Some eight months after Dave Denholm left, the United Church in Stettler now has a new minister, Debbie Stockdale.
Commissioned to diaconal ministry at the meeting of Alberta and Northwest Conference of The United Church of Canada at Sherwood Park in May of this year, Stockdale says this is her first assignment as a solo minister in the United Church.
As a diaconal minister, Stockdale says she is both a worship leader and she is authorized to undertake educational tasks as well.
Before coming to Stettler, Stockdale says she was in Kelowna, BC for two years and before that in Calgary for 15 years, working for two churches.
She says she was doing family ministry in one church and education and pastoral care in the other.
“In Kelowna, I was working for First United Church doing outreach ministry and education ministry there,” she said.
Stockdale has a degree in Psychology from the University of Calgary and she says she studied from 2005 to 2009 to get her degree to be commissioned to diaconal ministry.
Asked whether she found being a woman minister challenging, Stockdale says she never considered it to be an issue.
“Certainly in Calgary it was very common,” she said.
“Actually I was very surprised when I came here to find out that in Stettler I was the only woman pastor.”
“I think it is not as uncommon as it it used to be and certainly not in United Church of Canada.”
Because her husband develops computer software and works over the Internet, Stockdale says the movement of the family from one location to another has not been much of a problem.
With her two children now grown-ups, she believes she is prepared to totally commit her time to her work.
And what about her impressions on the community?
“I was not sure what to expect. Stettler is the smallest community I have ever lived in,” says Stockdale.
“But everything you need is really here. There are very few things that I have to go out of the community to find.”
“People have been lovely and friendly, a very welcoming community,” she adds.
She says she finds that living in such a small community has its own benefits as well.
“In July, I had a meeting I started to get ready half an hour before, then I realized ‘Oh, it is so early.’”
With camping grounds like Rochon Sands in short driving distance, Stockdale says they feel they are going to enjoy their stay in Stettler.
“It has been a very good move for us,” she says.
“Coming from Calgary and lately Kelowna, I am not looking forward to the winter weather, though.”
Still, she says she feels blessed to be part of this community and that they feel very much at home in Stettler.