Program of Formation
The two year program at the United Church Training School, graduating in 1960
What called you to Diaconal Ministry?
Wilma grew up in rural Saskatchewan. She trained as a lab technician and worked for many years in Yorkton, her home community. Along the way Wilma met two women who had graduated from the United Church Training School and who were very influential in her life: Essie Johnson and Ferne Graham, both Deaconesses. Eventually Wilma felt a strong call to ministry, or “as we spoke about it in those days, to full-time Christian service. I had helped people get better in their body, and I liked my work as a lab technician. But I knew people also needed healing and health of spirit and I was feeling a call to that work.”
She enrolled in the United Church Training School and when her studies were completed, she was offered a position with the WMS in Prince Rupert BC at Friendship House.
Describe some of your experiences of ministry
Wilma worked five years in Prince Rupert, where her ministry included a nearby native community. She did a lot of work with groups. She enabled those with whom she worked to offer leadership and service to others, especially with youth and children. She speaks though about how much she received, knowing she was enabled and strengthened by the people she worked among. She remembers that the younger women in the native community wanted to have a tea – with salmon sandwiches of course. For women often on the receiving end of “handouts”, they were so proud to be on the other side of the counter.
Her next position took her to Nanaimo BC. The WMS work there included working with immigrants from China. She also worked in other congregations in the Nanaimo area as part of a five-point charge. While she was in this position, the work of the WMS in Canada was transferred to the Board of Home Mission. Following her time in Nanaimo, because of health issues and a desire for further study, Wilma had a sabbatical year in Toronto. ‘
Her next ministry position was as Director of Christian Education at Cedar Park United Church in Pointe Claire, Quebec. Four years later she was called to Lloydminster Alberta where she stayed for the final twelve years of her ministry. This team ministry position had the most variety of all: Camps, Vacation School, Church School, pastoral care, weddings, funerals and frequent worship leadership.
In retirement Wilma stayed in Lloydminster where she had made many friends and has continued to be active in the congregation. In 2012 she will celebrate her 92nd birthday.
How do you explain Diaconal Ministry to others …
“I took training that prepared me to offer leadership in certain areas, always in a team. But the positions I served meant that I had to expand my skills and abilities; often, for one reason or another, I would be the only minister available for a period. I enjoyed moving to the new things. And I always enjoyed team ministry – where we each had our own work to do, but were able to help the other out when necessary.”
What gave you the most satisfaction, reward, sense of fulfilment from the ministry you do?
Wilma reflected: “Every position gave me opportunities to learn new things – all were good experiences. I tried to offer support and leadership that would contribute to making life better for people, and have more meaning. And I knew I did not work alone. I always worked with others, and I felt the Holy Spirit was always part of it.”
Throughout her life and ministry, music was always a source of joy and inspiration. Wilma always found great satisfaction in her life in ministry, wherever it took her. And she never took herself so seriously that she couldn’t have a good time! She could always see the comic side. When she left Cedar Park to begin ministry in Lloydminster Alberta, they gave her a book of appreciation in which everyone wrote something. One man wrote “The West wins again!” And it did!
Wilma Sharpe (In conversation with Lynda Gow and Mary Ellen Moore) December 2011