Erskine United Church was filled almost to capacity on Sunday afternoon as the congregation officially welcomed its new minister, Barbara Lieurance.
The church installed the minister on Sunday, Nov. 23, declaring a covenant between Lieurance, the Big Valley-Erskine-Botha pastoral charge, and the presbytery in Coronation.
Presiding over the service was Rev. Barbara Zimmerman, a past chairperson of the Coronation presbytery.
About 60 people were in attendance for the service, which featured liturgy, singing led by the church choir and organist/pianist Evelyn Strandquist, a Scripture reading, several presentations and a “godly play” presented by Rev. Ruth Lumax of Wetaskiwin.
Lieurance arrived in August to begin part-time ministry, serving the churches in both Erskine and Big Valley. The pastoral charge also includes the former church in Botha, which is in the process of closing.
Originally from northern Germany, Lieurance immigrated to Canada in 1980.
Her background is in agriculture, but she was long involved in church ministry as a layperson.
“I got more and more involved in church life,” she said. “That’s where I find real energy . . . I love working in a community that has common goals, and also goals for the common good of the wider community.”
Others encouraged her to pursue a career in the ministry, and she completed her four years of pastoral studies in 2009. She served the Pigeon Lake-Millet pastoral charge prior to her arrival in Erskine.
“I got a very warm welcome, lots of encouragement and support,” said Lieurance. “People are sharing their excitement with me, whether it’s moose hunting or the birth of grandchildren.”
“I really feel very much invited into peoples’ lives,” she continued. “That’s a real pleasure and a real joy.”
Lieurance said she looks forward to many years of “life-giving” ministry in the district.
Laura Brown, who serves as treasurer for the pastoral charge, said they were without a minister for roughly six months following the departure of Rev. Susan Bowyer, who now serves in Consort.
As a part-time minister, Lieurance preaches in both Big Valley and Erskine every other Sunday, while members of the congregations lead their services in her absence.
“We love her,” said Brown, “and so far, I think, she loves us.”
“She’s so full of enthusiasm,” added Val Mappin, who serves on the church board.
During the service, members of the committee tasked with finding the new minister were thanked for their contributions.
Several presentations were made to Lieurance: a cup to symbolize pastoral care; hand puppets and crayons to represent Christian education; fair trade coffee to symbolize social justice; and a patchwork quilt of blessings.
Lieurance herself also made a presentation of books to the pastoral charge, accepted by Charley Bird of Erskine and Gerrit Visser of Big Valley.
The church has been active in Erskine since 1906. Members are currently gearing up for their annual Christmas Eve service, coming up on Dec. 23 at 7 p.m.
Services are held each week in Erskine at 9 a.m. and in Big Valley at 11 a.m.