Dick Hunt's Blog

March 29, 2010

My Training For Ministry

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My  Training For Ministry

by Dick Hunt, March 27 th, 2010
Up to  1964
First came my preparation.  That was launched by my being challenged by circumstances beyond my control.  And certainly beyond any possibility of my knowing how God in His great wisdom and Spiritual power works in the lives of people.  There were moments when the tender guidance and teaching of my Mother planted  truths in my mind, often through drawing my attention to physical beauties in nature.  Pretty flowers which “only God can make”.  The lovely lyrics and music of the old Hymns she taught us. And she taught us to pray.  And simply the beauty and tenderness of her own person.  Along the way, she was wise enough to allow me to drive her to Church when I was in my mid teens. The only Grandparent I ever knew was her Father, a deeply committed Christian who walked with the Lord (the other three had died before I was born). He had a very positive influence on all who knew him, not least me. Uncles and Aunts were encouragers. Young and faithful Ministers were enablers. I found that a number of the Professors in Agricultural College and some of my fellow students went to Church where I worshipped.  All positive factors. All this on a busy Cattle Ranch.
In 1941 I enlisted in the R.C.A.F.  I was in Radio Technology, spending five months in Calgary,  a month in Toronto and then another five months in Montreal.  While there I worshipped in St. Mathew’s Parish which was a positive time in my spiritual journey.  I was then sent to Number Nine Bomber and Reconn’aissance Squadron on Denny Island off the west coast of British Columbia.  It is better known as Bella Bella, or Sheerwater today.  I was to spend nineteen months there    and looking back I can see that it too was a positive time in my pilgrimage, although at the time I seriously doubted that.  What did happen was that I was  shaken up to read my King James Bible, which caused me  to begin a lifelong study to find the Truth and I praise God for that.
The shaker and mover was something that happened on Christmas Eve, 1942.  My close friend and fellow Anglican there was Lawrence Goodwill, in civilian life a Concert Pianist, who was a Radio Operator on the station.  The weather was very unkind; eight inches of rain fell on Christmas Eve with gale force winds. I had received no Christmas mail at all and I was  very lonely.  Larry and I went to the Protestant Communion Service in the large, empty Recreation hall.  There were twenty four Airmen there out of 600 on station and Larry and I were the only sober ones. We were more than a little troubled by that.  But when the Chaplain came in he was very inebriated. We were  really upset. We stayed and he got through the service.  I learned that he was an Anglican and an alcoholic, but I had no compassion for him and no understanding of  the problem. That  was to come later when I would be drawn into  helping many alcoholics along the way.
After the brief service I made my way up the hill to the Barracks and dug my Bible out of the bottom of my kit bag where I had put it when I enlisted.  My Mother had bought it for me, I still have it and it has brought me great comfort.  I read it all     night and was well launched on a search which has never diminished, but rather grown down the years.  What an incredible Book it is, how very  wise, trustworthy and straight from the heart of God.  I have heard many people say that  it is hard to understand and so they don’t read it.   I am convinced that they do understand and that is why don’t read it.  It is a Book  that bothers our conscience because it tells us the Truth that we need to hear and learn.  Years ago a friend gave me this little statement and I wrote it in one of my Bibles which I  carried in my shirt pocket; “Happy shall he be, who refusing to sit in judgement upon the Word of God, yields himself up with humble spirit to it’s mysterious, searching Power”. How very true that has been for me and for many other persons of my acquaintance down the years as we have studied the Word together and learned that the Holy Spirit shows us the meaning in great abundance.
I was moved to the R.C.A.F. # 10 Repair Depot in Calgary in late 1943 and it was there, in a Church social Ruth and I met  in  what has certainly been a God arranged match, now more than 66 years in length. We met on the 4th of January 1944 and married on October 14 th in the same Parish Church where we had met. In January, 1945 I returned to Ranching, as my work as a Radio technician became redundant and agriculture was suffering from lack of manpower.  We moved back to my birthplace and we immediately fitt ed into the life of that busy life together. Three of our children were born there and we became deeply immersed in Ranch and Community  life. We were a great team and very happy there.
It was made vividly moving to me finally after the war that when God is given the guidance we ask for, our lives come together in ways that  we previously could not have immagined when I was working in a hayfield on  the  Ranch where I grew up. I had been reading my little Bible and reflecting on what I had read.  Suddenly I was powerfully aware that Jesus was there with me, surrounding me,  entering my very life by His Spirit,  as close as breathing, unmistakeably my Saviour and Lord.  I stopped my tractor, got down on my knees beside a wheel and sobbed out my commitment to Him.  Tears of joy and gladness.  My life has been lived for Him ever since and He has given me freedom to serve Him, as a husband, father, son, nephew, grandfather and friend, learner, teacher, pastor, preacher just doing  the best  I can.
My first question was, “how come I didn’t know Jesus as Saviour and Lord until the age of 32 after going to Church all these years?”  The second question was, “how many other professing Christians are pew warmers , however devout and faithful Sunday by Sunday, without knowing Jesus as their Personal Saviour”  Question three was,  “how can I be an instrument of the Lord to bring this exciting news to the many people outside the Church  when I have a wife and family, responsibilities on the Ranch, and in the Community?”
I learned that God knew I would have those questions. He knew that Jesus through His word and Spirit and through his Church would give me the answers. Over the next few weeks and months, as we carried on with our life, the answers came to me as I was able to  receive them.  He closed some doors and opened others. I was excited and wanted every one to know what had happened.   I was rebuffed by some, encouraged by others, especially my Mother.  My Rector was not encouraging.  Looking back now, I believe he viewed me as competition. On my part, I wanted to help out with the work of the country Parish in whatever way I could.  Having been blessed by the witness of faithful Lay  Readers  in the past , I  asked if I could be licenced as one. He said yes, he would speak to the Bishop.  Over many weeks I kept asking him and he gave me promises he never kept.
Finally the Bishop came to the little Church to Confirm four persons in  a little family group. I heard the Bishop say to the Rector, “We have a Lay Reader here, let’s put him to work”.  More humming and hawing.  The Bishop said, “well either we have or we haven’t. I gave you his licence months ago.  Where is it?” He dug it out of his suitcase and the Bishop asked me to kneel at the Communion Rail and  he Commisioned me as a Lay  Reader.  He then said that  the United Church in the next town had asked him through their Presbytery if we could help by taking Sunday services in their Church starting the next  Sunday at eleven o’clock and every Sunday until the following May and I  told them you would.  So you preach every Sunday there and give them a United Church style of worship. I didn’t even know what that was.   Then he said, every second Sunday at  two PM you will take Evening Prayer services here and preach a sermon. All I could say  was, “Yes Sir”.  And I learned what it  meant to ‘burn the midnight oil.’ The Rector never did prepare me.  But the Lord did!
Over the next  two years I crammed many additional hours into my daily agendas and without doing too much damage to my family,  or my duties on the Ranch and in the Community .
But  it became obvious to me that something had to change and I realized that the only door that  might open to me was training for full time ordained ministry. I had no idea how that might be accomplished but I turned to the Parish Priest who I trusted and who had officiated at  our marriage.  He was wise, loving and understanding.  He made an appointment for me with the  Bishop and his two Archdeacons for early January.  They grilled me for  hours about my calling for ministry and anything else that  they wanted to know.  Finally  they asked me if I had any questions. I  said, “yes, one.  I can’ t understand why God would want  me in the Ministry since I am so totally inadequate”.  The Bishop looked at his two colleagues, they all grinned and the Bishop said, “well the three of us have a total of over 100 years in ministry behind us and we all feel very inadequate too.”   That is good to know.
The following Easter week, by arrangements made through the Bishop, I had a long visit  with Principal Ralph Dean, of Emmanuel College, Saskatoon.  He was in Calgary for Holy Week Services at  the Cathedral. He was most understanding and we had a  marvellous visit.  The result  was that  I was able to enrol in the College in September and begin a very condensed and heavy two years in the College.  We had until late August to wind down our life on the Ranch and in the Community, dispose of much of our surplus furniture and preserve a good deal of garden produce etc. to help us with our  much diminished income for the next two years. We made a preliminary visit to Saskatoon before moving, to arrange for a dwellng. We  were able to purchase a little house six blocks south of the College with a very low down payment and a monthly Mortgage payment of only  $64.00 which included taxes. We used the services of a local trucker and our Ranch truck to move our belongings and they were absolutely filled with dust  from the all gravel highways of that day.  Our Collie dog and our Canary were in the car with us.We settled in quickly and I began my studies the second week in September.
My courses included supervised studies set by General Synod in Toronto and  tutors in the College to help me where needed.  In addition to that I monitored the  lectures of the regular students, wrote the assignments  and essays  and took part in the regular life of the College. We worshipped twice each  day in Chapel,  at 7 AM and 5 PM.  Regular classes  continued on Saturday until noon. Our son Tim was born on August 16th, 1956  and as I have written in another account, lost his right leg from bone Cancer at the age of 16 days.  Also at  the beginning of fall term I was asked by the Principal at  the request of the Bishop of Saskatoon to select one student to be in regular charge of a suburban Parish, St. Matthews for the College year  and to help them to achieve self support by May, which included large repairs to the Rectory. We  did it together by the time I left.
While in that Parish, I prepared 18 adults and  teen agers for Confirmation and numbers of parents with their children for Baptism who were then Baptised by staff from the College. Also  staff visited by arrangement for Celebrations of Communion.  I was able to pass all my exams set for me in the two years and was officially a graduate of Emmanuel College at the spring Convocation in 1958. However, I was Ordained Deacon in May of 1957 and immediately set to work as the Deacon in charge of a three point Parish and Mission in Calgary Diocese.
Lest the reader might have the mistaken view that  I did all the above with my own effort, be assured that at every step I was instructed, taught, guided, strengthened by the  Word of the Lord written and the Word of the Lord Incarnate, Jesus Christ.  I was tested, challenged and made to know that when God asks us to do anything He will give us the strength and resources to do what he asks of us.  And it is certainly true that without Christ  we are nothing.  The Power of His Holy Spirit working in us when we ask him to empower us in His service is awesome. He never does violence to our gift of free choice but He is awesomely present and unchanging in His love and guidance.

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