whether it is high school or elementary, or the different specialties we choose in teaching,” she said. “When I entered into ministry I had to choose two streams as well, and which stream most fitted my gifts and what I felt my ministry would be about.”
The minister said diaconal ministry, the path she chose, is very much about accompaniment, service, pastoral care and working together. “It’s very much about justice work in the community and reaching out to the community,” she said. “That is very much a part of my ministry.”
Although worship leadership is traditionally the calling of the ordained, Hanson said she feels called to worship leadership, particularly through her background in music.
As a diaconal minister she does not claim the title of reverend and prefers the congregation simply refer to her as Alice.
Good fit for Morinville
Hanson said she was lead to come to Morinville by the mission statement of Morinville United Church, one she saw as being in keeping with her own thoughts. That mission statement speaks of people of faith being on a journey that seeks to deepen their understanding of God.
“That’s always been my journey as well as my passion; that we engage in the conversations that take us to deeper places of who we are as people, working together for the sake of the health and wellbeing of others,” Hanson said, adding she feels growth and walking together are important parts of what she does. “It has to always begin with our spiritual growth, our spiritual work together in our faith communities, but it must always take us outward into faithful actions in the world.”
She sees part of her role in Morinville and Redwater as helping her congregations, singularly and collectively, find the way in which God is calling each of them.
Hanson views the movement from inside the church to the broader community and world as an opportunity for people of faith to use their gifts to make the world a better place.
“It’s that sense of empowering. It’s also that sense of creating a world where it is more just, but not just for ourselves but for all people,” she said. “It begins in our community and that involves listening, listening to the needs and concerns of others, especially those who are more vulnerable or those more marginalized than us.”
All are welcome
Hanson said Morinville United Church has a congregation of approximately 35 who regularly attend worship services each Sunday. Beyond that there is a broader number who identify with the United Church and come on occasion.
Prior to Hanson’s move to Morinville, services at the church have been conducted by members of the congregation themselves. That will continue to some extent as Hanson is splitting her time between Morinville and Redwater. She believes the involvement of the congregation in leading worship is a good experience.
“Quite often individuals and faith communities learn and are empowered by the experience of having to do it by themselves,” Hanson said, adding the Morinville church is affiliated with Busby United Church. Whoever is leading worship in Morinville on Sunday mornings also leads worship in Busby two hours earlier. “It’s a small gathered community there that is a strong United Church presence in that area,” Hanson said of the affiliated church.
All are welcome to attend services on Sunday at 11 a.m.
Above: United Church Minister Alice Hanson stands outside Morinville United Church. Hanson will be leading services every other Sunday at 11 a.m. The new minister will be splitting her time between Morinville and Redwater. – Stephen Dafoe Photo