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2 churches, 2 ministers, 2 goodbyes

John Smith and Beth Benson

John Smith and Beth Benson

What are the odds that the ministers of two of our local churches would arrive within months of each other, and leave, eight plus years later, within a month of each other?

Rev. John Smith is the Leaside United minister and Rev. Beth Benson is the St. Cuthbert’s Church priest.

Their trajectories to arrive here were quite different. Smith had been an ordained minister for 24 or so years, going straight from university into theology school. Relatively recently, though, he had decided to see if there might be another career for him and obtained his diploma in financial planning. Benson comes with science degrees and a career in environmental agencies. Her most recent stop before ordination was at the Waterfront Regeneration Trust. Her formal ministry career came later in her life, and St. Cuthbert’s is her second posting.

For both Benson and Smith, Bayview is a special place. Benson says that this community has shaped her ministry. She was welcomed, whether at a café, or a store, or just walking on the street. And of course, at St. Cuthbert’s. The connections within the neighbourhood  are strong enough to hold firm, in good times and difficult times, even after people have moved to other places. A regret is that she is leaving just as the church is heading into its 125th anniversary year – a long way from its start as a little church in the corner of a Lea family apple orchard.

Smith takes a daily walk up Bayview, which includes a coffee stop and a restaurant perusal, often for a return visit with his wife.

“I fell in love with Leaside United. I was re-energized, and got my sense of call back.”  A switch from ministry to financial planning was no longer appealing. He was quite prepared to stay here until retirement, until, by chance, he noticed a clerical posting for a position in Sauble Beach.

He and his family had spent many happy summers in the area. Even though his children are now independent adults, he and his wife included them in the discussion as to whether he should apply, and they happily concurred. So, come Nov. 1, John will be the minister of Zion-Amabel United Church in Sauble Beach, which he refers to as “Beach United”. That name may or may not stick – he was trying to call Leaside “Awesome United” but it never took off.

Benson’s new adventure started after her last Sunday at St. Cuthbert’s on Sept. 27.  She was appointed by Bishop Philip Poole to be the priest-in-charge to shepherd four parishes in the west end of Toronto towards amalgamation. As she says, “This new challenge will be good for my prayer life.” Luckily, this won’t involve a move from her current home in the Beach where she and her husband, Bill, raised their now-adult daughters.

To both of you, Godspeed.

Lorna Krawchuk is a member of St. Cuthbert’s Church