Stettler’s Rev. David Holmes has retired a few times over the years, but ultimately, he just can’t resist the draw of helping others.
“I’ve been in the ministry for a long time, but it’s been such a varied kind of ministry,” said Holmes, who is originally from Calgary and currently serves at St. George’s Anglican Church.
“It’s people – I get all of my energy from people, and I get all of my enthusiasm from people,” he explained. “Sure, I get disappointment from people sometimes too – but I try really, really hard to see everyone as a child of God when they come in.
“I would also kind of see myself as a positive enabler,” he said, referring to many folks in the congregation who have stepped up to help serve particularly during the ongoing pandemic. “I think I can see things in their lives, and then I think, yes, they can do this! Sometimes, all we need is someone to believe in us, don’t we?”
Looking back to his early days, Holmes’ family also settled in Red Deer for a time. “I lived in Red Deer right up until 1958,” he said.
He smiles as he recalled his school years, which he said in some ways were a struggle.
“My father used to say, ‘The trouble with David is that he’s so busy trying to get to know everybody that he doesn’t study! I still remember in Grade three coming home from school, and being asked what did I learn that day. I said, I learned the names of everyone in the room,” he chuckled.
But it was that attention to others that would influence his leanings to ministry.
He ended up spending his final high school years at the Nazarene Bible College in Red Deer as studies were year-round. That was something his teachers and his folks thought might suit him better.
“Nazarene Bible College was a real eye-opener for me because number one, I was an Anglican!”
But it did help solidify him in his Christian walk. “What it did for me, is that it posed all kinds of questions.”
He visited his pastor at St. Luke’s Anglican Church in Red Deer. It was then Holmes was encouraged to re-visit the catechism and personalize it. “It made such a difference,” he said, reflectively.
“Sometimes, it’s a whole series of things – and sometimes, it’s a ‘re-commitment’,” he said of his Christian roots. “I still struggle with some things, but I feel confident in my relationship with Jesus and I feel I can talk with anybody who wants to talk about it.
“But I’m not on a mission to convince others that they have to follow the same way I do.”
Not surprisingly, in the years following high school graduation, Holmes felt a call to the ministry.
And his desire to reach out only grew.
He connected with what was known as the Anglican Church Army – a lay ministry within the Anglican Church of Canada that trained men for Christian social service and evangelism.
“The teachers in the classes were all Anglican clergy in Toronto and it was a two-year course,” he recalled. “They assigned us to different churches in Toronto where we would go and teach Sunday School, or work with young people or do pastoral visiting. We also went to the Yonge Street Mission which was right downtown.
“I was 21 when I graduated (as a captain), and they have a commissioning service at St. James’ Cathedral in Toronto,” he said, adding he served as a captain in the Anglican Church for 17 years.
Another adventure included a stint on a bus that traveled all around Central and Eastern Canada in an effort to further introduce folks to what the Anglican church was all about. “That was great because we picked it up in Ottawa, took it to Quebec City and went out to the far end of Nova Scotia and all down through southern Quebec, too. Then we went back to Toronto and parked it outside St. James’ Cathedral.”
Next, he headed west to Barrhead for two years. He would also marry in the mid-1960s as well.
There was also a stint in Kamloops where he worked at a transient men’s hostel – the Kamloops Christian Hostel.
Holmes ran the ministry for 15 years.
It was during this point he seriously started looking at ordination, which he prepared for initially in Vancouver. He became a priest in the Anglican Church of Canada in the spring of 1978 – so his title went from ‘captain’ to ‘reverend’.
And a whole new set of experiences awaited him.
The Holmes family next settled in Moose Jaw for seven years, and then headed to Estevan.
“It was a wonderful, wonderful place,” he recalled. Although it wasn’t without it’s hard seasons.
Sadly, his marriage came to an end at that time as well.
“Then, when I turned 66, I retired.”
But that didn’t last long. He was approached about a need in the West Indies for clergy.
“I said, you have got to be kidding! After 24 years in Saskatchewan, if you can’t go to heaven you might as well go to the West Indies,” he said with a chuckle. “And I love swimming.
“I went to the Island of St. Vincent and I was there for six months. It was extremely hot, and it was extremely lonely,” he recalled. Medically, he was only covered for six months so he returned to Canada – and settled in Red Deer.
“I had no roots – I didn’t know where I wanted to go,” he said. But the phone soon rang and he was asked to help out in Rimbey.
“They said, if you could go there for six months – they are looking for a full-time person,” he recalled. “And if you say yes, you will also get the Lutheran Church in Bentley. I said, I’ve never been a Lutheran – but I’ll try anything once.
“So I went thinking it would be only six months. I’d do an Anglican service at 9:30 a.m. and then drive 25 minutes and do a Lutheran service at 11:15. It didn’t take long for me to fit in.”
He was eventually asked if he’d come on full-time. “I stayed 10 and one-half years!”
He also served as chaplain at the local hospital too.
“I loved it. The job description was to offer a spiritual presence for the residents, their families and the staff. Well, I’ve been doing that all my life! And so it was a great thing,” he said.
By this point, he realized he was 77. “I thought, well, I guess it’s about time I quit.”
But a call came through asking if he’d like to work as a chaplain at a high school in Outlook, Saskatchewan.
He gave it a try, but soon realized it just wasn’t for him.
Back home in Rimbey, Holmes helped out here and there around Central Alberta and eventually made his way to Stettler.
“I was here for three or four Sundays, and a couple of the guys said, ‘Are you interested in some part-time work? That was three and one-half years ago.”
For Holmes, his faith is the centre of everything he does.
And ultimately, at the centre of who he is.
“For me, it’s the only thing that I can grab onto and hang onto. Yesterday, today and forever – Jesus is the same.
“I know he is there. And that doesn’t mean that I don’t have all kinds of doubts – probably everyday I have doubts. I’m not here to convince you to believe like I do, but I will say that for me, it’s the only thing that really makes sense and gives me a grounding.”